Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fools' Errands: Week 1 Family Football Picks

If "Write What You Know" is the first rule of writing, then it's easy to see why I've never posted anything on how to put a diaper on a standing toddler. (Editor's note: I'll write about that the next time my husband goes weeks with posting anything and just disappears.) It also explains why it's quite possible that all the rest of the posts from now until Judgment Day might be vaguely about football and vaguely about kids but really probably about neither. Still, it might be better than nothing.

Now in its fifth year, the Delaware Sports Lottery allows gambling on NFL games thanks to a loophole in an arcane law from the 1970s. However, legislators have stubbornly held on to an equally arcane loophole limiting wagering to the "parlay" system, which means you must bet on -- and win-- at least three games to cash in. To which most degenerates like myself say, "Pffft. I can pick three games in my sleep. I'm an NFL maven." And so, like the previous 4 years, my stated goal is to totally bankrupt the state I live and work in through a series of immaterial, high-risk, low-reward wagers. Sound financial acumen.

Because gambling on football combines my two favorite things, I have unabashedly introduced my kids to it. In their lifetime, we've had barely two drops of alcohol in the house and zero smokable items, but the kids can smell a half-point parlay card from down the hall. To date, I've only let them draw rainbows on them and fill all the holes with teal- or copper-colored sharpies, but I think this year I'm going to let them make picks too. Because I want them to be fully invested in the NFL with me this year. I want them to feel the highs of winning and the lows of losing. And since they have no clue what's actually going on, I'll probably just tell them they lost every week, so that they grow up thinking gambling is stupid. Which it is. Obviously, I won't be using their money (until my bankroll is shot) because if we open our son's piggy bank and touch his paper money, he launches into us like a mother lion defending her young.

Before we get to the picks, the hot football question in the household this season is, "What's the Sunday Night Football theme song going to be like now that Carrie Underwood is replacing Faith Hill?" (My unsolicited answer: Who cares. My kids' unsolicited response: We do! The NFL Marketing Department's unsolicited pile-on: See that, you old, grouchy football fan? We're gearing all of this to your kids. Screw the guy who has been watching football for 35 years. In order to grow our fan base, we have to play rock songs based on Joan Jett songs from 1987 and continue to outlaw defense. The score of every game this year will be At Least 49 to Nothing Less Than 27.)

The week's 3-team parlay picks:

1. Cleveland over Miami by -1.5 -- The slimmest line on the board. Neither Cleveland nor Miami has been relevant in years, but there's a slightly better chance that Cleveland will be slightly better than Miami this year...maybe. That's the in-depth football analysis that $10 bets in Delaware gets you.

But 1.5 is also the number of inches between the my son's legs and the lawnmower blades when he plays chicken with the Husqvarna. (Husqvarna then must be Swedish for "Get the s%$t out of the way, you have the WHOLE YARD.") We nearly had to file this correspondence from the emergency room three different times, but I guess there is something about running alongside a lawnmower spitting grass out of the side of its mouth onto your feet that only a four-year-old boy can appreciate. Therefore, I think Cleveland can beat Miami by more than the distance between my kid's legs remaining intact and being severed into a thousand pieces.

Grumpy Old Confused Man Alert: 1.5 was also the over/under on number of haircuts I got on Saturday, and if you bet the under you lost. I actually got my hair cut twice on Saturday. Once at one place, then once immediately after at another place to finish the job. At the second place, they asked me, "Do you want me to use the scissors?" At that point, I felt like Jim Valvano after the championship game, but instead of looking for someone to hug, I was looking for someone to beat with a sledgehammer. Though I would have settled for finding someone to answer the question, "WHY IS EVERYONE SUDDENLY ASKING ME IF I WANT THEM TO USE 'THE SCISSORS' TO CUT MY HAIR?" I've never been asked that question in my life. It was a valid question, though, since the first place didn't use scissors at all, and I came out looking like an Oompa Loompa. I was more going for anything between Telly Savalas and an average 15-year-old boy. I ended up telling the lady I wanted the little boy haircut she gave my son two weeks ago. WITH scissors. I'm still totally confused about the sudden aversion to scissors the last month. I've aged tremendously in the last month, and apparently not well. Scissors are still ok, right?

2. Seattle/Carolina - under 45.5 - The experts believe these two teams will combine to score, on average, 45.5 points. Even though the league wants every final score to be at least 49-27, there is a decent chance these two teams combine for less than 46 points (and then are booted out of the league and all their offensive players redistributed to the other teams, while all their defensive players are given desk jobs in the office that decides the charities that receive the weekly late-hit fines.) My belief is Carolina might not score at all, and if they do find a groove offensively, it will take them forever to get the ball down the field. And their quarterback is a flake.

But 45.5 is also the diameter in inches of the cobweb I stepped through while cutting the grass Saturday, so I'll be picking silk out of my teeth and newly cut hair for a week. It will add that Touch of Grey that I've already supplied enough of on my own. Forget baseball players, we should be testing north-central Delaware spiders for the steroids.

45.5 is also the distance in feet that the inside of the baseball I ran over with the lawnmower traveled. (He really tore the cover off that ball.) This makes two baseballs I've run over with the lawnmower in a month, and I'm not sure anyone cares except me. Do I need to invoke the "Santa won't come if you don't take better care of your toys" deal in early September?

3. Houston over San Diego by 4.5 -- From everything I've heard, San Diego really stinks this year. Good enough for me.

4.5 is also the average number of boxes of Honey Smacks I have to buy at the store to ensure I at least get to eat one bowl of Honey Smacks before they're gone. Honey Smacks are, and by a large margin, the most underrated breakfast cereal. Do they even advertise Honey Smacks? If the frog came on and said, "Theyy-y-y-y-y're Gr-r-r-r-r-r-ibbit!" Honey Smacks would be a shoo-in for the Cereal Hall of Fame. Not that they can't get there on their own merits, it just may take longer, which is sad.

Guest picking this week: My daughter. Her picks are as follows:

1. Buffalo +10.5 over New England -- Because it corresponds to bubble #6 on the sheet, which is her age.

2. New England/Buffalo - over 51.5 -- Because it corresponds to bubble #7 on the sheet, which is her age as of her next birthday, since her parents didn't properly make a huge deal out of her recent half-birthday.

3. New England/Buffalo - under 51.5 -- Because it corresponds to bubble #8 on the sheet, which is her age as of her birthday after that.

Normally in these scenarios, the neophyte, be it a wife, daughter, or administrative assistant, ends up beating the veteran through an improbable run of good luck, and the lesson of course is that sports prognostication is all luck anyway and nobody should bet on it. Not here, though, as my daughter has managed to make two totally contradictory picks, and she needs to win all three to cash. (Thanks again, parlay system!) I suppose if anyone can make this all happen for her, it's the dreamy Tom Brady. Better luck next time, sport, make sure you pay me your $10.

No, seriously, did Congress or somebody ban scissors in barber shops? Were they deemed too dangerous? Too precise? Are we heading to an all-clipper system within 10 years? Are scissors an extra add-on like heated seats in cars? What is going on?