Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Introducing "Gimme Schalter": A journal of everything awesome

After months and months of feeling like my ten-thousand-plus Twitter followers had basically stopped caring whether or not I exist, I decided to go all-in on connecting all of my work to everyone who wants to read it.

I'm thrilled to introduce Gimme Schalter, a free weekly newsletter that contains my deep thoughts and hot takes on whatever's happening in sports, geek stuff, society, and life.

The first issue broke down exactly how I discovered that the problem was Twitter, not me, and what I'm going to do about it. The second issue's going to feature the story behind the huge professional failure (and big subsequent success!) that I went through while getting ready to launch.

A note: Some folks are having issues with security/SSL-certificate warnings when clicking the link; this is due to a configuration thing that my newsletter platform hasn't been able to resolve. I'm working on it!

As part of this complete and total re-evaluation of everything I'm doing, media-wise, I've also created a digital hub on the new Spore platform. It's got quick links and latest posts from everything I'm up to, including the new newsletter and this site!

The Spore link, and the Gimme Schalter sign-up widget, are right there on the sidebar =>

Thanks to everyone who's read, shared, and supported along the way!

Monday, July 5, 2021

Adderall & ADHD: A 39-Year Journey to Day One

Hey everyone! Over at my Medium site (oh, yeah, I have a Medium site, better put that in the link sidebar), I went long on my personal and family history with undiagnosed ADHD. And, well, how I got diagnosed and what getting real help means for me.

It's been a couple of months since then, and treatment is definitely making a huge difference for me in terms of getting my act together and levelling up as a husband, father, and writer. If you like anything I write, you'll like this one.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Personal Canons: Ender's Game

When the esteemed and excellent Sarah Gailey put out a submission call for pieces about your personal canon—the books that formed you, shaped you, will never leave you no matter what happens, even if you kind of wish they would—I knew instantly that I had to write about Ender's Game.

Back when I was full-time permalance with Bleacher Report, writing passionate reaction pieces was something of a specialty of mine. But in recent years, I haven't often had either the cause or the opportunity to drop everything and pour a thousand burning words into an essay-shaped form. When that email hit my inbox late one night, though, I knew I had to bang it out right then.

Ninety minutes later I had my piece, which is now live at Gailey's excellent Here's the Thing newsletter. Subscribe while you're there!

This anthology series, in which genre writers of many backgrounds and walks of life have delved deep into their lives and memories to wring out the truths about the books that have shaped them (for good, ill, and both), has been spectacular so far. As nervous as I still am to be so personally vulnerable, I'm thrilled and proud to be part of it.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Really Dark in Such a Layered Way

Remember when Twitter was a "microblogging platform" and not a hyperloop-style on-demand delivery system for anxiety and despair?

A recent Tweet by @lifecreep transported me back to when 140 characters or less (and a picture) really could be worth a thousand words:

As long as we're partying like it's 2009, here's a thousand words about a Tweet!

One could be forgiven for not immediately seeing the darkness, or the layers, inherent in this photo. After all, it's a shining, happy family, all fit and perfectly matching thanks to NordicTrack (it's an ad for the Peloton-style NordicTrack workout bike prominently framed by the family).

What's there to be weirded out by?

Well, for starters, poor @lifecreep has been beset by legions of Nazi weirdoes proclaiming this woman and her family a paragon of the White Race -- to the point that while I was drafting this, @lifecreep locked their account, forcing me to re-upload the picture. Nazis wouldn't be swarming if this whole thing weren't at least a little off, so let's pick at the threads a little bit and see if it'll unravel.

First of all, there's the whiteness in question. Not only does the ad feature four blonde, white kids of a (bottle) blonde mom, this room--which is apparently dedicated entirely to working out on the NordicTrack in question--is painted entirely white, and carpeted white, complete with a white rug on which to place the NordicTrack.

This is a class signifier: Besides having a house big enough for a dedicated workout room, this person has the spare money, time, energy and possibly live-in assistance to keep her workout-room carpet immaculately white. YOU don't, of course. Nobody does. Even the handful of one-percenters who could, wouldn't. It's a weird flex, but it's unmistakably a flex.

Then there's the perfectly matching kids. Anyone who's ever tried to pose kids for a picture knows how hard it is; that they're all in a row and making cute faces is a subtle flex in and of itself. But the kids aren't all matchy-matchy just because they're siblings. They're matchy because they're all wearing identical workout clothes!

Mom and all four kids are wearing identical stretch pants with a happy little pineapple print on it, and the Mom, two older daughters, and baby girl are all wearing identical strappy workout tops.

This is the really, truly, objectively weird thing: the baby is wearing athleisure.

That baby cannot ride that NordicTrack. That baby cannot even "work out." Even if it could, it shouldn't! It's a baby! Why is it wearing workout clothes?

To a lesser extent, the rest is true for the other kids. As long as they've got the opportunity, ability, and inclination to run around and play, most kids are 'fit' without any kind of workout regimen. Again, even if you could regularly convince your kids to get all dolled up in Lululemon and spend an hour  sweating out some calories with Mom--without sweating on the carpet!!--you probably shouldn't.

This leads us to the next weird flex: Lululemon doesn't make everything they make in every size from grownup to infant. Mom didn't buy all those pants, let alone strappy baby workout tops. That mom made all those clothes.

Now, again, making clothes in and of itself is not weird! Sewing all your kids' clothes in trendy fabrics and prints is easier and more popular than ever. Making matching all-family outfits for special occasions like Christmas or Easter is very, extremely normal.

But this woman not only has a white-carpeted NordicTrack room, and four perfectly behaved kids who'll wear matching clothes to not NordicTrack with her, she has the time to make a full family's worth of matching clothes for a random Tuesday workout! It's Easter every day at This Lady's house! You, you beleaguered parent looking at this ad, you feel lucky if you can get all your kids' Halloween costumes made before Halloween Eve.

But, maybe if you had a NordicTrack...


That's it, that's the ad.

This is a two-thousand-dollar workout bike. So this is a picture chock-full of aspirational signals to NordicTrack's target market. If you're not already an upper-middle-class-to-upper-class adult of family-having age who already works out and maybe even has a workout room (albeit a little less ready for a magazine spread), you are not in the market to buy this bike. And therefore, if you don't think this picture is extremely #goals, NordicTrack doesn't care what you think.

The parents this ad is targeting probably already dabble in sewing, or photography, or other domestic-adjacent hobby. They may have even made it some kind of side business (some posters made the obvious MLM references)! Yet here this woman is, wearing makeup to work out with her perfectly matching kids in her perfect workout room, effortlessly making clothes better than you make clothes, taking pictures better than you take pictures.

Ah, yes. The pictures. There they are, up on that wall. Printed out in black and white onto giant canvases, stretched and mounted. Looming directly over the actual kids, reminding them that They Are Loved.

Are you ready to go deeper with me? Take a deep breath. Let's jump in.

Taking pictures of your kids is totally great. Framing and hanging family pictures is the very picture of normalcy. But those gigantic portraits? In black and white? As others replying to the thread said, they look weirdly like memorial or funereal photos, or maybe some kind of Citizen Kane thing:

There's a certain strain of parenting thought that revolves around kids being reflections of, and on, their parents. Your kids shouldn't just be well-behaved, they should behave in ways that make other parents look at them and think, "Boy, those parents must be good parents."

Your kids should look like you, act like you, reflect you and your values back out into the world. All the weird mental and physical gymnastics that were necessary to produce this photo? The hours spent sewing the toddler sports bras, the $2,149 spent getting four bigger-than-life-size portraits blown up to Citizen Kane size and hung on the walls, the money spent getting the white carpet steam cleaned and hassling the kids to spend who knows how long getting in perfect line and taking pictures until they get just the right one for the 'Gram?

All of this time and effort and money is spent to broadcast the values of Being Good Parents, the Right Kind of Parents, of Raising a Happy Family out into the world.

...and boy, those kids had better appreciate it.

What happens when one of those kids doesn't want to pose for the Instagram photo? Doesn't want to be used as promotional material for Mom's side hustle? Doesn't want to go to church this Sunday? Might have Inappropriate Thoughts sometimes??

Well, of course they love them, sweetie! If they didn't love them, they wouldn't have spent $2,149 getting those portraits made For Them! If they didn't appreciate their strong-willed, independent spirit, they wouldn't have made them those pineapple pants! PINEAPPLE PANTS! Would a controlling, overbearing parent have allowed you to wear pineapple pants?? Of course not! We're a wild, fun, creative and independent family, all in exactly the same way!!


Sorry, I might have been pulling something from somewhere.

I don't mean to get too negative or project too much on these very real people, because if some of the replies are to be believed this is NOT a posed, staged ad. Instead it is a rich person with a clothes-making business's posed, staged Pinterest photo--one that was entered in a NordicTrack giveaway contest.

This is a layer I'm not sure I want to peel back. I mean, what's darker, a creative team pulling together this image of an unsettlingly Perfect Family to sell NordicTracks? Or a couple of parents willing to mold their actual family into an unsettlingly Perfect shape to sell NordicTracks (and toddler sports bras, and pineapple pants)?

I wish I had a better, simpler, pithier explanation for why @lifecreep is being besieged with Nazis and Karens insisting this is a photo of everything right with the world, when to so many it feels like everything wrong with it.

But I've spent enough time ignoring my kids to write my first real personal blog post since like 2009. Hat-tip to my eldest, @GaleOctober, for pointing it out to me and talking through it with me.

Happy Easter.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

SFF Short Story: "Admission"

Last fall, Apex Book Company put out a call for submissions for "Upside Down," a sure-to-be-awesome anthology of short stories that invert and/or demolish popular tropes in storytelling.

As it happened, I had a work-in-progress inverting the trope of a child getting admitted to magical boarding school. What happens to the parents of a kid who gets whisked away to a world of fantasy and danger--especially loving parents who've given them a happy home life?

I knew this was a perfect opportunity, and my wife kindly let me block out a few hours on Actual Christmas to finish the draft while the kids played with their toys. I was, and am, really really happy with the final product. Sadly, it wasn't selected for inclusion in the anthology.

Though the trope of Magical Boarding School had been around for many decades before Harry Potter, I think "Admission" didn't sufficiently grapple with that series' total crushing dominance of the trope. Either I needed to satirize HP specifically (which fit neither the story I wanted to tell, nor the call for submission), or adjust the story to fit a broader/different trope.

I learned the hard way that when you write a piece speficially for a themed market (anthology or special issue), it can be really difficult to place elsewhere. Nevertheless, I got a lot of positive feedback from pro editors on this one, and I think it deserves to see the light of day. Editor Jaym Gates gave me permission to share it, along with this anectode about the submission process.

So A) please go buy and read "Upside Down" because it's got a lot of great stories from some of my favorite authors, and B) please enjoy "Admission."

Jen tried to lose herself in the warm brown grain of what had once been her grandmother’s dining table. Her husband Blake shifted uncomfortably in one of the matching high-backed chairs.
"Remember when we had that fight about dinner?" he asked, trying once again to break the tension. "Every vegetable in the house transubstantiated into pizza."
How could she forget? Throwing open the refrigerator’s French doors, only to see every crisper and container oozing with stuffed-crust Meat Lover's. Spraying it all down and wiping it all out had taken the cleaning lady hours. Jen mumbled something and nodded.
Blake snorted softly, the closest he could come to laughing. She smiled that kind of one-sided, pursed-lip smile you smile just before a wedding or just after a funeral: wet-eyed acknowledgement that everything’s going to be different forever.
"I guess," he said after a pregnant pause, "we should have seen this coming."
Jen grabbed the envelope off the table again, the parchment grain foreign against her fingertips. The red wax seal with an inscrutable symbol, the shaky, florid script of a wizened hand, the inconceivable proposition to which they’d somehow agreed.
It had all happened so fast: A goblin on the doorstep, the laws of reality rewritten in an instant, a little girl jumping up and down with boundless joy. How could they say anything but yes? Every fairy tale, every bedtime story, every crayon-doodled daydream of their daughter's had come impossibly true.
Trips to tiny, musty bookstores and out-of-the-way ethnic markets in neighborhoods she'd never even heard of. Pulling up to the security fence at the far end of the airport with their Porsche Cayenne stuffed with pickled animal parts and cast-iron pots was strange enough; watching their daughter disappear into the blue on the back of a winged horse was even stranger.
Strangest of all, though, was coming home to an empty nest. Every inch of the condo had been prepared just so for a picture-perfect three-person family. The nursery for which no expense had been spared was now Brielle’s reading cave, the eleven-year-old’s books crammed into oaken shelves and figurines mobbing every horizontal surface.
Jen's home had been so perfect, everything as she’d always wanted—but without Brielle in the center of it all…it hurt. Jen stood up from the table and wandered pointlessly. She felt Brielle’s absence everywhere, gnawing at the back of her mind. Every step on her Brazilian cherry floors echoed an accusation: she was a terrible mother.
How could she let her daughter go?
Jen rubbed her gloved hands together, even though she'd set the climate system for her side of the car to something north of French Roast. She stared out window at the snowy airport field, desperate for the first glimpse of her daughter. Blake was staring out the other window; whatever temperature his side was set at, the air between them was freezing.
A rainbow flash pierced the layers of gray sky above. From the bloom of colors emerged a white speck, which grew into a winged steed and tiny riders. The perspective made it look as though they weren't descending but growing, massive feathered wings unfurling to brace against the driving wind. With an impossible speed and, effortless grace, the hooves reached for the ground and the great beast hit the ground running. Within seconds the animal slowed to a halt, just yards shy of the chain-link fence. The cloaked figure clinging to the beast's neck sat up; blue eyes flashed from beneath the hood. Jen threw open the door and ran.
Blake shouted after her. The car bonged angrily out of its left-open door. The three-inch heels on Jen's leather boots sunk into the snow-soggy ground with every step, but she had eyes only on the little girl taking the hand of a goblin porter and stepping down off a gleaming brass stirrup. The only thing between them was the eight-foot fence, topped with snarling razor wire.
Brielle ran towards the fence, threw open the invisible cut-out gate and they hugged as tight as either of them could stand.
Jen threw back the hood of her little girl’s cloak, and, well. Her golden hair, curled so beautifully on the day she left, was dirty and pulled back in a simple ponytail. Her skin was pale and smelled faintly of ash, but her big eyes and wide smile had never gleamed so brightly.
"Merry Christmas, Mom!" From under her cloak she produced a small box, wrapped erratically but with gorgeous paper and what appeared to be golden thread. Jen gently put her hand over the gift, holding back tears.
"Oh, thank you, sweetheart, but you can put it under the tree when we get home, okay? Let’s open all our gifts as a family tomorrow morning." Brielle nodded happily, and together they walked back towards the car. The goblin walked ahead, carrying Brielle’s designer luggage set without even leaving prints in the snow. Jen tried to ignore the layer of dust on them, as well as a conspicuous, suspicious purple stain.
Blake was standing in front of the car, having a smoke—Really? Now?
"Hey Daddy, check this out!" Brielle produced a wooden wand from beneath her cloak. She steeled her eyes on the back of the SUV, held up her open left hand as if gripping the vehicle from afar, flourished her right wrist and bellowed "APERTA!" The tailgate popped and lifted all the way up. Jen clapped with glee, Brielle bowed dramatically, and the little green porter wordlessly loaded the luggage into the back. Blake pulled out his key fob.
"Hey, I can do that too, you know!" He pressed a button, and the tailgate started closing. The goblin-thing ducked out of the way, shot him an annoyed look and trudged back towards the sleigh. Brielle made a great show of rolling her eyes and "Da-aaaad"-ing him. Jen sighed, and they all piled in.
The drive home was non-stop Brielle, a breathless recounting of everything she’d seen and done in no particular order or apparent relevance: Spells, studies, student-body drama. Jen grew increasingly worried as the dark and Spartan details of their daily life emerged. There was wonder and magic, yes–but dirt and grime and danger and terror.
They toiled over hot cauldrons, wrangled noxious and terrible things, scrubbed old stone walls and polished tarnished fixtures as punishment. Jen and Blake traded alarmed glances when Brielle described sneaking out of bed with a handful of friends and trying to magically domesticate the bats in the old bell tower.
"Oh, you guys," Brielle sighed as they pulled into their building’s private garage, "it’s everything I’ve ever wanted."
A knock came at the door. Odd; Jen hadn’t buzzed anyone in. She cautiously opened the door to see one of those freaky goblins from the school, holding his hat sheepishly in his clawed, knobbly hands. Jen froze.
"Pardon, ma’am." it croaked. "I’ve message from school."
For months she'd woken up every day expecting to miss her less. She'd gone to sleep every night crying that it wasn't true. In between, she'd dreaded something like this.
A pallor somehow fell over already gray-green skin as the goblin looked up into her eyes. "I’m afraid there’s been safety issue, ma’am. Dragon n’at. Plumor the Defiler’s prophesied return. Terrible bad luck, it is." Jen’s stomach fell through the floor.
"What—what are you saying? Is she—" Her voice cut out. Her body shook. She clapped her hand to her mouth as hot tears poured out of her. No.
"I don’t have a list, as such. The Headmaster and staff are doing all what they can to fight him off, ma’am. There have been casualties, I’m afraid."
"I knew it!" Her husband shouted from down the hall. "I knew we never should have let her go!" She spun around, saw him advancing on her in spite and rage. "This magic shit was a horrible idea. Our daughter is dead because you—"
Jen slapped him across the face.
Blake recoiled in shock.
Jen wheeled on the goblin.
"Take me," she said, leaning into his hairy, warty face. "Take me to her. Now." The creature stepped back, shaking his head.
"A-afraid I can’t, ma’am," he said. "Teleported here magically, I did. Can only take myself, y’see."
"Then where is it." She grabbed the lapels of his uniform vest and hoisted him up onto his toes. "Where. Is. It."
"I-I can’t say. Major violation of protocol, that—"
The goblin gulped, removed his hat, somehow reached in all the way up to his elbow, and produced a weathered sheepskin map.
"Follow this to the mountains, ma’am, and the old man at the cave." He pulled out a golden coin, with an eldritch pattern framing a pentagon in the middle. "Pay the token and recite to him the Druid's Prayer." Jen grabbed her purse from off the hook by the door.
" Duw dy nerth—URK!"
She snatched the coin out of his hands and stuffed the artifacts into her purse. "I’ll figure it out."
Jen hadn’t been upstate since she was nine. A family vacation to some stuffy resort—the kind with mothers lounging by, but not in, pools while fathers went off to play golf. Now she was winding her way through the hills with the Scepter of Irrevocable Reckoning strapped into the passenger seat and an obscenely large ruby ring on her right ring finger. Her left ring finger was bare.
Her phone complained the cobblestone drive she was looking for didn’t exist, but the forboding plume of black smoke rising to the sky was orientation enough. She passed under a massive stone arch carved with runes, and—oh.
The stone castle loomed above, perched on the edge of a rocky promontory. One tower lay in smoking ruin, stones and bricks and shingles scattered across the campus. To her horror, she saw robed people—bodies?—among the wreckage. She floored it, tires squealing and slipping up the rocky path.
Then it rose, bronze and terrible: a scaled demon stretching leathery wings and lifting above the roof line of the castle. It saw her instantly, jeweled eyes whirling as they stared through silver bullet Jen was piloting.
The monster glided forward, lit on the ground, dug its claws into the turf. Smoke floated out of its flared nostrils as the SUV rumbled up the steep stone path. It reared back as if to draw breath, and suddenly Jen realized she had absolutely no plan whatsoever.
As the hill flattened out, the SUV jumped the stone path and tore into the grass. The ground between her and the monster shrank at a breathtaking rate as the dragon thrust its head forward and a brilliant flash of purple came from her right and the dragon turned its head in surprise?
For an instant Jen felt utterly at peace: everything had happened as it was supposed to.
Then a world-collapsing sound, the side of the dragon’s skull disappearing in a curtain of shattered glass and white fabric and an excruciating pain in her legs and then black.
Brielle’s voice woke her up.
Jen was laying in grass, both legs and lungs on fire, body aching all over and head ringing like a bell. The gray sky was still far too bright for Jen to open her eyes, but she pawed in the direction of her daughter’s voice and made what sound she could.
"Mom!" Brielle’s joy and relief and laughter was the best sound Jen had ever heard. The arms that wrapped around her head and squeezed shot fire up and down her spine, but it was fine. It was worth it. It was all worth it.
"Curationum!" boomed a graveled voice, and suddenly the pain eased, breath flooded into her lungs. Jen opened her eyes, sat up, re-embraced her crying daughter, and a gathered crowd of witches and wizards roared in jubilation.
"How?" Jen asked her daughter. "What happened?" Brielle smiled.
"My friends and I read a little bit ahead in our spells book. We’re not supposed to know fireworks yet." They both burst out laughing.
Helping hands reached under her armpits, lifted and held her up off her feet, let her see the children and students and teachers she’d help save. First among them, a beautifully robed old woman resplendent in jewels and baubles.
"Jennifer Dragonslayer," he said. "As Headmistress of this hallowed institution, the bylaws compel me to not only offer you all the restorative and ameliatorive care you require, but any compensation you so desire. Of course, it is much more than my solemn obligation—it is my personal honor and pleasure."
She looked at the wreckage of her husband’s stupid car, the great monstrous bulk of the still-cooling beast, and at her daughter’s brilliant, shining eyes. She knew she was home.

"Would you consider my application for admission?"

Sunday, October 16, 2016

For the Record: Team OddsShark SuperContest Picks, Week 6

Woo-hoo! A big 4-1 week last week helped me out tremendously, bringing me up to 12-13 on the year, and within a good week of catching the guys at the top of the Team OddsShark standings. Only the Browns' mid-game trainwreck at quarterback (within their season-long trainwreck at quarterback) prevented me from going 5-0.

This week, I'm not nearly as confident in my picks. There are a lot of great matchups, but I struggled to see much value in the lines. Quickly, because I'm slammed this weekend:

Detroit Lions (-3.5) vs. Los Angeles Rams

The Lions are banged up, and Aaron Donald will probably run wild, but I still think this offense at home can outscore Case Keenum vs. Ziggy Ansah, Darius Slay, et al.

Cleveland Browns (+7) vs. Tennessee Titans

I know, I know, I just got burned by the Browns. But Kessler's back, and they're getting a touchdown, and I don't think the ultra-conservative Titans can score enough points to cover.

Seattle Seahawks (-6.5) vs. Atlanta Falcons

I know that's a big number to cover, but the Falcons' offense hasn't played a defense this talented or physical (when the other team has a competent offense). Very confident the Seahawks, with a healthening Russell Wilson, can win big at home.

Houston Texans (-3) vs. Indianapolis Colts

The Colts' defense is a disaster, and T.Y. Hilton isn't 100 percent. The Texans offense should bounce back strong at home after their implosion in Minnesota. Would be a lot more confident laying +2.5, but I gotta pick five every week!

New York Jets (+7.5) at Arizona Cardinals

Carson Palmer's coming back from concussion, the Cards have been terrible in prime time and Todd Bowles is coaching for his job against his old team. The hook makes this play for me; I could very easily see the Jets losing this one by seven, but not by more.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

For the Record: Team OddsShark SuperContest Picks, Week 5

Despite feeling really good about my picks last week, I ended up 2-3 again, dropping me to 8-12 on the season. Loved the Bills coming through for me, but got burned again by the Jets, Cardinals and Buccaneers. Once again, though, I wasn't alone: The top five consensus SuperContest picks took a massive bath for the third week in a row.

This week, AGAIN, I'm trying to zig where others are zagging and pick up some wins against the field.

Cleveland Browns (+10.5) vs. New England Patriots 

I know everyone assumes the Pats are going to roll into town and try to "send a message" by running up the score; even with Tom Brady getting his first action of the year, I'm not sure they're going to be able to do it well enough to cover a massive 10.5 points on the road. I can't see any way Cleveland gets the outright win, but with the way the defense is playing I don't see a 78-0 bloodbath, either.

Tennessee Titans (+3.5) at Miami Dolphins 

The Titans have the 14th-best scoring defense in the NFL, the Dolphins offense is in disarray and Miami had to deal with hurricane fears all week. I will gladly take the points here.

Detroit Lions (+3) vs. Philadelphia Eagles

I've been trying to avoid the #homerpick--but even if the 3-0 Eagles are for real, the Lions are in a desperate, must-win situation and the Eagles have spent two weeks sipping mai tais as thinking about how great they are. Love the Lions getting points at home.

Buffalo Bills (+2) at Los Angeles Rams

The Rams haven't played a lot of impressive football en route to 3-1, and they've played some of the worst football we've ever seen. The Bills are on fire right now, and I can't see Case Keenum getting hot against that defense.

New York Giants (+7.5) at Green Bay Packers

The Giants have been winning and losing close all season, and the Packers haven't played a complete game yet. I don't think this Giants team can score enough to pull off a primetime upset in Lambeau, but I also don't think the Packers can roll up 35-plus points on a defense averaging 21.3 a game.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

For The Record: Team OddsShark SuperContest Picks, Week 4

I wasn't the only one who had a rough Week 3; the top five most popular SuperContest picks went 0-5. The two most popular picks were the Steelers and Cardinals; I'd unfortunately picked both.

My 2-3 performance dropped me to 6-9 on the season, but I've got a lot of plays I feel strongly about this week. One of them, the Lions -3 over the Bears, I didn't put in. After two straight weeks of getting burned by the homer thing, I'm doing the smart-gambler thing and refusing to lay points on the road just because the Lions have a top five scoring offense and the Bears have no healthy defenders.

I'm also learning to stay off the obvious public/square plays, even if I think they're layups. I mean, that's why they're public/square plays. So, my SuperContest plays for the Week 4:

Buffalo Bills (+5.5) at New England Patriots

I knew Jimmy GQ would probably be good to go for this game, and that's what the late-breaking news is confirming. But I talked to Bills linebacker Preston Brown on Wednesday, and he thinks the defense is finally getting comfortable with the flow of communication/chain of command--which means the Arizona game might not be a fluke.

I still think the Pats are doing amazing things this year, and they'll probably still win. But LeSean McCoy is reborn with Anthony Lynn calling plays, and Rex Ryan will have enough tricks up his sleeve; I feel comfortable taking five and a half points.

New York Jets (+2.5) vs. Seattle Seahawks

Don't be fooled by the Seahawks decimating the 49ers in Seattle. A) the 49ers are brutal on the road, and B) the Seahawks have played the terrible Dolphins, terrible Rams and terrible 49ers and were lucky to go 2-1. The Jets' front seven is going to stampede over this craptacular Seahawks offensive line, and there's no way Fitzmagic throws six picks again.

Love the Jets as home dogs here.

Atlanta Falcons (+3) vs. Carolina Panthers

Speaking of, the red-hot Falcons are getting points at home, and the Panthers have absolutely no one who can match up on a healthy Julio Jones. Cam and company will probably bounce back from their awful performance against Minnesota, but I think the Falcons win this shootout outright.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3) vs. Denver Broncos

Trevor Siemian is feeling his oats, and he got away with a couple of poor throws last week. The Bucs have the secondary to make him pay for those, and I can't believe Jameis has three straight terrible games.

San Francisco 49ers (+2.5) vs. Dallas Cowboys

Remember what I said about the 49ers being much worse on the road? They're far better at home over the past few years, as the Rams found out. On the other side, Dak Prescott's been doing a good job keeping it between the lines--but this 49ers front seven has too much talent to get conservative against them. I like the 49ers to pull the upset here, and not just against the spread.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

For the Record: Team OddsShark SuperContest Picks, Week 3

Brutal, brutal, brutal, brutal, brutal. Well, okay, one fewer "brutal": I went 1-4 last week, thanks to the Lions getting three touchdowns called back, the Panthers hanging 46 on a talented 49ers defense, the Cardinals doing THAT to the Buccaneers and Sam Bradford shocking everybody.


In Week 3, despite a paucity of games I feel really good about, I'm hoping things go a little bit better this week.

7 Cardinals
18 Vikings
23 Steelers
26 Jets
27 Colts

Arizona Cardinals (-4) at Buffalo Bills

The Cardinals' Week 1 loss to Jimmy Garoppolo and the Patriots looks worlds better after Jimmy G shredded the Dolphins and the Cardinals debacled the talented young Bucs. I'm concerned about the +4 here, as the Bills have talent and Anthony Lynn could have a Jim Bob Cooter-like effect on the offense. But ultimately, the Cardinals are just miles ahead of these Bills. I'll lay the four.

Minnesota Vikings (+7) vs. Carolina Panthers

The Vikings have played stifling defense and the Panthers, well, haven't. Last week I bet on the Panthers not being able to score enough points to cover 13.5, and that didn't work out--but the Vikings can actually score points, too, and are even better set up to challenge the Panthers' rookie corners than the 49ers were. The crowd at US Bank Stadium is going to be a snakepit, and I'll gladly take seven points here.

Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5) at Philadelphia Eagles

This feels like the right time for both of these two teams to come back down to Earth. Pittsburgh has been incredible over the first two games, despite missing half their offense. Carson Wentz and the Eagles have looked very professional, except they've played two very poor teams. It wouldn't surprise me if this is close at times, but the Steelers going to make Wentz look a lot more like a rookie.

New York Jets (+3) at Kansas City Chiefs

Going into Arrowhead is never pleasant, but the Chiefs have shown precious little fire on defense and not enough spark on offense. The Jets nearly (and should have) beaten a strong Bengals team in Week 1, and largely had their way with the Bills in Week 2. The public way underestimates this team, and I love getting points here.

Indianapolis Colts (-3) vs. San Diego Chargers

 I should have stayed away from this game, but Andrew Luck has been Andrew Luck and that's going to do the job about as often as not. This could be a who-scores-last situation, but I don't believe Philip Rivers can be consistent enough to put up three straight 30-plus-point games.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

For the Record: Team OddsShark Super Contest Picks, Week 2

It's Week 2 of the NFL season, and therefore Week 2 of the Westgate SuperContest.

I went 3-2 in the opening week, thanks partially to the Giants winning but not covering the hook in "one and a hook." Gah. The other loss was Washington on Monday Night Football, which was an every-phase-of-the-game disaster for the home team.

We lick our wounds, we soldier on, we go again.

Detroit Lions (-6) over Tennessee Titans

The Titans almost beat a completely punchless Minnesota Vikings team in Week 1, only losing because they surrendered tow defensive touchdowns. The Lions, even without DeAndre Levy, are aggressive and athletic enough to wreak similar havoc in the Titans backfield. Even if the Titans are able to connect on a few deep passes against the Lions' suspect back seven, the Lions scored a league-high 39 points in Week 1; they're sure to do better than the four lousy field goals the Vikings put up (especially at home).

Also, this is a homer pick.

Houston Texans (+3) over Kansas City Chiefs

I like the Chiefs! I like the Chiefs a lot. I have been driving the Chiefs bus for quite a while now. But the Texans offense was impressive in Week 1, and the Chiefs' total lack of pass rush will be a major liability. I was pretty sure I was going to pick the Texans here even before the Chiefs' injury report surprisingly included a lot of important dudes.

San Francisco 49ers (+13.5) over Carolina Panthers

Lost in all the hullabaloo over how brutally terrible the Los Angeles Rams looked on offense, was how good the 49ers looked on defense. Given what Trevor Siemian was able to do to Carolina's inexperienced secondary, it's hard to believe the 49ers won't score at least a little--and blowing people out has never been Carolina's thing, even when they've got a decided upper hand.

No matter how the game goes, just don't see the Panthers covering this big a number.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+7) over Arizona Cardinals

Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels deserve all the credit in the world for an incredible offensive gameplan against the Cardinals in Week 1. But Jameis Winston is blossoming into a special quarterback, and he's got far more dangerous weapons than Jimmy Garoppolo had in Week 1.

I fully expect the Cardinals to answer the Week 1 wake-up call and be much stouter in Week 1, but I don't see them holding a two-score lead through the end of the game. Even if Carson Palmer and company are up by more than seven in the fourth quarter, I expect Jameis and company will tighten it up by the end.

Green Bay Packers (-2.5) over Minnesota Vikings

It's risky to pick a road favorite when the home team is opening up a brand-new billion-dollar football palace (I mean, did you see this crazy faux-Viking faux-ship?!). But the Vikings are decimated with injuries, and will either be starting totally ineffective Shaun Hill, or bewildered new starter Sam Bradford, and even the Vikings might not know who it'll be until game time.

Can't see them losing to the Packers by any less than a field goal, let alone winning.