Super Bowl L II Sunday: Ruthless Super Bowl Spectacular Edition

I type with eyes resembling a sink-submerged wine glass and fail, repeatedly, to convince myself that my autonomic nervous system is not spewing blood into my glottis at the thought of this, our last kickoff together, less than 24 hours away. My face is not flush. My lip is not quivering. Of course not! Its just some stupid gambling column. Who are you calling a tweemo? You’re the drama queen, pal!

Hey, sorry about that. Lets play some music. As a former member of one of those legendary punk bands no one has ever heard of, the right song can grade the rockiest of my emotional roads. For about ten years, federal law mandated that this song was to be played whenever there was any sort of separation or end point of a relationship, but its just too corny and over the top, if not as much so as Over The Top. Then again, reading the rest of the column while listening to this would be pretty funny, right?

Meh. Funny but not Ruthless funny. This ain’t Reddit. We need something with an edge, situationally appropriate, relevant to gambling, not too mainstream. Nope, that ship has sailed, it belongs to them now. No. Haha hell no. Too soon. There we go.

OK, that’s better. Sorry about that. Hell, if we are calling spades spades, it is a gambling column, right? Digital *sigh* content enhanced and/or mired by silliness, with a shorter shelf life than a banana in a paper bag, rooted in greed. But it was published here and it was mine, and that was just fine by me. Discounting the laureates who have graced the pages of Penthouse Forum, not everyone can say that 1000 people simultaneously read what they had to say, for which there is something to be said! I never believed that something like this would happen to a guy like me…

Remember how excited I was about my new gig at an esteemed publication with an astute, forward-thinking, and (what the hell why not) sexually attractive readership? Hard to believe that was just 281 concussions ago, and yet here we are. Unfortunately, there’s just nowhere for me to go now, not even down in flames.

There are other things to gamble on, of course, but none of them make for a great stand-alone column. In all honesty, I wager far more money on MMA than I do on football, and do so more often as well. But MMA is a niche sport to begin with, and a lot of the time the value plays in MMA involve complete unknowns fighting in front of a dozen people and rows of empty chairs on UFCs streaming service. Furthermore, the bettor relies on a lot of gossip, or an interpretation of inexplicable phenomena for which the explanation is always the same. It rhymes with money because it is money because it is always money.

For example, last weekend a South Korean fighter named Ji Yeon Kim travelled to North Carolina to fight barely-above-average flyweight Justine Kish. Over the course of the afternoon before they got in the cage around 5:45 p.m., Kish went from being a -380 favorite to closing at -160. Kim remained a dog, obviously, but dropped from +345 to +150 in the span of a few hours. The bell rings, and well wouldn’t you know who won the pony?

Super Bowl L II Sunday: Ruthless Super Bowl Spectacular Edition

Under the circumstances, I obviously would have told you to take Kim, this miraculous underdog, as soon as I saw the numbers tumble. But columns like mine – or like the one I used to have *sniff* – are not conducive to these types of machinations, because I can tell you why you make the bet, but not why Kim won the fight. I still don’t know. I have a theory or two, obviously. The last (and only) modern-era UFC fight found to have been less than legitimate also involved a South Korean fighter and a huge odds swing, which was ultimately traced back to Seoul mob money. Logically, if only one of the fighters had dirty hands in this situation it would be Kish and not Kim, but still. There is also the matter of judge Steve Elliot’s preposterous 30-27 scorecard. North Carolina doesn’t host enough combat sports events for their athletic commission to have a reputation one way or the other, but a media market placement of 23 (go figure!) definitely affords him some wiggle room, not to mention cover from an Adalaide Byrd-esque excoriation.

All of which is to say that neither the pick nor the result have any clear rationale, certainly not anything I can put into word press. The odds shift was indicative of something going on, sure, but we still don’t know what, and if I published picks based on hunches or some other undefined internal feeling I would be wasting your time and likely way off base anyway. Hell, throughout my twenties my hunch was that Hope Sandoval would think I was a handsome, sophisticated keeper boyfriend type, but according to her, her husband, her attorneys, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation this was not at all accurate.

I’m not adverse to action on other sports, either, but it has to be something I’d want to watch in the first place. I never really got into basketball so I’ve only got hockey to sustain me for the next nine days until pitchers and catchers report to their Grapefruit and Cactus League facilities. And no, NBC, that’s a hard pass on soccer. Hilariously, the network is hammocking their dirt-dumb This Is Football series between all sorts of different shows this month in yet another effort to sell soccer to the heartland. Someone who makes a great salary decided that the best way to go about this would be to have Joe Scarborough and Piers fucking Morgan debate the merits of being a supporter of Arsenal or West Ham or what have you. The needle on the in-studio likeability monitor must have become a total blur, spinning faster than the gauges in Airplane!, thereby alleviating the need to call in Johnny and Tara to make certain that everyone in Davenport is rocking a Neymar kit.

Super Bowl L II Sunday: Ruthless Super Bowl Spectacular Edition

And just so were clear, so no one wastes any time writing any never-to-be-read hate mail (oh man, I’m even gonna miss the hate mail!) you are free to enjoy soccer to your hearts content. I don’t hate soccer. I don’t really hate any sport, except maybe equestrian and definitely dressage because come the fuck on. But I was an American boy, so like every other American boy with functioning legs, I played soccer until I was eight or so. I went to a few soccer games in college purely as a spectator. As a matter of fact – and I swear that this just came to me because it was a while ago – I discussed an earlier installment of this very column with a fairly famous professional currently on the Manchester City roster. If you care, it was the last week of preseason and I was going to do a celebrity picks thing since there were no real games to talk about and he is a friend of a friend. The joke was that none of them knew anything about football, but as it turns out people who don’t know or care about NFL football don’t want to make picks on the record because they are worried about being made to look bad.

Point being, I don’t hate soccer, I just don’t want to hear about it, and if I can’t make myself care about it, I cannot in good conscience encourage you to gamble on it. The issue is exacerbated by the fact that a lot of American soccer fans are total Europhiles, so they adopt a bunch of UK-specific phraseology that is totally out of place in an American conversation, yet they think that this makes them culturally or intellectually superior, as opposed to an analog of a well-educated suburban teen trying to pass as an OG Tree Top Piru.

Full disclosure mandates that I admit to one exception to the rule about betting on sports about which I am ignorant. Even recognizing that the IOC is a total con and that the games devastate every city dumb enough to host them, I get so enthralled by the wall-to-wall broadcasts of kids having the time of their lives that I always do props on the medal counts. On top of that, as online books became more comprehensive, making it possible to bet on nearly everything in recent years, I’ve metaphorically thrown some money out the window in the name of patriotism. The stakes were small, so I never lost big, or won big for that matter, but I definitely recall sitting down with the ball and chain and adjourning the family meeting under the delusion that we were somehow going to break the bank and retire before 40 because we had found some sort of hidden edge in, of all things, curling. As is obvious I remain gainfully employed at present. For another page and a half, anyway.

All kidding aside, it really does make sense to me. I just can’t believe that with all of those athletes coming from all over the world to compete in 37 different events that there isn’t a weakness to be exploited somewhere. Am I to believe that every online book from giants (5Dimes and Bovada) down to fledgling side projects of tech underlings (FatPetesSpotsbok.com [sic] and trustworthy-looking stuff like huiaewf8379243hi34u&&&&&&f4q9a84puohf.ru) are contracting out for a mogul freestyle skiing expert to set their lines? Accepting of course as a foundational fact that the top of the women’s ice hockey podium is going to be the exclusive property of the temporarily-reunited Korea.

Christ almighty, I figure this is our last few minutes together, so I want things to be as pleasant as possible. For that reason I’m making a deliberate effort not to mention you-know-who, so as to sour your memory of the guy who took over for the better guys, and here I find myself unwittingly vilifying and mocking Koreans. He’s inescapable, he’ll never truly and completely go away, an unholy amalgamation of Beetlejuice, REO Speedwagon and the new and improved gonorrhea.

*voice cracks, tapers to a resigned whisper* Hey look football.

Philadelphia Eagles +4.5 vs. New England Patriots

The cover of yesterdays New York Post read Look on the bright side: One will lose. You are well aware of my opinion about the racist, cop-sniffing, president-enabling crime-manufacturing Murdock-owned (NO NOT THAT MURDOCK although that would be awesome where was I oh yeah) Murdoch-owned Post but I must admit that this lands solidly in the realm of not wrong which, for the Post, is a real red letter day. Short of bringing back capital punishment for people who take pictures of unwilling passengers on the train and people who stop five-wide on a sidewalk to admire the engineering marvel of a building that is over five stories tall, you’re not gonna get a greater consensus of New York City residents than those rooting for sinkhole during tomorrows game. But if its gotta be one of them, please don’t let it be the Pats.

This is not a fans pick, of course. I don’t follow the Jets or the Giants, so the fact that these are divisional rivals of those teams means nothing to me. I dislike the Patriots in the general sense that most people do – because they are the Yankees, basically – but beyond that I don’t have any personal skin in the game.

What I do have is a love of old school football, and these Eagles, especially in the homestretch of the season, are built in the classic model: tough, up-front box-jamming (hee-hee) defense and a three-yards-and-a-cloud of dust backfield. I am particularly in love with Jay Ajayi, who ignited a spark when he was shooed out of Miami and makes for a sick backfield tandem when paired with LeGarrette Blount. Ajayi has averaged 5.8 yards per carry since joining the team, save for the last game of the regular season, in which he was rested. This, coupled with a week 17 bye, should clear up any lingering ankle issues, the rumors of which were started by the Miami brain-trust after their fan base went nuts having just seen their best player traded away.

Two weeks ago I made arguments about how Philly scores a lot of points in order to justify taking the over in their penultimate game in Minneapolis. The same facts apply here. Philly was still third in the league in points scored, and Nick Foles in green is still twice the QB he was anywhere else, averaging about 30 a game. As for the over 38.5 I recommended? They came within .5 of covering that by themselves.

I hear tell that this Brady fellow is also something of a decent quarterback. The thing is, hes also 40 years old. It was once a maxim that he shouldn’t be blitzed because he can read so quickly, and of course the system gave him so very many weapons. However, the Football Outsiders numbers suggest that he is more susceptible to off-the-ball pressure than in years past, as he averaged 7.7 net yards per pass against three or four guys coming at him, but the numbers drop to 6.3 if they send five or six.

If Brady is finally starting to perform worse in the face of a blitz, this is a good thing, because the Eagles blitz a lot, the third most of any team in the league. It is also important to note that they do so by rotating a lot of DT’s and DE’s in and out. Some teams dealt with this by going no-huddle early, but the Pats aren’t known for a no-huddle offense or a blistering pace in general, as it happens. They are actually thought to be slow starters, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can coast if you jump ahead quickly, as any member of the 2016 Atlanta Falcons will tell you.

Gronkowski got concussed two weeks ago but was cleared to play on Sunday, and that of course comes from Belichick so who knows. Obviously I don’t know the guy, but he missed last years game because of his back, and I would assume that he would go the LT-in-Any-Given-Sunday route for anything orthopedic.

Finally, the number that led me, after forever, to come down on the side of the Eagles: 3.8. That is the average margin of victory for the Pats in the five Super Bowls that they have won. They have only covered 4.5 once, last year when they won by six. Its gonna be close, but take the dog and hold on tight. Evil cannot always triumph, right?

Good luck hey wait, indulge me for a second.

I need to thank Goat for throwing the dice with me. I had no byline to speak of, under this or any other name, just a lightly-read blog that, in hindsight, reads like a drugged-up wingnut frantically gambling on obscure college games with all of the in-depth analysis of an expert slots player. I wonder how that happened. For he and Erich to open this door, take the time to edit me, and be so encouraging was incredibly kind and generous, and I hope to be in a position to pay the courtesy forward. My writing is still at times deeply flawed, but had Goat not come along, there would be no my writing. And if any of you think you can do better, I sure hope so. Can’t wait to read it.

My mother read every column and followed every outbound link and made all sorts of suggestions and edits that I never would have thought of myself, even if a lot of references went over her head. If I have any writing talent at all its because of her. Shes also where I got my good looks and my modesty. She really wanted me to tell you about how I brought a football ticket into first grade show and tell and then insisted that it was for amusement purposes only when the teacher Sister Mary Edward asked where I had gotten it. She didn’t care for all me calling her daughter-in-law a currently-gonorrhea-free human ray of sunshine but you cant win them all.

As I type this, Mrs. Duquesne is sleeping on the couch next to me, patiently waiting for me to finish so we can watch Saturday Night Live. Its been like this for the entirety of football season. Done before dinner, one more hour, ten more minutes, five more minutes, I’ll just come to bed later, 24 times each, shes put up with me staying up all night (and doing whatever it took to do so) and shuffling both of our schedules around as a result, all so I could essentially admit to repeatedly committing a (victimless) crime every week and theoretically putting our livelihood at risk. On top of all of that, after I hit save I will walk over and wake her up, as I have two dozen times before, and make her proofread me. And she will reluctantly do so, with a sigh that eventually becomes a smile, and then a laugh, because she is incredibly supportive and encouraging and the best thing that ever happened to me. She probably deserves the skinny dishwasher because you’re the best, AM.

Good bye!

About J.J. Duquesne

J.J. is an attorney in New York City. He loves NFL Football...a LOT.