Sunday, December 26, 2010

Vox Lox (week 16)

On a snowy Tuesday evening, I had a vodka (or two) with an old friend. We'll call him "MX," and all you need to know is he's my handicapping mentor. MX, admittedly, likes to exaggerate and embellish but our conversation was soon stripped down, bereft of even the slightest misrepresentation. He seemed to only casually notice the college basketball highlights tempting us on the flat screen behind the bar, and I played with my cocktail napkin while we stumbled through formalities. Then he let it fly: he doesn't bet football anymore. He estimated he's watched more football games than anyone on earth throughout his life as a fan and a gambler, but now he finds other things to do on the weekends. It makes his stomach churn to think of all the time he wasted, monopolized by the National Football League, when he could've been out riding his bike or traveling.

MX's confession was a bit startling, but I felt more skepticism than shock. "You've just hit one of those cold streaks," I reasoned, also noting that we both have a physical need for action. MX took a fortuitous glance around the neighborhood dive, first at the blissful bartender, who surely led a simple life-- oblivious to the trappings of money squandered and relationships wrecked...and then, longingly, at the noisy couple adjacent to us: a very attractive woman presumably in her early 30s, unfortunately balanced out by her trashy voice and misuse of the english language, with a seemingly middle-aged and overweight gentleman, consumed by her every action and uneducated remark. "No," said MX, "I don't miss it one bit." His response was less than stern or authoritative, but he distanced himself from it in such a way that I knew he meant it. He followed my eyes, as they darted back to the pretty girl in the corner, and motioned towards her. "Not my type," I assured him, surprised that he hadn't handicapped her the way I did. I soon realized that MX-- single, smart, classically good-looking and twenty years my senior-- hadn't handicapped her at all.

I went home that night, and knew I'd seen a ghost. Or at least a vision of my future self, permeated with regret for wasting so much time gambling on sports and using straight intuition to make all of my choices. I tried fixing myself a roast beef sandwich and quickly inhaled it, along with that day's run of NBA scores. But I couldn't stop obsessing over MX's transformation. His whole life had been a lie? The behavior and lifestyle that united us, had been relegated to a sad and insignificant footnote in a matter of ninety minutes, over a couple of drinks? And what did I have at 36? Two daughters that routinely witness my overreaction to a meaningless touchdown by some random back-up quarterback that led to a backdoor cover? I slipped on my headphones, attempting to drown out my distractions with the sound of Michael Hutchience's velvet voice. INXS has always been pure escapism to my ears, redeeming me with their harmless, unsophisticated and inspiring themes. I would fall asleep and foolishly dream that Mrs. ExVox and Girl6 were getting remarried on the same day, in the same room, and I was struggling to reconcile myself as a guest of both parties.

I woke up to more snow that Wednesday morning, and my careful drive to work was dominated by that haunting dream and subsequent revelations. I sent a loaded text to LA Woman, and decided there would be no Vox Lox the following weekend. It would be saved for re-evaluation, and, in the midst of my winning streak, I would sacrifice Sunday's slate of supposed winners for a more realistic and substantive vision of my future life. That day came and went like most do when you're toiling in the suburbs, raising children in your mid 30s...calming, uneventful and, most importantly, void of the dizzying highs and lows that come from gambling and excess. LA Woman might very well appreciate the decision I made that day, but she would learn nothing about my duality...for now, anyway. To quote Nucky Thompson: We all have to decide how much sin we can live with...

Chargers (-7.5) over Bengals, 2 dimes
Houston (-2.5) over Broncos, 2 dimes
Packers (-3) over Giants, 1 dime
Saints (+2.5) over Falcons, 1 dime

Last week: N/A
Week 14: 3-2 (even)
Season: 28-28-3 (+1 dime)

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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 Lox over two seasons. His critically-dismissed Vox in the Box column also appears here at CST.