Important News: Relocation To Vegas!

February 1, 2010

About a year ago, Las Vegas casino tycoon Steve Wynn told 60 Minutes that he has never seen anyone “over a stretch of time” stay ahead of the casino, and he certainly never saw anyone that walked away while winning big.

“The only way to win in a casino is to own one,” Wynn concluded.

Obviously Wynn has never seen the Washington Nationals play.

You mean to tell me that if I spent a summer in Vegas betting only against the Nationals or a winter betting only against the New Jersey Nets, Detroit Lions or Washington State University Cougar football program, that I would lose all my discretionary income?

A friend once told me, "When I die, I want heaven to be a sports book." Well The Bible never did specifically condemn gambling.

It’s been two full years since I officially entered the real world as a college graduate with a degree in print journalism. I have earned exactly $0.00 as a result of that degree. But forget the money for a second, because for every rich sports reporter, there are 100 more who are willing to work part time at Target during the holidays. Every single one of us that ever got into the reporting part of the business did it for one reason and one reason alone: not because they loved to write (although that helps), but because they saw it as an opportunity to become involved. You’re not just a fan anymore. You have access to free stat sheets, interviews, Diet Cokes and sandwiches.

Vegas can give me the opportunity to finally start earning some valuable sports reporting experience (albeit unorthodox) in return for my attempt to accurately prognosticating athletic events. If I have to work at an In And Out Burger to support myself I will…this is journalism.

The mission plan is simple: For one year to bet on (and blog about) an average of one sporting event daily. No more than $20 a day, no less than the minimum (which I believe is $5) per bet. There will be another stipulation to follow, however, what I have in mind is still very tentative: I’m thinking on betting on favorites, and favorites only.

Akin to NASCAR opening its season with the showcasing of it’s Golden Goose, The Daytona 500, Fish Food will advent a year of betting and blogging during a certain celebration of time that has become such a national phenomenon that Gambler’s Anonymous deems it their busy season: March.

And when I say March, sports fans, you imagine: buzzer beaters, office pools, One Shining Moment, a #12 seed beating a #5 seed, Greg Gumbel’s Soul Glo, creating jobs in the television-equipped garage in order to curb the wife’s henpecking tendencies, and calling in sick because you live in Carlsbad, CA, and your alma mater, Syracuse, tips off at 9:07 AM PST on the opening Thursday.

The ever steady Greg Gumbel.

I’ll even give you a sneak preview of who I will be laying action on nearly two months ahead of time: The four No. 1 seeds.

And when my year is over, even if I come out only $1 ahead, then I will frame that sonofabitch (that I hope to be autographed by Wynn himself). I’m going for the research aspect; to answer some faqs, to shed light for the Average Joe who happens to be in Vegas during the NFL’s Championship weekend and feel inclined to bet on the games. These are the guys who are drunk from the atmosphere, and bet $50 on the Saints (-3 ½) to win the NFC Championship, and by not betting on Peyton Manning (I bet the under, 39, in the game), theoretically bet Against Peyton Manning in the AFC Championship.

Here are the valuable lessons I already learned during a recent rendezvous in Vegas, in which I brought a $200 gambling allowance ($100 of which I mistakenly bet on the NFL’s most difficult weekend to gamble on).

1. The golden rule of gambling: always bet with your head and instincts as opposed to your heart, or what your favorite ESPN pundit tells you to do. While it might be widely known as the golden rule of sports gambling, in Vegas it comes with an asterisk because the point spreads can so often neutralize it. I said back in December, that if Minnesota were in the NFC Championship game against the Saints, I would bet on the former because I thought they could run the ball to win.

My Father said to stay away from the game, citing that the point spread was to close to call.

At least one of us was actually thinking.

Because my heart, imagination, ego, a nicotine buzz, whatever you want to call it was thinking for me, “Perhaps there is something supernatural going on with the Saints right now. Something tells me this is their year!”

And that is how you lose in Vegas, my friends.

Lesson learned. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

As sure as "humans and fish can coexist peacefully," Mr. President, I'm just as sure that I can't get fooled by Vegas a second time.

2.      Never, ever, ever, ever bet against a legend while he is currently playing A.) at the highest level we will ever see him play along with B.) a healthy, talented supporting cast, and C.) while he’s performing on his home turf.

Of course I am referring to Peyton Manning. I figured the Colts would win, but I was sure the Jets running game and defense would continue to somewhat dictate the rhythm of the game like they had been doing against the likes of quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Philip Rivers. Those guys are very good, but Manning, who is ESPN’s white knight at the moment, is great.

Looking out for No. 1

I ran this whole idea by a beloved family member, of whom I will keep anonymous. Here is the email reply I received:

On Vegas:  I think the idea is good; but needs lots and lots of thought and planning.  Betting $5 a day for a year is $1800.  Vegas is a real cesspool for a lot of really, really bad, corrupt people who take advantage of and kill nice people.  Check the murder rates, they are not good.  I am not saying it would be bad; but I would plan out your idea a bit and through it out to a few friends to see what they think.  The gambling world is pretty mafia ridden and very, very corrupt, as I said before. Just an arena that you may not want to delve into.  You have time to think about this; so take it slow  (if you want my advice :-).

When I read this email, I couldn’t help but laugh a little bit. But at the same time, I see where this family member is coming from: the temptation culture in Vegas can make even Times Square look like suburban Salt Lake City in some ways. For instance, porn is not distributed freely in Times Square the way it comes in droves, at every angle, from those card-snapping dude-bros on the Vegas strip.

Here's what I look like now (Not Elvis, but the one to our left of him)...

...and if I'm not careful, I could look like Bad Blake before long.

Before I commit to this “project”, I am going to have to lay down a few fixed ground rules to help keep me from regressing toward any sort of serious gambling problem. This way, I can give myself the best possible chance not only to succeed journalistically, but also to stay out of any kind of trouble that looms the same way whiskey did over Bad Blake’s country music career. Until I come up with a mission statement, here’s what my instincts are bargaining for:

1.)   It’s for the writing:

I will now become a committed blogger. The gambling just gives me the right to sit and watch a game on a television. If I win, great. If I lose, then I only paid $5 to watch LeBron James thunderdunk a time or two on a television with a larger circumference than a swimming pool. The Fish Food blog, with the exception of the occasional sick day, or trip out of town for holidays or whatever, should have no less than 300 entries in pertinence to gambling with my $5 a day allowance.

The goal, ideally, would be to submit 365 entries in 365 days. But today, writing from New York, in February, who knows? I don’t even know where my internet access will come from, or what my real world schedule will look like.

I promise you'll never see me out gambling during the 3 AM - 11 AM "skank shift" like these two famous fictional bachelors once did.

2.)   Quality of living:

I am a lot of things. White Trash is not one of them. If I have to position “The Club” on the wheel of my beige ’94 Corolla every night, then I may need to re-think about that full-time elementary school janitorial gig back home in Mayberry, Washington State.

I’ve lived in the back of my old pickup truck before (MLB spring training, Viera, FL, 2008). I’ve slept on an air mattress when I was living in Hartford, CT, while interning at The Courant for a summer. Even here in New York, I’ve put up with living an hour away from my everyday job, East Queens to the upper, upper West Side of Manhattan and back by subway, because its an “eat off the sidewalks” clean and serene neighborhood in Queens.

While I have dealt with my fare share of what normal people would categorize as extraneous obstacles that stand in the way of reaching my own little exalted station in life, I still have a rational side. I have no qualms with reeling the pole in from the lake of dreams at once and for all at any moment. Hemingway’s old man Santiago went 80-something days without catching a fish. The difference between Santiago and I is this: he would go out searching for his catch, whereas my opportunities seem to find me. And when opportunity knocks, you know the rest.

So if I can’t find a respectable place to live in Vegas, then I’m willing to submit that all of this was just one big delusion of grandeur.

Worst case scenario; I’ll still be able to put some action on the tourney.

Greenies! The Fatigue Coma’s Worst Enemy

Big Mac admitted to using steroids. Now its time to focus on Selig's compulsive, pedantic decision to outlaw amphetamines.

It’s been roughly five years since the infamous “I’m not here to talk about the past” statement issued by former homerun hero, Mark McGwire, during the 2005 congressional hearings. Among other highlights of that day included Rafael Palmeiro pointing the wrong finger at politicians, taddle tale Jose Canseco flinching only 38 times (Who had more in the integrity tank on this day: Canseco or all the US congressman on that panel combined?), commissioner Bud Selig asking Rep. William Macy Clay if he was related to an unfortunate boxer from Louisville, and Sammy Sosa was black.

Since then, talk about more than one way to skin a cat: everything that could have been written or spoken about on the topic of steroids in baseball and society has been touched upon-to the point that even hard breaking news flashes, like days ago when McGwire finally admitted steroids don’t help you hit homeruns, couldn’t even make the average sports fan flinch.

The fans are ready to move on. Even Selig assures us that the steroid era is behind us, but what does this mean, in the long term, for the health of the players now?

Starving for greenies, that’s what.

In hindsight, Bud Selig got off way too easily-from 2005 to present day-when he outlawed the average ballplayer’s lifeblood: amphetamines. He dropped a Donkey Kong-sized hammer when he did that, because there’s no safe way to resuscitate the average ballplayer’s lifeblood back into the game. It would send the wrong message and make Selig look indecisive and even more geriatric than before. To emphasize my point, nobody would have given a damn if Selig had never mentioned the word amphetamine in the first place.

Just how important were amphetamines, more specifically the highly popular “Greenies”, to the average ball player in say, the dog days of August?

Like texting, MTV and chewing gum is to teens; the association of greenies, canned beer, cougars and fastballs is to baseball players.

One ballplayer who spoke under the condition of anonymity once told me this about cougars: "Their behinds are just a lot softer."

Janitors and history teachers habitually jingle keys and loose change in their pockets. For more than half a century, ballplayers once did the same with greenies.

Take a look at the definition of amphetamines, according to Wikipedia: a psychostimulant drug that is known to produce increased wakefulness and focus in association with decreased fatigue and appetite.

When I read that I think of only a handful of professions that rely on the effects of amphetamines more than pro baseball players: NORAD surveillance associates, graveyard shift talk radio workers, air traffic controllers, seamen, truck drivers, and strippers to along with every other pro athlete.

Here’s a detailed routine for the average ballplayer on the road for a Saturday in August:

*You literally roll out of bed at 10 AM, one hour before you need to be on the bus in the hotel’s parking lot.

*You get showered/cleaned up, call your girlfriend while on your way over to the IHOP next door for an all you can crush pancake special for $7.99 with your roommate and another teammate or two.

*The bus arrives to the park, and it takes a busload of professional athletes, who are supposed to be in the best shape of anyone in a given zip code, longer to get off the bus than it would if senior citizens were in their place.

*They all shuffle from the bus to the locker room, because their legs, which feel like Smucker’s, work as if they’re ankles are tied to cinderblocks.

*Rock, Paper, Scissor matchups abound as everyone, bus driver included, needs to see the trainer.

That was post greenies. Here’s what it looked like in 2004, before Bud decided to go Scientology on everyone:

Rookie walks into the training room. He’s in Double A and having a productive year, batting .299 but battling extreme fatigue, concerned that he needs a day off. With September call ups just around the corner, taking a day off would make about as much sense as taking a Perfect “10” to the Sizzler on a first date. He asks the trainer for help:

The trainer puts his Mad Libs book down, and looks at the player for a solid minute, then asks him which newspaper he is with.

The rookie explains that he’s playing rightfield, then shows two forms of I.D.: his license and the lineup card.

The trainer tells the rookie to just go ahead and grab a few of “those guys” from the candy dish on his desk.

The rookie hesitates a little and appears confused. After all, he has been subjected to at least 15 good practical jokes this season.

“Trust me.” The trainer insists.

The rookie nods the head, grabs a few greenies and responds with, “Is it safe to mix these with Johimbe Bark?”

“If you are that worried, I’ll prescribe you my starter kit,” the trainer scoffs. “It’s still an amphetamine, but the dosage is more female friendly.”

“Well what is it?” The rookie shrugs.

“They call it the Beijing Cocktail,” the trainer responds. “Two ibuprofen and two Aleve. You’ll be on cloud nine for one game, but you’ll want these here ‘greenies’ this time tomorrow, I assure you.”

The players are always going to find a way to curb the aches and pains. The pain plays evil games with their conscious. Now the most elementary of pain relievers is forever gone: Amphetamines were a step above a cup of freaking Starbucks for goodness sakes! And more sex does not help you get out of bed for a 1 PM first pitch on a Saturday.

Selig will tell you that going to bed at a reasonable hour, consuming vitamins and wholesome foods like bananas, apples, sweet potatoes, 100% natural Florida Orange Juice, and getting your prostate checked early will suffice.

If Troy McClure were still alive, he would be pedaling something to combat pain and fatigue via infomercial, no doubt.

Baseball is going to need to give its employees a morale booster. Players might be expendable, but still, this is not a restaurant. Have some compassion. Baseball has got to figure out a way to get amphetamines back into the game.

If amphetamines are legal for Bud Selig to take during the 7th inning stretch in game two of a Brewer-Pirate double header, then they should certainly be legal for a pitcher who can barely lift his arm to wash his hair after pitching for 6 straight days.

Steroids were a want. Amphetamines are a necessity.

NFL Wild Card Playoff Preview: It’s Romo and Sanchez Against The World

Dialogue from owner to rookie QB in 1980: Okay kid, sign on the dotted line for your money, a guaranteed roster spot, and some snaps with the second string in the preseason. We'll even throw in the clipboard. Now don't go and spend it all on carphones and caviar; and I'll talk to you again in two seasons when you're ready to lead this franchise. Hell my family has helped send boys to 'Nam so you could have this kind of opportunity. And if I find out you are a liberal you'll never see the field. Rookie: Yessir.

You may have heard something about how far-fetched the media and fan expectations alike can be for a quarterback representing a team based out of New York City. One could argue that there is only one brief period of time that, Super Bowl win aside, the media will even consider playing nice with the man under center: his draft day. Just ask Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez.

The New York Posts of the world will contend that the Jets made it to the playoffs despite Sanchez, a top five overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. This is a story for another day, but a wise bartender recently told me, in Welles conviction, that the NYC media manipulates how the average person not only views news, but even thinks. Let’s take it a step further: could the media actually dictate how the average NFL coaching staff thinks, too?

Did Sanchez start primarily for business purposes? Because the old formula called to insert the veteran quarterback atop the depth chart, in this case Kellen Clemens, to manage the offense for the season while Sanchez studies, absorbs.

Would Sanchez even have started a game his first season-or even the following season for that matter-if he was drafted the same year as John Elway? Sanchez would most likely have been the emergency quarterback for the Jets in 1983.

Another tabloid of the Big Apple variety, AM New York, put Sanchez on their cover on Friday, and had the temerity to dress it with a headline that stated: “Step Up, Pretty Boy.”

Remember when rookies had little to no expectations headed into their rookie year? I don’t either.

As for Sanchez’s matchup in Cincinnati versus the AFC North Champion Bengals on Saturday, expect to see some offensive firepower, with touchdowns for all. Just kidding. This one will be decided by a drive killing lost fumble, big returns, silly penalties, or whatever NBC commentator Joe Theismann tells you. Bengals 23, Jets 13

Theismann is known for three things: Winning, talking, and L.T.

Then there is the guy who came into the NFL undrafted, and with that, exotically 100% free of expectation: Tony Romo. Now he is expected to lead Dallas to a Super Bowl. To me, his status is the most intriguing storyline in the 2010 NFL Playoffs.

One of the more infrequent and special moments of emotional display in sport is when you see the monkey jumping off a quarterback’s shoulders and subsequently making a mad dash to the exit sign after the maligned QB finally won “The Big One.” I’m thinking Steve Young, Elway, even Eli Manning. There is a good chance we will see that kind of celebration this season, if Dallas quarterback Tony Romo and the Cowboys can continue to play the way they have been playing in December and into January.

To this point, Tony Romo's playoff legacy is branded by his walk-off, dropped snap of a potential game-winning field goal in Seattle.

If Romo beats Philly on Saturday night, he will have won his first playoff game as the starting quarterback of the Cowboys. Fair or unfair, winning is the only way to reverse the curse of the monkey in sports. If the Cowboys lose, even if Romo plays great, he will continue to be the focus of Dallas’s post-Aikman, Irvin, Emmitt postseason futility.

Hall of Fame quarterback Phil Simms, who hates everything about the term, “can’t win the Big One,” recently spoke on Romo’s behalf on WFAN radio in New York. Simms likened Romo’s situation to John Elway in the 80’s, “If it weren’t for him, they wouldn’t be in the Big Game!”

Hello front desk? Yeah we're just about done here, but I'm concerned that I may have left the iron on in my room...Thank you. And could you have him bring some more towels?

The general perception on Romo, despite the fact that he shows flashes of making the game look easy (which few athletes have the capability of doing), is that he is not a winner. Unfortunately for Romo, a consummate entertainer in the entertainment industry, great athletes are chiefly defined by winning and losing. It may not be fair, but it’s what makes sports an entity.

What gives the Romo angle even more juice, or sport related irony, is that he is going up against a veteran quarterback in Donovan McNabb, whose own career has been dissected and scrutinized on a Marino/Barkley/Ewing like level as well.

Romo and the Cowboys will continue to feed the Eagles Alka-Seltzer in the 2009/10 season. Cowboys 20, Eagles 16

The game that nobody is spending much time talking about is Baltimore at New England. Why do you think that is? The explanation is simple, these two teams can be labeled as Underachievers, or perhaps more appropriately, Pretenders, for the 2009-10 campaign. For further explanation, look no further than Fish Food, which in the preseason prognosticated Baltimore as AFC Champs (to go along with Green Bay in the NFC). In defense of that bold prediction, I don’t think anybody outside of the Raven organization really understood just how much former defensive coordinator and current Jets rookie head coach Rex Ryan contributed to the Ravens identity and success. After all, look at what Ryan is doing with a depleted Jets roster. Not to mention the eggshells that surround his offensive game planning with a rookie quarterback, he long ago lost arguably his best defensive and offensive playmakers for the season in tackle Kris Jenkins and running back Leon Washington. Yet somehow, the J-E-T-S lead the NFL in rushing at total defense. It truly is one of the more remarkable feats in the NFL this season.

Back to the Ravens: so in essence, Baltimore had to redefine who they were on defense in 2009 after losing Ryan, who is most deserving of the NFL’s coach of the year award.

As for the Pats, anytime you have a quarterback like Tom Brady (or Colt McCoy), obviously, you have a chance in any game, anywhere. Brady loses Wes Welker, but he still has God’s own prototype for wideouts in Randy Moss. But a quarterback can only account for his own offense, not the opponents. NFL pundits and sports radio hosts insist that the Patriots defense is average at best. To be more specific we ask: Where does the Patriot pass rush come from?

The Pats need Hoody's IQ like they've never needed it before.

Nobody really expects either one of these teams to make any noise in the playoffs, but someone has to win this one and advance. PATS 22, Ravens 16

Finally, we get around to Green Bay at Arizona, where it is reported that Cheeseheads may occupy at least half of the seats at Phoenix Community College Online Stadium.

While we love all that the McNabb vs Romo matchup entails, we actually expect to see better numbers between felllow quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Kurt Warner. The Packers typically win when Rodgers has enough time on a continual basis to make his reads downfield. Arizona wins when the offense plays a complete game, as they proved in their Super Bowl run last season, when the running game emerged out of nowhere. Both of these quarterbacks need help, respectively, in different ways in order to gracefully play the offensive piano. We’re going to assume it will be the Rodgers and the Pack on Sunday.

Packers 27, Cardinals 20