Marcel Meyer was a 17-year-old kid playing football at Westfield High School in Houston, Texas, when the program got a new head football coach. "It was a huge deal because our high school paid him $100,000-a-year salary, plus a 'company car.' The other academic teachers were pissed. No surprise there." While six figures is still nothing to scoff at today, in 1988 it was ridiculous money for a high school football coach. Even in Texas.
But Westfield hadn't hired just a Skoal-dipping pseudo-hardass in bike shorts. They had hired Emory Bellard (probably also wearing Bike shorts), an almost-forgotten footnote who transformed college football while an assistant at the University of Texas in the late '60s.
I'm running a college football pool this year, and the format is pretty basic: Each week, the 18 players pick 10 games against the spread. Our goal is to have all the high-profile games represented, and to avoid spreads higher than 30 points. Simple.
We're five weeks in, which means each of us has picked the results of 50 games. If you flipped a coin, you'd expect to get 25 of them right. As college football fans, we don't flip a coin; we resort to our deep knowledge of the game, past results, statistics, injury reports, and various other minutiae. And yet, our current leader has 26 points. I'm in second place, with three others, at 25, and everyone else is below the .500 mark.
Is that normal, or are we just really bad at picking football games? It seems like in a group that large, somebody would have to do well, if only by luck. The league average is 4.22 points per week, and again, only one person has actually been successful. It blows my mind. I think the story that best represents our pool came from Week 1, when a gal nailed nine of 10 games to take the weekly prize. The next week, after I sent out the e-mail with the week's picks, her response was hilarious and infuriating all at once: "Guys, I have no idea how to pick against a spread."
In other words, she thought she was just picking the winner in Week 1. Nine of 10. Agony.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Kevin Garnett scored 26 points and Paul Pierce hit a dagger 3 with 52 seconds remaining as the Celtics beat the Heat 94-90 to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals. In a sad development to the continuing LeBron James story, the Heat star has taken up slam poetry as a method to cope with his end-of-game struggles. "These prevaricating MEN, I call them al-IEN: Rondo and GARNETT, haven't killed me YET," shouted James, pointing emphatically from the press conference podium. "And you, Mr. Pierce, who call yourself the TRUTH, who are you to proclaim me FALSE?! Where is your BOOK OF LIES?! For I am a SCRIBE, a son of of the SCROLLS, king of the TRIBE and father of SOULS! Skippedy-bop-bang, cock-a-doodle-DOO, I-got-my-freedoms-and-a-bloobity-BLOO " The poetry descended into gibberish at that point, and ended with James weeping quietly on Erik Spoelstra's tiny little shoulder.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
After beating the Diamondbacks in extra innings Friday in Game 5 of the NLDS, the Milwaukee Brewers took a one-game lead on the Cardinals in the NLCS with Sunday's 9-6 win. Ryan Braun homered and doubled, collecting 4 RBI to lead the winners. Before the game, there was some tension after Zack Greinke suggested that some Brewers players didn't like Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter. In turn, the Cardinals made fun of Greinke for grunting every time he pitched. Greinke responded by smiling stiffly, rushing to the dugout, and calling Monica Seles in tears for support.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
With a home run, a double, and 4 RBIs, David Freese emerged from his series-long slump to lead the Cardinals over the Phillies 5-3 and force a Game 5 in the NLDS. At this point, both the Yankees and Phillies will be fighting for their lives in a win-or-go-home elimination game. Hopefully the fear of losing either of these beloved clubs will finally give America something to rally behind.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday
The U.S. Attorney's office has amended the complaint against Full Tilt Poker, an online gambling site, to note that it was run as a "massive Ponzi scheme." FTP apparently didn't have the necessary cash on hand to pay out the accounts of all its players, and earlier this year still owed $390 million. Site representatives said it was no big deal, though, since they planned to make most of it back in a hold-em game with A-Rod later this month.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday
Mariano Rivera now has the most saves of any closer in MLB history. Rivera collected his 602nd regular season save in a 6-4 win over the Twins, passing Trevor Hoffman on the all-time list. "The save is a way of life for me," said Rivera, who has previously saved a man's life, saved his newspaper clippings, saved the date, saved a soul, saved face, saved three dollars with a coupon for cake mix, saved his skin, saved his breath, and watched every episode of "Saved By the Bell." Twice.
As part of our coverage of the NBA lockout, Grantland's Jonathan Abrams checked in with Royal Ivey, a backup guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, to see how he is spending his newfound free time. Ivey has resumed classes at the University of Texas and is pursuing a degree in elementary education.