Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vox Lox (week 2: Corruption in Cuyahoga County)


Burn on, big river, burn on.

Wasn't I just talking about the Brownies bottoming-out before the loss to Tampa? We never learn, here at CST. We just try and make sense of it. One minute, I'm putting my wager in the win column, mentally counting my money, inhaling mini-hot dogs, drunk off optimism and a potential 2-0 start for our beloved Browns, telling my fellow road-tailgaters how Delhomme is a "pro".... the next minute, an INT changes everything. To paraphrase a small-time hustler I once encountered on High Street: (Jake) Next time you fuck us, use Vasoline!
(I feel a Vox rant coming, kids:)

By mid-week, of course, the whole city was drowning in shame and scandal. You may have been happy to see two county crooks go down so publicly, but we all share the scars. Jimmy Dimora's arrest made national headlines. While it's easy to dismiss him as Cleveland's real-life Tony Soprano, the office Dimora held is a reflection on our town, our government, our beliefs and the Democratic party. When he (allegedly) abused it, he abused us all. Every colleague, every contractor, every fucking voter...making us a bigger punch-line than we were prior to that dog-and-pony show at his house early wednesday morning. Funny, the media was there waiting for it. Need some publicity, FBI? The Wire may have ended two years ago, but the symbiotic relationship between journalists, politicians, white collar crooks, and law enforcement plays out almost daily in these parts.

Our local paper was invoking the ghost of Boss Tweed and comparing the corruption in Cuyahoga County to one of the most infamous scandals in the history of American big-city politics, but make no mistake, readers- The Plain Dealer let us down, too. While Dimora and Frank Russo got figuratively fat off our struggling county, The Plain Dealer endorsed them virtually the entire way. While the FBI built a case against the men atop our government, the PD's singular focus was bringing down Sheriff McFaul. And for what? Deputies selling clambake tickets at the Justice Center? McFaul giving his son an unpaid position? You are kidding me, right? Russo was robbing us blind, indulging in every excess; where was the goddamn PD? Witch-hunting Gerry McFaul for cutting off do-not-remove labels on mattresses!

Many wonder why I've always had the Sheriff's back. He's no saint, but he shoots straight (Tim Hagan, too). And old habits die hard. At fourteen years old, when the Sheriff faced a bullshit sexual harassment trial, I was shooting holes through the public's prosecution on 3WE's "The Pam & Joanne Show." Had some help with that one, but I digress. My point is that two crooked politicians do not mean the entire system is broken. Yes, I voted against issue 6 two years ago. A little reform is always needed, but not a new charter. You can dress it up anyway you'd like, but the political machine is the political machine. And whether it's a soon-to-be -former-fat-commissioner with an Italian last name or a brand new, more powerful Cuyahoga County Executive with an Irish last name, greed is greed. And we're all human, which brings me to my own testimonial:

Sixteen summers ago, I did an "internship" at one of Cuyahoga County's most paramount offices. I'll change the names to protect the innocent (and the guilty). I was nineteen and naive, and not interested in anything other than getting through the work day so I could get home and party with friends. It was a "political job," I was told. I wasn't real sure what that meant, but I learned quickly. Basically, yours truly and about ten other college kids whose fathers were bigwigs in Cuyahoga County spent six weeks doing absolutely nothing in the basement of a prominent downtown building. Being a lazy fuck, I was thrilled with this summer job. It beat the hell out of bagging groceries or telemarketing.

Still, I knew I was a reflection on the person who pulled strings to get me in. I had some pride. I had no intention of going "above and beyond," but I was going to earn my paycheck. The first week, I worked diligently despite the culture of lethargy at the County. And it wasn't just my fellow interns slacking, it was everyone. Supervisors, cubicle workers, etc (Even The Boss, who motioned towards the smoking-hot female interns he had hired and asked, "Fellas, did I do OK?"). So, I met my father for lunch at the B&A inside the Standard Building while the other kids went boozing. I asked longtime employees for extra work while the other interns flirted uselessly in the basement. Like Bob Seger, I stood arrow-straight unencumbered by the weight of all these hustlers and their schemes. OK, that's a bit dramatic but you get my point. And then, suddenly, it all went wrong.

I became friendly with another intern named "John." Tall, good-looking, Italian kid who went to a university on the west coast and seemed to know things. John quickly sniffed out my need for action, as I poured over the box scores in the PD every morning. During week 2, John had introduced me to "Lenny." Lenny wasn't an intern. He worked upstairs and dealt with the public, doing semi-important stuff. Lenny was waspy, short and unshaven. Had a creepy smile and hair like Dennis Miller. By week 3, I was lunching with John and Lenny. The seeds of my soul's corruption were about to be sewn, right there on Lakeside (or Ontario). After just a month and a half working for Cuyahoga County, I would never be the same.

"It's a three-team parlay," said Lenny. "It pays to 6 to 1." As I understood it, I just needed to pick three winners from one night's slate of MLB games and I could turn $50 into $300. I was intrigued, but I backed off. Didn't trust Lenny, even though John vouched for him. That Saturday, I met up with Lenny at the racetrack. I was no stranger to betting horses, but Lenny was a real handicapper, and happy to share his selections for every race. I won a few hundred and then innocently placed a baseball bet with Lenny for that weekend. I lost. Came back monday morning for week 4 and bet again. Lost again. By thursday of that week, Lenny was letting me play on credit. I was chasing my money, at this point. That night, I took the Tribe, ChiSox and Reds in a three team parlay. If I hit, I'd be even with Lenny. The Indians and White Sox won easily. Cincinnati was playing on the west coast and up 2-0 in the 9th when I fell asleep, content that I'd won my wager. In the shower the next morning, I was only half-listening to the scores when I heard 'Padres 3, Reds 2.' A chill ran up my spine. I officially owed Lenny a lot of money. It was friday, and that meant payday. And I kid you not, I had to sign my entire fucking paycheck over to Lenny.

Wish I could say I went straight after that. But I was still gambling come week 5. Barely working, and hanging at the Ratskeller during lunch hour. John and his other boys would make out with some of the girls in our office and come back drunk. I never went that far, but I had gone out of control in my own way. And to this day, I'm still chasing that money I owe Lenny. Haven't seen him since 1994, but I'm still fucking chasing it. Even when I win, it's never enough. And the highs don't satisfy like the lows sting. But spare me martyrdom after Week One of the 2010 NFL football season. I have 20 more weeks to clean out your Bookie.

So get out on the streets, girls, and bust your butts.
I am Jewel in the box.

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Week 2 Picks:
A 4-pack of home favorites this afternoon-
Panthers (-3) over Tampa, 2 dimes
Cowboys (-7.5) over Chicago, 2 dimes
Titans (-5.5) over Pittspuke, 1 dimes
Packers (-13.5) over Buffalo, 1 dime
Last week: 0-1-1 (-2 dimes)

(Knew my SanFran choice last week was in trouble when Brandon Lang released it as his 40-dime play of the day. We'll fade that fraud for life.)

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Who is the Vox?
SamVox is not a professional handicapper, but a premier one. He has been gambling his entire adult life and has experienced every sickening turn and nasty twist of fate that occurs during a football season. What distinguishes the Vox is his amazing intuition, astoundingly long memory, attention to detail and preparation, aversion to propaganda and access to the industry's sharpest bettors. He is a two time Pick'Em champion and went 49-33-5 against the spread with his Vox Pix over two seasons. His critically-dismissed Vox in the Box column also appears here at Cleveland Sports Torture

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