Thursday, October 20, 2016

Gamble Blogging: A Lifetime of Running Cold (Part V): The Atlantic City Trip that Changed Everything.

As I have recounted (repeatedly) in Parts I - IV of these tales my early gambling excursions were alcohol-fueled trips that resulted in pretty big losses, and not so fun hangovers. In short, I was everything casinos love, uneducated, inebriated and bereft of bankroll management knowledge. In short, I was a sucker, a mush if you will.

I have also, and remain, a cold runner my entire life.  So when I imply that the trip to Atlantic City of which I'm about to relate "changed everything" I meant more toward my outlook on gambling as a whole. Not my relationship to the standard deviation. On that metric I'm still very much trending toward the casinos side.

We went to Atlantic City in October of 2012 for our birthdays. The wife and I share birthdays exactly 2 years and 1 day apart. Her on October 30th, mine on Halloween. The upside to this is that, in 18 years of marriage and 20 years as a couple, I have never forgotten her birthday.  But we wanted to see Atlantic City before it went away.  All I knew about the City is what I had seen on Rounders, and on the remake of Ocean's Eleven (Clooney, Pitt, et. al.).  I knew Trump had some casinos there, and Caesars, and I knew there was a Golden Nugget there, and it was from them I received an offer.

It wasn't a great offer as those things go, 20% off the room rate but it was enough to whet my appetite so we decided to find a flight.

First problem.  Back then United Airlines hadn't yet made the stupid business decision to start a flight from Houston to Atlantic City (in return for gate considerations at Newark) so if we wanted to fly direct we would be stuck flying Spirit Airlines.  Yuck.  There was, however, a loophole, so with a direct flight to and from Philadelphia, and plans to catch the train to Atlantic City, we took off on a trip that would change how I, and my wife, gambled forever.

Plane rides don't bother me, so we had fun.  During those years both the wife and I had status so we both copped upgrades to first class and were halfway lit by the time we arrived at PHL. We were only staying three days so I didn't have a bag to check, but my wife did, so we grabbed her bag and shot off to catch the next to last train to Atlantic City.

Which we made, with 30 seconds to spare.  We purchased the ticket in our seats from the porter and settled in for around a 90 minute ride.  As I stated before, the wife loves trains. Since she lived on one for two years while working with the circus she enjoyed the ride. I got somewhat bored (it was dark, so you couldn't see anything outside of the windows) but we made it and then hailed a cab from the train station to the Nugget, which is (unfortunately, for why you'll read later) some way away from the Boardwalk.

We got in and hit the bar. Hard. I then proceeded to take out my first night's money and blow it all playing slots. "That was fast" I told my wife, and we agreed not to gamble any more until the next day.  We had some more rounds, chatted with the bartenders and then went to sleep.

In the morning (honestly) we woke up and it was raining, but we really wanted to head to the Boardwalk so we put on our drip-dries and went to find the jitney.  We did, and we were off.  Our first stop was the Trump Taj Majal.

In short, and I'm not being political here, it was a disgusting dump. Half of the slot machines were out of order and the ones that were working were old and filthy. It looked as if the casino hadn't been cleaned in 50 years. On top of that, most of the bars were closed. Not having my typical morning Bloody Mary was going to be an issue.  But, we found a place to eat breakfast and decided to head over to The Borgata, and Revel.

Here's what I remember about the Revel, it was a beautiful property, laid out terribly, and the slots were brutally tight. In fact, ALL of the Atlantic City slots that we played seemed to be unusually tight. It was like pouring gasoline on a brush fire every time we added money. My wife, who is very risk averse and hates gambling (but enjoys going to casinos) quit after losing $40 in just under 10 minutes. By the time we had reached 3PM on our first day there I was down $300 with little hope of getting it back the way things were going.  I had $200 left for two days, and I had promised myself I was NOT going to be hitting up the ATM this trip.

Then, something miraculous happened.  I won.  Not a ton of money but enough to get me into the positive for the first time in a long time.  We had sat down at a bar in Borgata and ordered a round of drinks.  Looking for something to do I put $40 in a video poker machine, the first time I had played since I had the win at Mandalay.  Other than that I hadn't played. I had seen it played, talked about it with friends who played, and had even watched people play it while sitting at bars, and as a live poker player I understood it, but you could throw things such as basic strategy out the window.

But I won.  It was while playing twenty-five cent "Double Double Bonus" and I got dealt 4-two's with a 3-kicker. $500.00. I hadn't hit anything that big since my visit to Delta Downs. I glanced at my wife, hit "cash out" and we spent the rest of the day walking to the various casinos on the Boardwalk, signing up for their players cards and playing off the free-play for new signups when we found it.

On the 3rd day there I gave some (not all) of it back.  By the time we had left however I still had over $400 in my pocket which I was planning on giving back to the bank when we got home.  After the win I continued playing video poker, with my wife's blessing, except at the casinos that gave us slot free play that is.  On the whole of course, after the hit, I lost. But the rate of loss was smaller, and slower, than I was used to playing slots which convinced me that there might just be something to this whole video poker thing.

All in all I remember the Boardwalk not for the crappy casinos, or the good food (there is a lot of that, especially the pizza) what I remember the most is sitting in a bar inside the Borgata and winning something at a casino game for the first time in a long time.  For a brief, fleeting second, I was ahead of the casinos on a trip and I wanted that feeling again.  For the first time I realized that gambling outside of the poker room could be affected by skill (except for slots of course). I realized on that trip that in order to continue to play consistently, I was going to have to get a hell of a lot better at playing the good games in order to make my bankroll last longer.

I almost didn't have time to learn those lessons however.  Because on our way back to the Nugget, on the jitney, while driving through one of Atlantic City's neighborhoods several windows in our little bus were broken by locals throwing rocks at us. One of the rocks missed our head by a foot or so and landed in the seat in front of us. The driver promptly floored it, and we returned to the Golden Nugget where we stayed up all night drinking and thinking "whew! that was close".  The next morning we caught our train at 6AM, rode to PHL where we caught our flight home. Tired, a little freaked out, but glad to be putting money in the bank for a change.

After getting home, and depositing back the money, I promptly went to Barnes and Noble and bought my first book on gambling.

But I'll save that tale for Part VI.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

College Football: Why Tom Herman might *not* be so willing to leave Houston.

In the wake of the Big X XII Conference' decision to not expand to 12 teams the pundits are already declaring University of Houston head coach Tom Herman to be out the door.

To quote Mr. Lee Corso "Not so fast my friend".

As a caveat, I also think it's likely that Herman leaves for greener pastures after this season. I think some big school is going to offer him so much money he'll over look all of the problems he's going to have to overcome.  But, when it comes down to it, there are only two programs (as of now) who have job openings that I would consider marked upgrades from UH and each opportunity comes with a ton of warts.

But first there are Herman's own words: He's stated a fondness for staying at UH over marginal Power 5 jobs. "Why be a small fish in a big pond" etc. etc.  The fact is schools like Purdue can probably just sit this one out. It doesn't hurt to ask, but there are other coaches who I think are better fits for your programs.

With that in mind let's look at the Power 5 openings that could or will be, or are available.

Texas: I think we can all agree that Charlie Strong is going to be out of there at the end of the year. The loss to OU sealed his fate. While most everyone agrees that Herman would take this there are some compelling reasons why he might think twice.  For one, the Culture and Atmosphere at the 40 acres is a "cesspool" to quote Kirk Herbstreit.  While UT-Austin fans are angry over that it's partially because Mr. Herbstreit is right.  Red McCombs and the other boosters that are currently running things are running them into the ground.  Yes, UT-Austin has money, resources, facilities and recruiting advantages that are 2nd to none. In fact, when they're right I think they are a top 5 job. Right now though I'd stay far away until a strong AD comes in and straightens out the ship.

LSU: First off, and I'm sorry to break this to you Tiger fans, LSU is NOT a "top 5 job". I realize that you constantly fool yourself by saying this but it's not true.  Is being the head man in Baton Rogue a Top 10 job? Probably, but the school is currently lower on money than Sears and the situation is getting worse every day. Add to this the fact that AD Alluva is a garbage fire and you have a situation that could be untenable long-term.  The history of LSU has been good runs, followed trips to long, dark places. They could be on the edge of that precipice right now.

Mississippi State: Simple: No, just no. I don't see any way Herman takes a job at the school in the SEC West with the smallest budget, worst facilities, and hopes of only competing for a title once every 4 or 5 years. The Bulldog's best bet is to try and keep Dan Mullen.

Notre Dame: Not near the job it was in the past nor will it ever be in the future.  I think we're seeing the slow decline of ND football in it's infancy, as the program will continue to slip away from being the National Power it's always been, and will eventually join a Power 4 conference and become a middling conference player, being forced to "give up" all of it's "traditional rivalry" games that it's used to pad it's record with for years now. It wouldn't hurt them to try and woo David Shaw however. I think he could do some good there.

Oregon: When a school like Oregon starts to lose it, it can go away fast and it's often very difficult to get back.  Yes, they have tons of Nike money and facilities that are unmatched in the Nation, but they lack a natural recruiting base and there will always be the specter of USC hanging over their shoulder. This is another school that I think is travelling to a deep, dark place and it will take more than neon uniforms to dig them back out of it again.  By the by: I think they should take a long, hard look at PJ Fleck.

I could easily envision a situation where Herman decides to hang around UH for a while, build the team into a Group of 5 power, and then head back home to USC when they finally pull the plug on Son of Love Coach.  He's from that area and whether you like them or not, the House of Troy is a top 5 job.

Still, Herman could end up at one of these other schools and he could be successful there, but I'm not sure he's going to have the natural advantages he has in Houston at any of them other than UT-Austin, but I'm worried the well in Austin is just too poisoned.  Other than there, I'm not all that certain the path to the CFP is easier anywhere else than it is at Houston.  Just quit losing that one curious game every season.

College Football: The Week 8 FIVE (Probably should have retired on a win streak)

So last week, for the first time this season, if you faded my FIVE picks you're a LOSER!!!! (Kidding, you're still way, WAY up if you fade me for the year)

Suck it with my just over .500 finish. (3-2, 11-28-1 for the year)

But hey, that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger (albeit less financially well off) and, despite my better judgement, I'm plowing ahead this week, hoping beyond hope that I can pull this season out of the sizzling fat of failure.

I've got a diverse set of games for the FIVE this week.

1. Old Dominion @ Western Kentucky (-13.5) I would really prefer it if I could get this game at -14 or better, but I'll take a good Old Dominion team getting almost two touchdowns against a less-good than their reputation Hilltoppers team. ODU 24 WKU 30. Old Dominion to cover -13.5.

2. East Carolina @ Cincinnati (-1.5) Yes, the Pirates are on a 4-game losing streak but the Bearcats are in full meltdown mode after a horrible looking 20-9 loss against UConn. Cincinnati had everything going for it in terms of their program, and then they hired Tommy Tuberville. ECU 24 Cincy 20. ECU to win on the ML.

3. Oklahoma (-14) @ Texas Tech. But....the game is in LUBBOCK! you say.  That's fine, but the Red Raiders "best" home win so far is against a pedestrian Louisiana Tech team, and last week they got boat raced by West Virginia at home.  OU is starting to roll with Dede Westbrook healthy and catching seemingly everything. Tech's defense is still awful. OU 45 Tech 17. OU to cover -14.

4. Ole Miss @ LSU (-6). Before we get into game analysis, a moment of silence for Mike VI.......Thank you. LSU needs to run the ball to be successful, and Ole Miss' defense is pretty decent at stopping that. I think Coach O gets the win, at an emotional Death Valley, but I think this is a field goal game. Ole Miss 21 LSU 24. Ole Miss to cover -6.

5. Arkansas @ Auburn (-9.5). After a rough start to the season Auburn is looking better, and Arkansas two losses are to Alabama and aTm respectively. The higher this line moves toward Auburn, the better of a bet it becomes however. Two pretty good teams facing off here. Arkansas 27 Auburn 30. Arkansas to cover -9.5.

Other games under consideration:

Miami @ Virginia Tech (-6). I like the U to bounce back here.  The U 27 Va Tech 24.

BYU @ Boise State (-7). If the light-scheduling Broncos don't lose here, I'm not sure they lose. BYU 20 Boise State 27.

Oregon @ Cal (-3). The loser gets the crown of the most disappointing team in the PAC-12. If Oregon loses Helfrich is all but gone. Might even be if they win. UO 45 Cal 38.

Wisconsin (-3.5) @ Iowa. I almost included this in my FIVE. I think Iowa is a paper tiger. Wisc 21 Iowa 3.

NC State @ Louisville (-19). Another game I almost included in my FIVE, but I don't trust NC State at all. NCSU 14 Louisville 35.

Texas @ K-State (-3). Some are calling this a "must-win" for Strong. I disagree, I think the decision to fire him has already been made. UT-Austin 13 K-State 27.

Colorado @ Stanford (-2). What is wrong with the Cardinal? Buffs 27 Stanford 20.

Memphis (-2.5) @ Navy. The University of Houston will be scoreboard watching. Memphis 28 Navy 24.

TCU @ West Virginia (-6.5). At some point people think TCU will become themselves again. I think we're seeing what they are this year. TCU 9 WVU 39.

Eastern Michigan @ Western Michigan (-23.5). The feel-good story of the year visits one of the best group of 5 programs of the year. Not as ugly as everyone thinks. EMU 20 WMU 35.

Houston (-21) @ SMU. The best thing about SMU is their new "city skyline" logo. UH 42 SMU 14.

Michigan State (-2.5) @ Maryland. The Maryland defense makes glaciers look fast in comparison. Sparty 20 Maryland 17.

Ohio State (-19.5) @ Penn State. Yay, another "white out" game. At some point the Buckeyes are going to get it figured out. I think it's here. OSU 56 Penn State 6.

Washington State (-7) @ Arizona State. Toss up game. Whichever team shows up. Wazzu 56 ASU 54.

The big game of the weekend:

Texas A&M @ Alabama (-18.5). I'm not sure if there's a (plausible) line big enough to make me risk money on the Aggies.  That said, I was wrong about them this year, they're a good team.  But I still think Bama is going to truck them at home. Texas aTm 6 Bama 42.

The teams I root for:

Colorado State @ UNLV (-3). The Rebels are favored here. This is not a drill. Like last week the NEED this game or all hopes of making a bowl are kaput. I think they get it against a pretty awful Rams team.  CSU 13 UNLV 31.

Illinois @ Michigan (-35.5). The lines for Michigan this year have been ridiculous. Sure I think the Wolverines CAN win by more than five touchdowns, but I don't think they WILL win by that much.  That said I don't think the Illini CAN score against a motivated Wolverines defense.  If they do score it will be in garbage time.  Illinois 3 Michigan 38.

Good luck and enjoy the games this weekend.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Shield: Why are NFL primetime ratings sagging?

Monday Night Football has gone from "must watch TV" to "meh".  Sunday Night Football just had a game that drew it's smallest rating in almost 5 years and the Thursday Night Games are consistently unwatchable TV.  Add it all up and you have a problem, namely, people are finding different things to do rather than watch professional football in the evenings.

But why?

There are a lot of theories, and I don't think any of them explain the whole picture, but here's what I think are contributing factors.

1. To be blunt: The games suck.

Watch the best NFL matchup on any given week, then go and watch almost any random college football game between two fairly even teams. I guarantee you the college game will be more entertaining, and a better watch than anything the NFL has to offer.

NFL games today are too conservatively coached, and poorly played. "Parity" once the NFL's watchword for competitive balance has sucked the joy out of football. The officiating is horrendous, and has been designed to suck every ounce of joy out of the game.

2. There are too many other options in prime time.

The Sunday afternoon rankings are pretty solid, because the NFL is the only game in town and that's when people are wanting to watch football. But on Sunday, Monday and Thursday night there are other things on TV that people want to watch.  Shows such as Game of Thrones, Westworld and others have gone toe to toe with the NFL and are making a dent in viewership.  People have choices, and being force-fed bad games in prime-time slots are ones they are increasingly not making.

3. At some point, it's over-saturation.

Thursdays used to be for College Football, but the NFL instituting the Thursday game has diminished that somewhat since the big teams no longer want to play then.  So the NFL has killed a good sports night by shoehorning a bad product into a night they shouldn't be playing, and it's killing the evening.

We now have NFL football on 3 night's per week and it's just too much.  Add to that the fact that recovery times and game-planning in 4-days is difficult, at best, and the NFL is all but guaranteeing you they're going to put on a shoddy product on Thursdays.

4. Yes, some of it is political.

From the anthem protests to the concussion issue the NFL is now viewed more politically than it is as a sports league, and people are tuning out. I don't see a reason for the networks to broadcast the National Anthem that plays before every game (and to be honest, I don't recall them doing that consistently prior to this year) like they do this year, hoping to catch a player on their knees or raising a hand.

Then there's the fact that a lot of people have decided that they cannot, in good conscience, watch tackle football any longer due to the damage it does to the players long-term.  One of these political issues is temporary but one is a burgeoning problem that's not going away.

5. The Presidential Election

Yes, this is a small portion of it but it's stupid for the NFL to use it as a crutch.  The low-rated game on Sunday didn't run up against a debate, it was just bad football that few wanted to watch.

6. A tone-deaf league.

Roger Goodell is a horrible commissioner who is ruining the league. He's arrogant, out of touch with the fans and has 100% lost the players.  Because of this the NFL is running on bureaucratic auto-pilot which is resulting in dumb decisions like banning teams from tweeting video highlights.

Then there was the whole Susan B. Komen Foundation issue, and how the league fumbled that, and then you had the news that teams were charging the US Military for all of those (highly publicized by the League) "Salute to Service" events they had. It was a horrible look for the league, and one that many fans have refused to forgive.

7. Finally, it's just about bad people.

The NFL is full of some pretty bad characters, and I'm not talking about the players I'm referring to the Billionaires that own the teams. Boorish behavior, entitled royal mentality and constant threats to cities for more tax subsidy have cooled many fans on their hometown teams. Add to that player arrests, bad sportsmanship on (and off) the field and you have a League that fewer and fewer people are willing to invest behind.

Ticket prices are at an all time high, to the point where the average work-a-day fan is priced out of attending. The world of $14 beers and $9 hot-dogs is just too much for most families of 4 to afford consistently. To top it all off the teams act as if its the fans who have an obligation to the teams, and not the other way around.

From boorish owners to punk players to a bad product on the field the reality of an NFL broadcast today is not good.  And the future prospects don't seem to be any better.  People are starting to tune out and vote with their remotes. So called "sold out" stadiums have visible rows of empty seats, and viewership for other events (such as soccer) are on the rise.  While none of this is to a point where it's threatening the supremacy of the NFL as America's premier professional sports league, nor is it likely to for the foreseeable future, it is a long-term problem that the league seems only barely willing to adjust.

The Thursday Night Football stream on Twitter was, by all accounts, a success, and there appears to be lasting support for games played on Sunday afternoon.  This could be a case where retraction of the schedule, not expansion, is a better thing for the league as a whole. Were I commissioner this would be some immediate steps that I would take:

1. Get rid of Thursday Night Football ASAP. (As soon as your TV contract allows)
2. Eliminate either Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football, one of the two.
3. Stream every remaining prime-time game on Twitter, other online outlets.
4. Remove the draconian social media restrictions, free the game.
5. Do some honest community/military outreach.
6. Stop the all-encompassing search for parity. Free up the salary cap.
7. Make the prime-time scheduling be a reward for good play again instead of a right for all teams.
8. Fire Rodger Goodell. (immediately)
9. Stop with the International games
10. Work with TV partners to improve the quality of Sunday pre-game shows (which are currently unwatchable)

There's more the NFL could do, but that's where I'd start.

What the NFL needs to realize is that fans have been conditioned over the years to expect NFL action on Sunday Afternoon. That key time-frame is still the strongest in the lineup and they need to be moving more games there, rather than less.  One quick fix they could do to ensure better viewership is to stop with the 9/3 distribution of early/late kick-off times and move to a more balanced schedule.

And enough with playing American football in London.  Just stop.

The first step to fixing this mess however is to remove the people in charge who are responsible for creating it.  This means most of the NFL executive team has got to go.  Until that's done, the Shield is going to continue to be tarnished with bad play and low ratings.

Monday, October 17, 2016

College Football: An Open Letter to The University of Houston

Dear Cougars,

Rough day.  As you've been told by now all of the footsie that the Big X XII Conference has been playing with you was nothing more than an attempt to get FOX and ESPN to come to the bargaining table to pay more money for the least anticipated conference championship game in America.  And Yes, I'm including the Sun Belt, MAC and C-USA in my rankings.

But all is not lost.  For one, you still have a nice stadium and a newly renovated basketball center on the way, your football team is on the rise, coached by one of the best young coaches in the game (for now) and your basketball team seems to be on the verge of coming up from the Clyde Drexler depths under Kelvin Sampson.  Things are looking good.

So consider today a wake up call and come to the realization that joining the Big X XII Conference was never going to work out for you.  The first sign that something screwy was going on is that UT-Austin was (supposedly) on your side.  This never works out well for you and working with them should be avoided at all costs.  Same for OU, who are just milking the Big X XII Conference until they can find a way to get shed of it in a manner in which the Oklahoma legislature approves.

You were onto something when you went and talked to the PAC-12 a few months back, but I wouldn't stop there.  Were I king of UH (instead of Tillman Fertitta) I'd go speak with the ACC as well.  Hell, I'd fly all of the Presidents of the ACC to Houston during Super Bowl week. When you play Louisville, I'd take their powers that be to Tony's where I'd make sure they had anything on the menu they wanted. Then Vic & Anthony's.  In short, they'd eat nothing but peacock and Champagne while here. While you're at it, introduce them to a couple of scouting services in the area.  Don't worry, there are plenty of recruits to go around.

I say this because the Big X XII Conference has no long-term future. Even if they did expand you'd be in the same situation that you found yourself in the American, in at the tail end of a power conference looking to Tulsa, ECU and UCF to fill the ranks.  It'd be the 'new' Big X XII Conference except without most of the teams with any national cache.

Look, I know that a few years ago I was one of the loudest cheerleaders for you joining the (then Big East) over trying to get into the Big X XII Conference.  And while you still seem intent on letting your Big X XII Conference freak flag fly I still think you're making a huge mistake. I mean, look at what you HAVE done in the American.

You're the leading member of the best Group of 5 Conference in the country.

You beat Louisville and Florida State and Oklahoma.

You beat the Seminoles in a Big Six New Year's game.

Up until you ran into Navy, you had a very real shot at gaining entrance into the CFP.

Even with the loss you still have a shot at playing in the Cotton Bowl at Jerry's World. 

When I said back then "Go East, and prosper" I meant it.  And I still think it's something that you should consider again.  Because the ACC, SEC, PAC-12 and B1G are GOING to expand to 16 teams.  And when they do this the Big X XII Conference is going to be shredded, again.  Gone will be Oklahoma and OSU (probably to the SEC) and gone will be Texas and Texas Tech (Probably to the PAC-12). I see the B1G taking Kansas and Cincinnati and the ACC taking Notre Dame.

This means that you, Baylor (LOL) and TCU will be vying for that last slot in a power conference, a slot that you would have the holeshot in grabbing.  TCU is playing with the big boys, but they aren't a big time program long-term, and Baylor is causing itself to be about as attractive as radioactive sludge with the way they're handling this Title IX situation. In short, with your new facilities, thanks in part to fielding a winning football team and a commitment by the board, you're building the foundation that will allow you to not only compete in a newly expanded ACC, but WIN there as well.

Yes, even in basketball.

So, chin up Cougars and hold fast.  What has happened to you today is probably the best thing that could happen long term. The Big X XII Conference is a fading, paper tiger being held together by UT-Austin and OU for the sole purpose of allowing themselves to milk the most money out of the other schools until a better deal can be found. As long as the Longhorn Network is around, there won't be one.

But the time will come when there is, and then the dominoes will start falling again.

Don't get caught unawares this time.  That probably means telling the Big X XII Conference "thanks, but no thanks" the next time they try to use you, and others, in an effort to get more money from the networks.


The Public Money.

NFL Questions: Are you a TRUE fan of your team?

In what was yet another in a long list of near-unwatchable NFL prime-time broadcasts Sunday night the Texans mounted a furious comeback to beat the Colts 26-23 in an overtime that felt more like punishment than bonus football.

They did this in front of a half-empty NRG Stadium as several fans took their overpriced jerseys to the car when the home team was down 23-9 with 6 minutes to go in regulation. What was billed as a "battle for supremacy in the AFC South" was really just a test to see which below-average franchise sucked less.  On Sunday night, it was the Texans that sucked just slightly less than did the Colts.

But it was the fans booing and leaving that raised the dander of Texans players most of all.

Never mind that the Texans had made it a franchise tradition to crap the bed on Nationally televised games, or that they hadn't shown any signs of life so far when facing good teams, or that many of the fans probably had to be at work the next morning sometime before the butt crack of dawn and the time on their cell phones was already well past 10. (And kids had school etc.)

Nope, according to fringe roster player Charles James II only the "true" Texans fans stayed to the end while all of the other fans were....not fanatic enough?

But James' ill-conceived rant brings forth some important questions.

Are you a TRUE fanatic for your team?

Why do you even root for the NFL team in your city?

Are you OBLIGATED to suffer through a crappy product because....home town pride?

Are you a TRUE fan?

Because I'm not. I root for teams and I pull for other teams to win, but I'm not a "fanatic" for any team. My favorite professional tackle football team is the San Francisco 49ers. This despite the fact that I have never been to San Fran.  But right now the Niners are awful and that's because the owner and general manager are incompetent. The head coach is a gimmick and the newly minted starting quarterback is more of a social warrior than a football player.  "Fanatics" ignore this and, much like the cartoon of the dog sitting in a fire, sip their coffee and say "This is fine" until they look up and the team is 3-13 and just about to blow another set of draft picks.

But these are the type of people that players like Charles James II and Vince Wilfork value. They don't want fans who realize that things aren't fine, that the team is broken and ran by a coach who's in over his head, a General Manager who is clueless and an owner who's just happy with sellouts and making a crap-ton of money.

THOSE people, non-fans, are people that won't support a shit team and stop buying tickets and stop having their Sunday's wasted. You get enough of THOSE fans and suddenly even the most disinterested owner notices the revenue drying up and makes changes. Changes that, typically, involve declining players like Wilfork, and players who never had much of an incline such as James being jobless, or working for Cleveland.

Why do you even root for the NFL team in your city?

What is it about the NFL franchise, or any professional sports team, in your city that causes you to root for them?

Do you believe they are an 'integral part of your community;? Do they fill you with a sense of 'civic pride'? Do you think the team doing well makes the city look better?

I hope you don't buy into any of the above because none of them are true.  Los Angeles did just fine without an NFL franchise for years. And it's only because the NFL so coveted the television market that they are back. (and they had to get Jerry Jones to prop up the character of Stan Kroenke, a horrible man, to do it). That's right, THAT Jerry Jones. The one seen in creepy shots with co-eds.  Or maybe you like Jim Irsay, an owner who was suspended for drug use, broke up a marriage and had to testify to it in the divorce proceedings.

Are THOSE people integral parts of your community?  Politicians (horrible people themselves) seem to think so, because they continue to throw Billions of dollars of tax revenue into the coffers of team owners in a desperate attempt to retain the world classiness of an NFL franchise.

Truthfully?  Houston was better off in the gap years between the Oilers and the Texans.  Football on TV (where most Houstonians watch the NFL) was more varied and interesting.

Are you OBLIGATED to suffer through a crappy product because of civic pride?

But, what if your team sucks?  Does it make you somehow less of a city?  Ask New York that.  Because they seem to be doing fine despite the Jets and the Giants being awful.  San Francisco is still a global city despite the complete mess that are the 49ers, and Cleveland is doing just fine despite the Browns being possibly worse than the Crimson Tide.

The problem is that the stadium wars are heating up.  Soon that $500 Million stadium in your town is going to be hopelessly out of style. With the Cowboys having the Billion dollar Jerry World in operation, and the Vikings opening up their $1.5 Billion pleasure palace and Los Angeles in the middle of plans to build a $2.3 Billion dollar "football entertainment complex" what you currently have will soon be seen as 2nd class.

Which means that the tax money you've spent on your current stadium (and are still spending in many cases) is not going to be enough.  This means that the Billionaires who are raking in Billions from NFL football are going to go back to local politicians nationwide and stamp their feet for more tax money to build bigger football complexes in an effort to stay "world class".

The selling point for this is to "attract Super Bowls" to town.  Trust me when I say this, you don't want a Super Bowl to be held in your city any more than you want a raging case of bird flu to sweep through the populace.  In fact, the bird flu might be preferable.  Here's the thing:  You won't be able to attend the Super Bowl because ticket prices are going to be sky high. Thousands of people will descend on your town and will gather in approved areas with approved (meaning those that pay the NFL kick-backs for exclusivity) vendors eating approved junk food and drinking approved $15 beers which will not add as much to a city economically as will be advertised.

Your city will also be inundated with prostitutes and out-of-town drug dealers who, responding to the law of supply and demand, will ensure that the seemingly never-ending stream of celebrity "Super Bowl Parties" are fueled the entire two weeks.  Traffic will suck, and no matter how great your city is there will be people who come there who trash it.

Sure the league will talk about "what a great host" you were but other cities, feeling a case of Stupid Bowl envy, will write horrible things about you and your sub-par something that they can get at home but can't get where you live.

And if you don't pony up and give the NFL what they want?

They'll just go and find another group of suckers that will.

On the bright side you'll then get four NFL games broadcast on a Sunday instead of two, and typically those games will be the National games of interest.  Meaning that they are slightly less entertaining than the 10th best college game that aired on Saturday.

In short: Don't be a FAN of a team, root for them.  And if they suck?

Stop watching.  That's the ONLY way to drive change. Hit the awful people that own the teams in the pocketbook.

As a side benefit you might get rid of the players that don't like you as well.  Win-win.

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