Sunday, March 19, 2006

March madness and Foxwoods

March madness has been entertaining. There's been a few great endings and some intense games. Northern Iowa drained a three with under 1 second left to knock off 3 seed Iowa. It made the half day off from work worth it. Carmelo Anthony has developed a knack for draining late game shots in the NBA, and if you watched him at Syracuse, you knew he had that skill for raising his game. Adam Morrison this year has done the same thing. The pressure does not affect him, and he seems to live for the pressure. I look forward to his pro career to see if he pans out. Watch, he'll get drafted by the Hawks and suffer for 3 years.

A little trip to foxwoods happened on Friday and for 7 hours I could gamble. Why for so long, well I happened to do well at blackjack. I could not play poker as Foxwoods has completed their new poker room but it was not unveiled until Saturday morning. My friend and I stayed late but would not wait until 8 am. After doing well at blackjack but seeing my friend get taken tot he cleaners, I decided to go over to a craps table. I had a great time betting the pass line and placing "place bets" on the 6 and 8. Honestly, it is a lot scarier looking than it really is and you can get a ton of free drinks by hanging around. It takes a little longer to drain through your money at craps than at blackjack, which my friend Dave knew well before getting hammered at blackjack. I ended up for the night and had I not been nervous about throwing the dice I could have ended up higher had I not forgotten to gamble on myself......

A very loud african american came to our table proclaiming himself the ding ding man. This made my friend and I laugh out loud and the other gamblers at the table go "jeeee-sus". This guy managed to talk longer than he actual rolled the dice and bet. Ding ding means rolling an "11" in his vocabulary. He crapped out in 2 rolls. Well the dice come to me, and I have played craps before but had never rolled at a jam-packed table. I kept thinking "hit the wall hit the wall dont be a dinlo and throw the dice off the table". I made a simple pass line bet and forgot to place the 6 or 8. I even forgot to back up my pass line bet with odds. Well Mr. Ding Ding keeps asking me if I believe in myself and I calmly say "No," and roll the dice. I got hot and rolled about 15 times before crapping out. I was painting the corners and managed to hit 3 points before I crapped out (I keep typing it on purpose). Mr. Ding Ding was so happy he even placed a bet in my name. I was making the table that much money. Had I been betting normal, I could have ended up $300. I had points of 4, 6, and 10 and nailed all 3. If you don't know, 4 and 10 have the highest payoff rates for rolling as a point (2-1 payout). What was nice is that the "boxman" reminded me to back my pass line with odds and I did with $4. Not the normal $10-20 I was doing earlier. Yes, being paranoid about rolling correctly messed with my brain's ability to compute payouts and odds. Well after midnight my friend and I left Foxwoods and he asked me "Why were you so quiet at the craps table, you talk to anyone playing blackjack?" I replied, "I was paranoid I'd fuck up my throws and then got in a zone." I forgot an important rule while I was throwing: gambling is meant to be fun, so enjoy it.

Next time I got to Foxwoods, I will see the line at the poker tables, and if it is longer than 45 mins, I'll play some blackjack and then booze up at the craps tables. Now back to Grey's Anatomy, the ultimate chick show.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

NFL Combine

For the second straight year, the NFL network showed footage live from the NFL combine. As a sports junkie, I watched several hours of coverage. Last year, it was rough and they were learning how to cover the 'event', but this year was much better. More drills were shown and more players were shown. Two things I wanted to comment on were the 40 and the lessons I learned from the RB drills coverage.

The 40
This might be the most overblown metric ever devised to measure potential in any athlete. The commentators constantly reminded people how TO ran a slow 40 or someone else ran uninspiring 40s yet still thrive in the league. The secret probably is 'quickness' is different than track speed, and that football pads slow down people more than others. On a personal note, when I ran sprints playing football without pads I would be the 5th or 6th fastest guy out of 40. Then, the season would start and pads were worn. In pads, I finished first time after time in full gear sprints. This is called 'football speed'. While the 40 is overblown, it has soem important components.

1. Acceleration - How long does it take for someone to get to top speed? This is measured during the 40. People are always looking for that burst through the hole or the acceleration to catch a breakaway runner.
2. 'Long Speed' - The 40 time. Can they break away from the pack and take it to the house? This is very important for WRs and CBs, then RBs.
3. Effort - Does the prospect look like they are giving it all they got? Is he false starting? Small things like that can help GMs spot the next Tedy Bruschi, the gamer who is better live than on paper.

The 40 was fun to watch as it was just prospect after prospect, time after time. You started to get a feel for who really was fast and what kind of quickness people have. Sinorice Moss was so fast out of the blocks that you could see him doing the Steve Smith or Santana Moss route with him in motion and then busting out the fly pattern or deep post and blowing past the CB.

The RB Drills
These were impressive to watch as they had the backs take handoffs and then run through a series of obstacles, makes designated cuts and finish a play. It was a riot to see prospects who were just told to finish no matter what not finish a play. It was also great to see players explosion from the handoff to the hole and over the obstacles. You can see the players who might be fast but do not have that burst through the hole that stays open only so long in the NFL. I can see how this drill would give you a good idea of what kind of instincts and raw skills a RB has. With the designated cut, you got to see a RB's change of direction ability. Joseph Addai and Maurice Drew were the best backs that i saw as far as change of direction and body control during those cuts. Impressive, but that does not change Maurice Drew's height of 5 foot 6. I do think Addai will be a decent pro because SEC RBs do well in the NFL if recent history is a guide.

RIP Kirby

Kirby Puckett passed away due to a stroke. He was one of the best stories from baseball in the ‘80s and ‘90s. He was built like a hedgehog and was always smiling. Because of his smaller size and huge smile, it was like a kid really was playing in centerfield. I remember that every kid loved Kirby Puckett at school, and it didn’t matter that he was a Twin and not a superstar for the Red Sox. Like most Americans, my memory of him is the game where he snagged a bomb off of the plexiglass wall in the Metrodome and then hit the game winning home run in extra innings as Joe Buck yelled “We’ll see you tomorrow night!” I remember sitting in my cousin’s basement living room watching the game with the one Braves fan in Maine. I just got the chills typing that memory out. That game was Kirby Puckett living out every kid’s baseball dream: snatch the homerun from the wall and then hit a home run when you come up. His story of a rise out of poverty or how he swung at everything because playing stick ball as a kid the taped box that was he strike zone on the wall behind him was almost as tall as him were great stories. I was sad to see him announce his retirement. It didn’t seem fair to fans that a great player who made the game fun retired because of a horrific beaning which brought on his eye problems. Heck, why couldn’t it have happened to Barry Bonds instead?

Of course, everyone’s world got rocked when Sports Illustrated did the expose on Kirby Puckett’s outside the lines problems. Kirby had his issues outside of the game, but it did not take away from how it made me feel about him as a player. Sure, he targeted overweight single moms on welfare because he found it easier to manipulate and use them. He also disliked doing all of the charity work or how once he did some of it, it was expected of him. Did that shock me? Yes. Does it really matter what goes on behind closed doors? No. Would you want your secrets written all over the news? No. I get tired of the digging into athletes lives, and Kirby’s secrets were dark, seedy, and not necessary. Ultimately, these athletes that kids use as role models are just as human as their neighbors. Kirby was fun and I’ll always remember him for his swing and smile.