Sunday, February 7, 2016

Vox Super L Pick

Super Bowl XXXVI was the first time I bet a significant amount of um, units, on a sporting event. I wasn't northeast Ohio's premier handicapper then; just a 27-year old young professional, living in a dingy apartment, with a hunch that two touchdowns were too much to lay in any championship game. To this day, it remains my favorite SB: U2 took the halftime show to church with a post-9/11 performance that will never be duplicated. And Adam Vinatieri's kick won my money-line wager as well, lifting the disrespected Patriots over the Greatest Show on Turf.

I can't recall more than a few plays from that game since I was playing poker with friends, but I do remember thinking that Super Bowl Sunday should be an official American holiday called Gambling Day. Considering all of the dollars wagered on squares and the point spread, the government might as well take your action on the game. The United States could probably pay our debt to China with the vig, not to mention the other benefits of legalizing gambling for even one day a year. This is likely to happen after Trump wins and makes us great again. I kid, I kid...but you can scroll down and collect my two-dime lock on the Republican nomination.

Before I share my much-coveted selection, let's look back on my well-documented history in handicapping the SuperBowl:

2008 (XLII): 2-dime winner on the Giants covering against the undefeated Patriots. This was my first public release, on Time Warner's The Daily Dose. Yes, I know it was a cable access show and a More Sports & Les Levine-spinoff, but the tape has to be floating out there somewhere.

2009 (XLIII): 1-dime winner. I nearly predicted the exact final score. Vox Pix is born, soon to become Vox Lox.

2010 (XLIV): No action for personal reasons. But instead you can read a poem I wrote over eight years, culminating in the Saints' game-winning pick off Peyton Manning.

2011 (XLV): 10-dime winner. The biggest play of my career; an anomalous Alex Hamilton on the Pack over Pittspuke. Fergalicious, def. 

2012 (XLVI): 2-dime loser. But CST brought sexy back.

2013 (XLVII): 1-dime winner. Correctly predicted the game was too close to call and abstained from betting, but recommended that my readers take the Ratbirds.

2014 (XLVIII): 2-dime winner on the underdog Seahawks. Broke up with the Cavs.

2015 (XLIX): 4-dime winner. My column was an ode to Tom Brady, but it was Pete Carroll's gaffe that brought down your book.

Vox SB Total: 6-1, +18 Dimes

----

Denver (+5.5) over Panthers, 3 Dimes
Carolina 26 Denver 21

Championship Sunday: 1-1, +2 Dimes
Season: 4-8, -3 Dimes
Career: 152-125-14, +42 Dimes

Bonus Plays:
Tottenham Hotspur FC to win the English Premier League, 2 Dimes
Marco Rubio to win the Republican Nomination, 2 Dimes
Coldplay Setlist: Viva La Vida/ Yellow/ Clocks

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Hard Truths about David Blatt, LeBron, & the Cavs

David Blatt's most infamous and defining public moment, unfairly or not, was just a turn of a referee's head from becoming Northeast Ohio's next mammoth sports disaster. Coach, the Cavaliers and, most of all, Cleveland caught an uncharacteristic break last Mother's Day when no official noticed Blatt signaling for a timeout that didn't exist. He followed his good fortune by pushing his luck- drawing up the final shot of the game for someone not named LeBron. This time, Coach Blatt was saved by the very superstar he unintentionally attempted to snub. See, this was the NBA playoffs in 2015. Blatt might be Israel's answer to Phil Jackson, but there would be no J.R. Smith-as-Toni Kukoc-moment. LeBron is many things in this life, but he is not a decoy. So he would call his own play, bury three points from a small pocket of the United Center, and then boast to the media about how it all went down. For all intents and purposes, Bron's trey was three-fold: it won the game, essentially the series, and, ironically, it bought Blatt another eight months in a job that the Cavs and King James never wanted him to have.

This is not an indictment of owner Dan Gilbert's choice of Blatt in June, 2014. Most fans supported the hire, and the organization had failed so miserably in player development that we welcomed the thought of an NBA coach telling his squad to "shut the f--- up" in a huddle. Of course, everything changed when LeBron (and his potentially, never-ending string of one-year contracts) entered the room. What could Blatt, of European-checkers fame, offer an eleven-year grandmaster of chess? What kind of influence could Blatt wield when Klutch Sports holds the entire town hostage? Blatt became a patzer and a mascot the moment LeBron's "Coming Home" essay hit Twitter. In a perfect world, 'Bron makes his decision earlier, the Cavs conduct their coaching search accordingly, and we avoid the charade of the last season and a half. You know, the whole song and dance about how Ty Lue's presence in no way undermined Blatt's ability to act authoritative. And Blatt's impromptu California bowling trip somehow magically bonded the team to their rookie coach. While 'Bron burned through shot clocks and made his own substitutions, there was still the Fred McLeod-type of narrative that Blatt attained some sort of mutual respect with LeBron by kissing the King's ass. Finally, GM David Griffin had enough of those fantasies.

At CST, we're never shy about facing the harshest of realities, and that's the crux of this column. We've written a gazillion words on the eternal buffoonery of the Browns, but the Cavs offer their own brand of longstanding incompetence. If you scrolled the dark alleys of the internet about fifteen years ago, you could always find a rumor about the irrelevant Cavs relocating to St. Louis or, worse, Baltimore. In 2011, when Cleveland was the league's laughingstock, the talk was the "Seattle Cavaliers" or, even, contractionAny sniffle of success over the past two decades is directly due to #23. In fact, LeBron saved us twice. First, from moving, when the Gund ownership had pro hoops in The Land bordering on extinction. Second, from the horrendous ineptitude of Gilbert and Chris Grant. It's not exactly far-fetched to say the front office did absolutely nothing right in the post-LeBron era. It was simply lottery luck that brought LBJ home; it's the challenge of reversing the curse and the chance at immortality that will keep him here. But, while we're leveling with ourselves, it's more than fair to suggest James is no longer the world's top talent. Also, it probably wasn't a coincidence that the Cavs' most soulful performances during last year's playoff run were born, minus Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, from the mettle of role players. Despite their offensive gifts, it's unrealistic to believe Love and Irving, moody and aloof as they are, can exhibit the tenacity necessary to take four games from the western champion. That leaves us with the saddest truth of them all: David Blatt's 2014-15 Cavs may have come as close to the Larry O'Brien trophy as our city ever gets.

---

Panthers -3 over Arizona, 4 dimes
Patriots -3 over Denver, 2 dimes

Last Week: 3-1, +6 Dimes
Season: 3-7, -5 Dimes 
Career: 151-124-14, +40 Dimes

Friday, January 22, 2016

Cavs blow out Blatt. What's next?

Four days after an embarrassing loss to the defending champs on home court, second-year Cavaliers coach David Blatt is paying for that humiliation with his job. 

David, I hardly knew ye...

At least that will be a major part of the narrative in the days ahead as fans and local media try to deconstruct Blatt's deep-sixing by team brass this afternoon. If anything, the evisceration by the Golden State Warriors may have been the fatal blow in a coaching tenure that had been bleeding for some time.

According to ESPN's Chris Broussard, Cavs players were not convinced Blatt could take this team to a championship level. Early word from beat writer Brian Windhorst claims LeBron James was not consulted on the decision, a bit of lip service so egregious as to be comical.  

Regardless, the Cavs have even more pressure on them now to bring this title-starved city a summertime parade, with assistant coach Tyronn Lue taking the hot seat. The Blatt-led Cavs' gaudy record masked some problems, no doubt, namely an offense where ball rotation was shunted aside for one-on-one hero ball.

Whether that's on Blatt or the players is a question. Both sides are to blame, most likely. However, it's apparent these players didn't respect Blatt, and that was an issue that could not be ignored. Blame the diva-licious NBA era we live in if you will, but as a prisoner of the moment, at least, it's evident Blatt would have been canned at season's end barring a title run.

It sucks, but them's the breaks on a team built to win immediately. After today's controversial move, Cleveland fans can do nothing but hope the gamble pays off big time. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Curbstomping by the Warriors will leave a bad taste in Cavs' mouth for months--if not forever

What can you say about Monday night's abomination? What every Cavaliers' observer knew was a huge game on the schedule--the final regular season meeting between the Warriors and Cavs after a very nice road trip which saw only a close loss to San Antonio--turns out to be an absolute disaster.


The Cavaliers were absolutely humiliated at home, 132-98, in a game that wasn't even that close. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were non-factors, and LeBron James put up a -35 plus/minus, the worst of his career.

No need to go through the specific issues in the game, except for that the game plan, execution, and staffing all seemed to be woefully inadequate, and Steph Curry and Co. punked the crap out of the team in front of a sell out crowd that felt like a Browns mid-December crowd by the third quarter.

The Kevin Love Vine that will live in infamy does the job nicely. 


What is worth talking about is what this will do to the Cavaliers the rest of the season. It's not out of the realm of possibility that the Monday beatdown could destroy the team, leading to finger pointing and infighting that the team can never recover from. In fact, there was minor hints of that Monday evening, with LeBron discussing the inexperience of some players, and Kevin Love nodding toward James as he talked about the team having to check the mirror, starting with their leader.

But maybe it will pull the team together, making Kevin Love a true focal point of the offense and not some guy who makes one shot and can't play defense. Making JR Smith accountable for his boneheadedness to go along with his offensive gifts. Maybe it's the fire that had to be lit under a team that was probably feeling pretty good after blowing out Houston on the road just days earlier.

All we know is that there is nothing--NOTHING--that can remove this bad taste from the team's mouth beside beating the Warriors--or another Western Conference team--in a seven game series commonly known as the Finals. So from now until June, the team just has to suck it up and own the fact that they got their asses kicked on national television.

If they don't want it to happen again, something has to change.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Perfect Day, Part II

Click HERE to read Perfect Day, Part I

4:34pm I’m celebrating the first Browns' playoff win in twenty-plus years at the Horseshoe. How did I make it to the Casino in twenty minutes, considering the downtown gridlock after the game? This is my fantasy, bruh. For all you know, I teleportated. Anyway, I’m in a private room playing No Limit 7-Card Stud with Greg Brinda, Wendy Richter, Super Joe Charboneau, Paul Silas, one of the Winklevoss twins and Tuco, before he was Tuco, from Training Day. All things considered, it’s a relatively tame and quiet game. The Dean, a bumptious cheap ass, is instinctively folding without even checking his cards. Tuco is methodically shuffling stacks in his hand while staring down the slow-playing Silas. Super Joe is making subtle advances at the former Women’s Champ. It’s pretty much a two-man table, with Vox and Voss trading pots. Until a massive hand that sees all players push in their chips and I’m dealt a royal flush. 60k, cash out. This was a safe and easily fictitious way for me to get paid. The alternative was a longwinded and half-plagiarized paragraph about robbing Dollar Bank with Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson.

5:47pm Making it rain with my winnings at Christie’s Cabaret.

5:47pm Hit the ATM, and safely deposit my winnings into savings account.

5:47pm Actually, I'll let it ride. The Cavaliers are 30-1 underdogs vs the Warriors at the Oracle tonight because Bron, Kyrie and KLove are all nursing injuries. I’m betting my poker winnings on Shump, Delly, TT, JR and JCunningham. Funny how easy your ROI can x30 on a pretend day.

5:48pm Wait, should you really be gambling, SamVox? After last week? You bet on Brian Hoyer, AJ McCarron and Kurt Cousins in the same playoff weekend. That’s probably a felony in some states.

6:30-10:00pm Picking up my daughters in a Cadillac stretch. Of course, Mary Stuart Masterson is chauffeuring. I'll break her heart later, if I can find the time. We’re off to the Coliseum to catch the Force of Cleveland take on the Cosmos of New York. Before suggesting that this part of the evening might be a tad tedious, remember that Nev Chandler is narrating everything I do today. Imagine the cadence he lends to a moment like me and the kids waiting in line for a Soft Pretzel. Not to mention the hot, Wallascora MISL action, brought to you by Benny Dargle. Bearded, before it was cool.

10:30pm No, I'm not going to buy out the theatre for a private screening of Force Awakens. Enjoyed it, I did. Enough, once was. In fact, I was so anxious to see it, I dragged my seven year old to a near-midnight showing on opening night. Judgmental public be damned, I could not physically wait another twelve hours to see the film. But the hyperbole for JJ Abrams' glorified cover-album has to end somewhere, so it may as well be this column. Force Awakens can't hold a cantina to the original trilogy. 

Since the theme of Perfect Day is perfection, let me recap the most flawless first hour in the history of modern cinema- 1983's Revenge of the Jedi (that was the original, and more accurate, title to the sixth episode). New Hope and Empire were brilliant investments, but the payoff comes when robed-Luke walks into Jabba's Palace as a finished product. Look, everyone loves Han Solo and the way he laughed at danger, but the maturation of young Skywalker is the thesis of the Star Wars saga. We put up with his whiny impatience and impulsiveness in Episodes IV and V, and then we're rewarded the minute Luke tells Bib Fortuna to take him to Jabba now. The ensuing fight against the Rancor and the flip off Jabba's sail barge are classic action sequences, free of the overzealous effects that could compromise what's at stake in the scene. Jedi, minus all of the silly happenings on Endor, has always represented George Lucas' most pristine vision.

10:35-past midnight Me, my couch, Davis Bakery deli sandwich, coconut bar, two iced teas, Twitter, Cavs vs. Dubs, volume down. I like Austin Carr, but I'm certainly not going to let Fred McLeod's announcing ruin the past fifteen hours and our undermanned upset of Golden State. At halftime, I'm flipping channels and bump into the thunderstorm scene from Ice Pirates, just in case I want to, well, you know. After the game, I immediately head to HBO On Demand. I'm going watch Eastbound & Down, Season Four, until I fall asleep. After all, it was a Kenny Powers kind of day.

---

Chiefs (+5) over Pats, 1 Dime
Packers (+8) over Cards, 1 Dime
Panthers (-1) over Seahawks, 2 Dimes
Stillers (+8) over Broncos, 4 Dimes

Last Week: 0-4, -6 Dimes
Season: 0-6, -11 Dimes 
Career: 148-123-14, +34 Dimes