Sports Thanks, Angst, and a Turkey Day Teaser Pick

Football, gravy, family, gravy, four days off work, and also gravy. We made it. With Turkey Day almost upon us, here’s what to be thankful – or not so thankful – for from the world of sports:

BUY SOME GAUDY JEWELRY AND GIVE THANKS FOR: THE TURNOVER CHAIN

I’ve always preferred the pro game to college football, for better or worse… and this year has seen a whole lot of worse. The political turmoil that swallowed up the rest of our country has infected the NFL, and every player who has ever even considered appearing in a commercial is hurt.1RIP to Aaron Rodgers, JJ Watt, Odell Beckham Jr., Andrew Luck, Richard Sherman, David Johnson, Eric Berry… I’m getting sad, let’s move on. In the midst of a weird, depressing NFL season, college football has produced a symbol of pure joy we should all be thankful for: the University of Miami’s Turnover Chain.

The turnover chain is a 36-inch, 10-karat gold chain, with 900 orange and green sapphire stones arranged in a “U” that is 6.5 inches wide and weighs 5.5 pounds. Miami’s director of player development described the first time he laid eyes upon the chain as “almost like the briefcase in ‘Pulp Fiction’ … it kind of had that aura about it.” Take a look for yourself:

The chain’s extravagance is only exceeded by it’s simplicity: if you play for the U, and you create a turnover, you get to wear the chain. And that’s it. The turnover chain. It’s a symbol of pure, harmless, unbridled joy. It fires up the players, it fires up the crowd, and it’s fun to watch:

“Charles Perry goes to the jeweler!” What a call. That’s what sports should be about, and we should be thankful for it.

(And yes, of course it has a theme song, of course it’s a garish and repetitive rap video, and of course it’s infectious. See big homie get a fumble? He get a turnover chain.)

SINK INTO A PIT OF DESPAIR AND CURSE THE EXISTENCE OF: MINUTE MAID PARK

Who ordered the sour grapes?

The World Series was a traumatizing, heartbreaking, nausea-inducing slog for Dodgers fans like myself. In no way am I making excuses – the team blew it. Even with the slick baseballs scandal (which should be getting national attention as a Watergate-level travesty), the reality is that LA had opportunities to win games with Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen on the mound and failed to capitalize. It sucked a lot.

To reiterate, not making excuses. Dodgers lost. Their fault. Astros won. They earned it. But with all that said…

Minute Maid Park – nicknamed “The Juice Box” – is an abomination. It is an embarrassment. It’s a carnival-funhouse-mirrors distortion of a baseball stadium, and it should be wiped off the face of the Earth. I didn’t think there was enough alcohol on the planet to get a group of people drunk enough to build a ballpark so ridiculous. If Picasso decided to craft an abstract painting of a baseball stadium and the result was an image of Minute Maid Park, he would throw the painting away for not resembling reality closely enough. The Juice Box is the Gigli of baseball stadiums. The Astros should change the name back to Enron Field, although I understand why they wouldn’t want to do anything to further damage Enron’s reputation. If every Nickelback song ever recorded could have a baby with a carton of spoiled milk, the result would be Minute Maid Park.

Let’s compare the dimensions of a ballpark someone with an IQ over 27 would build, Dodger Stadium…

  …with the dimensions of the architectural miscarriage that is Minute Maid Park…

Notice how one ballpark is symmetrical, while the outfield fence of the other staggers wildly back and forth like a drunk freshman girl who just discovered plastic bottle vodka? How about the 315 foot left-field fence – 15 feet shorter than the average distance? Why not turn pop-ups in most stadiums into home runs in Houston? Why not install a jagged left turn in the left-center gap – which coincides with the height of the fence sprinting upwards for no reason? Let’s not forget the freaking train running back and forth behind left field, because baseball has a long history with… trains?

Mario’s home ballpark from Mario Baseball makes more sense than Minute Maid Park; at least Mario Stadium was vaguely symmetrical. Add a couple Chain Chomps that pop out of the right field fence and a tornado that tosses fly balls over that comically short left-field porch and Minute Maid Park could be Wario’s home field. What a freaking joke.

Thanks for nothing, whoever designed that grotesque and misshapen excuse for a ballpark.

Yes, I am still upset about the World Series. Why do you ask?

BE THANKFUL UP UNTIL THE TWO MINUTE WARNING FOR: THE LA CHARGERS

When I picked NFL over/unders at the beginning of the season, I argued that the Chargers had too much talent to continue losing hard luck football games. The “something has to give” argument didn’t quite pan out.

The team proceeded to lose their first two games by botching potentially game-tying and game-winning field goals as time expired, proving once again that sports are silly and I know nothing (but keep reading!). The pièce de résistance, however, came in the Chargers week 10 matchup with Jacksonville.

LA led 17-14 in the final minutes, only to Charger harder than they have ever Charger-ed before:

  • Blake Bortles, forced by the game situation to violate the Jaguars winning formula and actually throw passes, throws a terrible interception to Tre Boston. Bortles gonna Bortles.
  • On the very next play, LA hands the ball off to backup running back (why?) Austin Ekeler. Ekeler fumbles, and Jacksonville recovers near midfield.
  • Following a defensive pass interference, Jacksonville has the ball on the edge of field goal range. Bortles throws a pass to Marqise Lee in the end zone, and a flag is thrown. Assuming the flag is for another defensive pass interference, Marqise Lee dances in celebration. The refs pick up the initial flag, and instead flag Lee for taunting.
  • Not to be outdone by Lee’s boneheaded move, Bortles throws another interception to Tre Boston. After the game, Bortles said of the two turnovers: “I can’t throw those balls.” I assume he was referring to “footballs” in general.
  • Boston, assuming he had clinched a victory, decides not to return the interception and instead prances out of bounds at his own 10 yard line. Jacksonville promptly stuffs three consecutive running plays, calls three timeouts, and gets the ball back at midfield with a minute to play.
  • Blake Bortles continues to suck, but a roughing the passer penalty provides enough offense to put the Jaguars in field goal range. Former Chargers kicker Josh Lambo (OF COURSE it’s a former Charger kicker!) nails the kick, and we head to overtime.
  • Jacksonville gets the ball first and is forced to punt, pinning the Chargers deep in their own territory. On 3rd and 10, Philip Rivers tosses a jump ball to a double-covered,  5’10’’ Travis Benjamin. The pass is intercepted and returned all the way back to the 2 yard line.
  • With no need to let Blake Bortles do anything, Jacksonville has the game in hand. Lambo drills the revenge kick, beats his former team, and caps off a classic Chargers defeat.

To recap… the Chargers intercepted the opposing team twice, inside of the 2 minute mark, WITH THE LEAD, and lost.

You know what? I’m not even mad! Bless the Chargers and their miraculous ability to create defeat out of certain victory. It’s entertaining as hell! I’m changing my tune on this one – thanks, Chargers!

NOD IN AGREEMENT WITH AND GIVE THANKS TO: STEVE KERR

In a year that has seen some… frustrating headlines and less-than-inspiring leadership, let’s take a moment to appreciate Steve Kerr. Whether you like the Warriors or not, it’s refreshing to see a leader who is civil, well-spoken, intelligent, and likable.

Here’s Steve’s response to the current leader of the “Peak 2017” sweepstakes, the Donald Trump vs. Lavar Ball feud:2Also, SHAME ON CNN for interviewing Lavar Ball on air. Tax reform, sexual misconduct, net neutrality… we don’t have a shortage of real things to discuss. Talk about literally anything else. Anything.

Nailed it! How about Kerr’s response to questions about how the 1995-1996 Bulls (which he played for) would fare against the 2015-2016 Warriors (which he coached)?”

First of all, it’s a really hard question to answer — not just because you’re comparing eras, but also because it’s literally tough for me to answer grammatically. I don’t know who ‘we’ is and who ‘they’ are. I’ll just say: If the two teams played each other, there’s no question that we could beat us and they could beat them.

A funny, clever answer that displays an understanding of the nuances of language AND defends both teams he is associated with? I didn’t realize our leaders were still allowed to do things like that! What a treat! Lastly, how about Kerr’s comeback to NBA old-timers, such as Charles Barkley, disparaging the Warriors?

They would kill us. The game gets worse as time goes on. Players are less talented than they used to be. The guys in the ’50s would’ve destroyed everybody. It’s weird how human evolution goes in reverse in sports. Players get weaker, smaller, less skilled. I don’t know. I can’t explain it.

Another response that defends his team and displays an understanding of sarcasm and humor? Unbelievable! There may be hope for mankind yet. Thanks Steve!

TURKEY DAY TEASER

Let’s wrap-up with a 100% guaranteed, can’t fail bet for the Thanksgiving football action.3By 100% guaranteed, I mean “total crapshoot.” We’re going to tease all three games together and move the line 6 points to the following:4For those not familiar, a teaser bet allows you to move the line a set number of points in exchange for a lower payout than if you were to simply pick all the games with the standard spread. If you’re curious, just Google “How do NFL teaser bets work?”

Bet $100 to win $150:

DET +9 over MIN: Matt Stafford may be the patron saint of Thanksgiving. Since 2013, Stafford has won 4 straight Turkey Day match-ups, tossing 11 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions. Stafford won the Galloping Gobbler two years ago (a thing that actually exists), and also looks like the NFL quarterback most likely to drink gravy. I expect Stafford to keep this one to a single-digit contest, if not win outright, on his home turf against a Vikings team positioned for a letdown after a big win against the Rams.

LAC +6 over DAL: The Chargers seem like a terrible matchup for Dallas, given the litany of injuries the Cowboys face. Pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram should have a field day with the beat-up Dallas offensive line, and the Cowboy defense is a shell of itself without Sean Lee. And yet… this is the Chargers. They should win outright, but they’ll probably blow it in horrifying fashion within the final two minutes and lose by a field goal. Thankfully, that’s still a cover – rather than learn from my mistakes, let’s go with LA plus 6 points.

WSH -1.5 over NYG: The Redskins and Kirk Cousins are feisty. They fall into that classic zone of “just good enough to beat bad teams, and just bad enough to fall short against good teams.” Don’t let last week fool you – the Giants are terrible. Kirk Cousins closes out a teaser win with a big day against lame duck coach Ben McAdoo and whatever is left of Eli Manning.

All lines based on Bovada as of 11/21.

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