Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tao of Hockey Fights: Kazakhstan's Pee Wee League

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

This is the best brawl I saw for kids 10 and under. It's from Kazakhstan. Seriously. Kokshetau Burabay vs. Kazakhstan Astana...

Thanks to StB for the tip.

Going through hockey withdrawal?  Yeah, me too. Here's Simmons's column on Grantland from two weeks ago: Just Go Away Gary.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Red, White, and Blue Balls

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The ABA. When I was a little kid, the ABA was synonymous with two things.... 1) red, white, and blue basketball, and 2) ginormous afros.

Flashback to the early 1970s. The pros in the ABA had wild hair styles. The white guys looked like roadies from the Allman Brothers and sported porn mustaches, while their black teammates grew out craziest afros and sported fu-man-chu beards. If you see vintage photos of Dr. J during his ABA years, you'll understand what I'm talking about. The entire league looked like they were auditioning for Soul Train.

Artis Gilmore (left) defends Darnell Hillman (right)

It the aftermath of counter culture, the NBA represented the Establishment, while the ABA became a bastion for rebels, outcasts, misfits. My kind of people. The addition of a three-point line opened up the game, which bred a fast-paced environment with tons of high-octane offense. Free-flowing. Uppity jazz-like solos. Nothing like stifling and boring game in the NBA, which incorporated a very disciplined game plan... walk the ball up the court and work it inside to one of the big men. The ABA was all about offense and scoring and more scoring and more scoring. Fast. Fast. Fast. Up tempo. Let's get the ball and run and gun.

If you recall Knicks teams in the 90s and the final scores were always like 83-80. Defensive struggles. Ugly basketball. On a good night, the high-flying ABA teams would put up twice as many points. Final scores of 173-145 were not uncommon. I'd love to have been a pro bettor back then and find any bookies stupid enough to set a total. I'd bet the fucking over ever night.

The ABA had a couple superstars (Dr. J, Iceman, and Artis Gilmore) but it suffered because they lacked lucrative TV contracts. In the age before cable TV, aside from boxing it was difficult to get any sports on the airwaves, let alone an upstart basketball league that featured scary looking dudes that looked like dope-toking hippies and Black Panthers, which were not the type of fringe images the networks wanted to beam into the household across Wonderbread-eating, milquetoast middle America. With the except of a few cities (Denver and Indianapolis), most of the teams did not draw any fans. Some franchises struggled to get a couple hundred of fans every night. Tickets went for as low as a $1. You couldn't give them away. Which was sad, because the quality of basketball was on par with the NBA, but offered up a more entertaining product with soaring monster dunks and bombs raining out of the sky. Whenever they took a jump shot... the red, white, and blue ball made everyone feel like that had ingested a hit of liquid sunshine as swirling colors were sprinkled throughout the arenas.

I recently finished Loose Balls: The Short and Wild Life of the ABA. It's an oral history and a well-organized collection of remarks and stories from every aspect of the ABA. The multiple perspectives includes players, coaches, owners, broadcasters, and sportswriters, etc.

If you're a fan of the Lakers' girls, then thank the Miami Floridians for their innovation. Instead of ball boys, the Miami franchise used ball girls in bikinis to entice fans to come to the games. They danced during time outs and tried to distract opposing players when they shot free throws.

Miami's original "Ball Girls"

During Turkey Day dinner, I asked Nicky's father (who grew up in L.A.) if he recalled any ABA franchises in California. He spoke about the old Anaheim Amigos before they left the O.C. after one season and moved up the freeway to Los Angeles and switched names to the L.A. Stars. The one and only Pat Boone was a minority owner in an ABA franchise in Oakland called the Oaks. Rick Barry played on the Oaks for a year before Boone found out the other majority owners ran up a bunch of debts and swindled him out of a couple million. Word to the wise... don't go into business with shady friends. They will rip you off and then pretend you don't exist! Boone sold the Oaks and paid off the debts, while the new owners moved it to Washington, where it became the Washington Caps.

I vaguely recalled a HBO sports documentary about the ABA that I once watched with my brother. I found it after a ninety second search on YouTube and re-discovered Long Shots, which uses a funky intro from Billy Preston's Circles.

In case you were wondering, my brother and I had a red, white and blue basketball. It held up better in outdoor/playground conditions compared to the nice leather balls that were perfect indoors but got torn up on concrete. At one point, my bro got a Michael Jordan basketball, which was just black and red.

The ABA... gone but not forgotten. The league folded into the NBA after nine rough and tumble seasons. Four ABA franchises are currently pro teams in the NBA: Spurs, Nuggets, Nets, and Pacers.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkey Day Reflections

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I volunteered to work today, woke up at the crack of the ass, and tried to get breakfast at my local coffeeshop. It was closed. D'oh!!! I forgot it was Turkey Day. Rough. Very rough way to start the morning... but in the bigger picture, it really doesn't matter, because I'll be done with a deadline and assignment by mid-day and then I can join my lovely girlfriend and her cool family in West L.A. for some serious grub with football on in the background. By the way, here's a Turkey Day NFL betting preview that I wrote for MatchBook.

Last summer, I barely survived a car crash in Vegas and spent the rest of the year trying to rehab and heal, both physically and mentally. Last Thanksgiving, I flew from San Francisco to L.A. in order to have dinner with Nicky and her family. It was an emotional Turkey Day because I was extremely grateful to simply be alive. Nicky drove from San Francisco to LA. I flew. I was too afraid to be in a car. In fact, it's been 500 days since I drove a car and was behind the wheel. I'm still scared.

It's been an up and down 2012... but mostly on the upside so I can't complain at all. In fact I'm so damn lucky. The "down" parts involved having to move out of San Francisco (damn greedy landlords!) and relocating back to the Slums of Beverly Hills. Then there's the monkey on my back... and a constant day-to-day battle with an addiction to painkillers. Sometimes I'm miserable and self-medicate but most of the time the pain is excruciatingly legitimate. I'll probably need a hip replacement in a decade and my back is twisted and tangled like a bush league quarterback.

Life is day to day, but such is life.

The "up" parts of this year included one of the best summers I had in a very long time because I visited my brother and family in NYC, caught a ton of Phish shows (particularly with GMoney, Iggy & Mr. Fabulous in the Midwest). But most importantly, I found a little semblance of happiness by  alleviating the constant pressure of everyday poker writing and after eight years of the nonstop and relentless grind, I took a must-needed hiatus from Tao of Poker, which was also an integral part of an overall decision to skip the World Series of Poker. I didn't want to move to Las Vegas for two months again... in the middle of the summer.... because Vegas always turns me into a miserable fuck and Vegas was also ground zero for the car accident and although I had healed physically, I was not strong enough mentally to return to the WSOP grind. Covering the WSOP is like climbing a mountain and I didn't have the mental toughness to survive and I didn't see a point to doing it an eighth time... so I skipped it... but I drew a lot of guff for my decision.

Last year at this time, I was happy to simply be alive. Small simple pleasures... like breathing and walking without absorbing pain with every single step. This year on the morning of Turkey Day, I'm happy to still have a career... and have a job. I'm damn lucky to get paid to write because times are tough all around and this is not a good time to be a writer or creative person in America. It's no coincidence that three out of four of my biggest clients are non-U.S. based and located in Europe (London, Isle of Man, and Paris). Yeah, thank god for the French and the Brits. They have always been sincere supporters of the arts and I'll be eternally grateful to them and everyone else that still gives me a chance.

Life is day to day, but on this day of all days, it's a perfect time to look back and realize the good times far outweigh the bad times. Be grateful. I know I am.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Jerry Garcia on Letterman in 1987

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

In 1987, my family had just gotten a VCR and I used it to tape Letterman on (Mondays thru Thursdays) because it came on NBC at 12:30pm and I was in bed by the time reruns the Odd Couple on WPIX ended by 11:30pm. I'd wake up super early and watch Letterman's monologue and Top 10 list before I went to school.

Here is a rare glimpse of Jerry Garcia on late night TV. It was in the fall of 1987, while the Grateful Dead were in the middle of their "comeback" run at Madison Square Garden. Jerry was clean and sober after surviving a nasty diabetic coma. Sober is the key component here. That's the only reason you'd find him... 1) in a suit jacket, and 2) participating in the big machine of televised entertainment.

Check out this grainy video from Jerry's appearance on Letterman with Bob Weir. In the opening clip (I assumed it was the cold open), Jerry and Dave are playing Scrabble and hilarity ensues.

In the second part, Bob Weir and Jerry sit in with Paul Schaefer and the band to cover Bob Dylan's I Paint My Masterpiece.

In the last segment of the video, Jerry and Bobby get interviewed by Letterman. Letterman tries to talk about their new album (at the time In the Dark with the radio hit Touch of Grey was released). You could see Jerry get a little bored, a little pranksterish, a little snippy (directed at Dave) at times, and he's also brutally honest about the Dead's propensity of blowing their big gigs (e.g. Woodstock and the Pyramids). The funniest part featured Bob Weir attempting to do a "parlor trick" by picking up Jerry using only two fingers from Dave, Paul, and stagehand Biff Henderson.

And here's the Dead playing MSG the night before Jerry & Bobby taped Letterman. They opened up second set with Bertha...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Streaks, Soul Train, and the Trenches

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Lakers' coach Mike D'Antoni playing pro ball in Italy circa 1987
I'm more than halfway through my goal on "writing about sports betting every day in November"  and I'm having fun with it, so much so I might go on until the end of the year. Ah, maybe I shouldn't get too ahead of myself. For now, it's an every day thing which is a good thing.

In case you haven't seen any of my latest project Ocelot Sports, here's what you missed over the last two weeks or so:

Post-Election Mittens Blues and Knicks 3-0 - The election is over and Karl Rove was stricken with the Mitt Romney Blues. I also explain how Jesse May talked me into betting the Election.

Bringing the Wolf - If you're gonna bet on the NBA, you need a reliable West Coast team to bail you out of trouble when your other bets shit the bed. In those instances, you gotta call in the Wolf!

Shaved Heads and the Non-Mush - Is Waffles a mush? I say no. Plus, don't fuck with guys on a mission who shave their heads in unison.

Kobe Shoots Daggers Out of His Eyes - Kobe gave head coach Mike Brown the death stare and he gets fired a day later. Coincidence?

Ugly Guts and Bama Busts - Sweet home Alabama! The #1 ranked team got upset and I got my ass kicked betting on college football.

Seachickens, Bowling Alleys, and Pai Gow - I took a quick trip to Seattle to visit old friends and go see the Jets/Seachickens game. Oh, and then when it got really late, Johnnie took me to a sketchy casino in the back of a bowling alley. Hilarity ensues.

A Curious Case of Byron Leftwich - How important is a backup quarterback? Big Ben went down during Monday Night Football and journeyman QB Byron Leftwich let the Steelers to... an ugly loss.

Fading the Bible Belt and Knicks 5-0 - ESPN hosted a 24-hour marathon of college basketball during their "Tip Off" bender. I could not resit betting a few games including Hawaii playing a game at 1am.

The Bobkittens Nevermore - Our plan was to fade the Charlotte Bobkittens every time they played. That hasn't worked out this year, so it's time to fade the Washington Wiz.

Eurotrash Dildos and Knicks 6-0 - A fucking Italian Rooster chucked up an airball and cost me a bet. Oh, and the Knicks continued to roll as the last undefeated team in the NBA.

Hawaii Covers and the Knicks Finally Lose - Just another boring Friday night? Guess again.

Sometimes It Rains - I was bogged down in a horrible college football losing streak but somehow managed to snap out of it. Along the way, I tweaked my NBA system and embarked on a 4-0 run and danced around my apartment like the line dancers on Soul Train.
The Streak, Cadillac Rainbows, and Lots of Spaghetti - Monstrous winning streaks are like once-in-a-lifetime comets. Inside of a 30 hour period, I went on one of the hottest streaks in over four years and won 12 consecutive bets on the NBA and NFL.

Here's a quick link to the Ocelot Sports archives. You can also follow @OcelotSports on Twitter, because that's where we post our daily plays and half-baked tweets about random live sporting events.

Also, here's last two episodes of the Everything Is Bettable podcast I recorded with Jesse May. I appear in the opening and closing segments (a.k.a. the first five and last five minutes):
Everything Is Bettable - Episode 8: Jesse inquires about a computer program, HAL420, that helps me with my handicapping and I explain my affinity for the Golden State Warriors as my bail out team (a.k.a. Bringing in the Wolf).

Everything Is Bettable - Episode 9: Jesse gives me a little guff about sweating a Monday Night Football game after Big Ben got hurt and left the game. I also tell a story about Kobe Bryant's dad, JellyBean Bryant, and his relationship with new Lakers' head coach Mike A'Antoni.

Speaking of podcasts, my new favorite podcast is The Trenches with former NFL lineman Ephraim Salaam and Grantland columnist Robert Mays. You can find it over at Grantland. The Trenches is a fascinating and truthful look at what it was like to be a pro and offensive lineman fighting for dear life in the trenches. Give it a listen.

Here's a clip from the most recent episode about pain management before, during, and after the games:

Monday, November 05, 2012

Election 2012: I Hate Politics Edition

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

In the immortal words of Horace, "Parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus."

Need an inside track on who to bet this election? Check out something I wrote... Election Betting Tips: Obama 2.0.

Need a witty and hysterical distraction from the election? Go watch a bunch of Bill Hicks videos.

Need a better, more melodious distraction? Go watch the Talking Heads live in Rome circa 1980.

Want to watch a documentary about professional athletes who made millions then lost it all? Go watch this 30 for 30 documentary... BROKE.

* * * *


If you want some live-blogging coverage of the election, you should go read Otis... Live from America's Couch.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Everyday Ocelot

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

 Kat mentioned she decided to write an old-school blog post every day in the month of November. She inspired me to do the same. Except... it will not be here... rather at a nifty corner of the web called Ocelot Sports.

Sports. Nonstop. For a full month. I'm writing about the games I sweat on the boob tube, on Nicky's iPad, and via my laptop. The games/events are across the spectrum... college football, NFL, NBA, college hoops, college hockey, and random women's college volleyball. If all goes well, I might continue the project indefinitely. Who knows, maybe I catch the blogging bug once again and feel compelled to  restart Tao of Poker or better yet... return to regularly scheduled programming here.

But why a new site? And why on Tumblr? Why not write here? Or how about Tao of Poker? That's more suited for gambling content, right? All five are damn good questions. I don't have answers. All I  have is a new URLs to add to my collection.

Visit Ocelot Sports for utter degeneracy. It also has Twitter feed: @OcelotSports.

Here's the irreversible damage I've accomplished thus far...
Halloween: Tricks, Treats, and Fear the Beard
Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines
Top Billing for the Clippers
The Howl of a Saturday Night Duck 
The Redskins Rule
Broke (30 for 30 - Full Documentary)
In just four or five days, I covered a slew of meaningless fodder like... the opening week of the NBA season, Lee Corso and bath salts, the weird rivalry between Bama/LSU that could determine the outcome of the Presidential election, oh, and how about actual betting on the Presidential Election? I squeezed that in Barry O, Mittens, Fear the Beard, not to mention trolling cokehead Lakers fans, fading the Charlotte Bobkittens, pulling the trigger on the largest bet I've ever made on college basketball, and suicidal James Taylor songs.

Check it out... Ocelot Sports.