It’s time to go bowling again for fun and profit

As ESPN is prone to say, it’s the “most wonderful time of the year” if you’re a college football junkie or a sports bettor. It’s bowl season again!

From the Cure Bowl this Saturday (Tulane vs. Louisiana Tech) to the national championship game Jan. 7 (probably Alabama and Clemson again), football fans will have 40 excuses to ignore relatives during the holiday season.

Place your bets.

Several teams that qualified have 6-6 records, a good working definition of mediocre, but none of them have losing records, unlike recent years. Still, that doesn’t mean coaches’ jobs are safe. Some have already been fired and two have announced their retirement.

Separately the wheat from the chaff is always difficult in this situation, but it also presents betting opportunities for the astute observer. The Vegas bookies can’t be right on every game. It’s up to the bettor to figure out where they have erred.

For those of you who want to root for your money as well as the teams playing, I’m going to list some general guidelines on betting bowl games that have worked in the past. Remember, the object here is to beat the point spread, no necessarily win the game.

But when you decide to bet, don’t be in a big hurry to get your money down. Things will happen between now and game time to influence the outcome: Coaches will get fired or leave for other jobs, key players will be injured in practice, and other players will get in trouble and either be sent home or spend game day in jail. Trouble seems to be a particular problem for these guys in Florida and the New Orleans area. There are 7 bowl games in Florida this year and 3 in Louisiana.

Another issue involving key players has surfaced in the last 2 years: Stars who skip their bowl game so they’re healthy for NFL draft.  As I write this, more than a dozen top NFL prospects have announced they won’t play in their team’s bowl games. Among them are West Virginia quarterback Will Grier and North Carolina State’s star linebacker Germaine Pratt.

With that in mind, here are some angles to consider:

Win one for the Urban

There is no denying that emotion plays a role in the outcome of college games, and two teams figure to be primed for a peak performance because their coaches are retiring: Ohio State (Urban Meyer) and Georgia Tech (Paul Johnson).

Disappointed teams

On the other end of the emotional spectrum are several teams that were riding high before experiencing disappointing finishes. Some are playing in lesser bowls than they expected, and others think they were slighted when bowl invitations were handed out. Either way, it’s going to be tough for them to get excited about the games they’re playing in.

Georgia and Michigan are two teams that may find it difficult to get fired up for their bowl games. George lost a big lead to Alabama in the SEC championship game and Michigan was embarrassed by Ohio State in its final regular season game.

Other major teams that had disappointing seasons include West Virginia, Washington State and Auburn. Then there’s the consolation bowl, aka the Holiday Bowl, that pits the runner-up in the Big 10 (Northwestern) against the runner-up in the Pac 12 (Utah). Pass on that one.

The Big 10 is overrated

Schools from the conference have historically been underachievers in bowl games, and you could make a lot of money  in the past just betting against them.

That trend has weakened in the last couple of years, and you certainly have to like Ohio State’s chances in the Rose Bowl. I would tend to avoid any of the other 6 games involving Big 10 teams until we can see which way the trend in going.

The SEC is mighty and should prevail

This is the premier football conference in the country, and even its second division teams are tough to beat. Eight teams are in bowl games and I like 5 of them. Skip Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Georgia.

Support your military

Players for the military academies tend to be focused, mission-driven, and in bed at a reasonable hour, making them good bets in bowl games. Army’s the only one that made it this year, facing Houston in–how appropriate–the Armed Forces Bowl.

Bonus pick

I usually don’t include totals bets in these recommendations, but I couldn’t pass up the Cheez-it Bowl, pitting Cal against TCU. Each team has a stout defense and an anemic offense, which is why the total for this game is 40.5 points–easily the lowest total on the board. Even so, I think the teams will go under the total.

Posted in College bowl games, NCAA, Sports, Sports betting, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

If Trump is innocent, why are all the president’s men lying?

Donald Trump has insisted from the start that the Mueller investigation into collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election is a “witch hunt” and that nothing illegal took place.

Telling the truth?

If that’s the case, why are all of the president’s men lying to Mueller’s investigators, a phenomenon not seen since the Watergate scandal? “This many lies is unusual,” said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney in Michigan. “This group seems particularly insistent.”

The list gets longer every day:

–Paul Manafort, former campaign manager;

–Michael Cohen, Trunp’s personal “fixer”;

–George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor;

–Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor;

–Richard Gates, deputy campaign chairman.

Then there’s Jerome Corsi, who claimed Mueller pressured him to commit perjury. This is a guy who made his rep on the political right by spreading lies that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States.

Corsi was working with Roger Stone, a longtime Trump political advisor, who said he would never betray the president.

Why would Stone say that if Trump did nothing illegal?

Posted in Donald Trump, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

We’ve forfeited our moral leadership for a few dollars more

In a rare display of backbone, Senate Republicans are actually protesting President Trump’s decision to give Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a pass on the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

But this is likely to pass with no permanent impact on America’s foreign policy. If a Republican administration was unwilling to punish Saudi Arabia when 15 of its citizens participated in the 9/11 attack, why would you expect them to care about a journalist most of them never heard of until he was dead?

While the U.S. may now be the largest producer of oil in the world, Saudi Arabia is still a major producer that dominates the OPEC oil-producing countries, and who Trump depends on to help keep oil prices relatively low. The Saudis are also seen as a counter to Iran in the Middle East, even though they have shown little skill as a fighting force.

Little happens in Saudi Arabia without the knowledge or approval of MBS  (as he’s known to Washington insiders) and the CIA has concluded with a high degree of confidence that he ordered Khoshoggi’s killing.

The carrying out of the killing was truly inept, and Saudi security in apparently so bad that Turkish intelligence and the CIA were able to record practically every aspect of the hit. The only thing yet to be discovered in the location of Khoshoggi’s body parts.

But none of this concerned Trump. All he focused on was the $110 billion the Saudis are supposedly spending on military equipment and other things in the U.S. (As is usually the case with Trump, that’s not accurate. They have committed to spending slightly more than 10 percent of the total; they may spend the rest in the future.)

All of this was unfolding while Vice President Mike Pence was wrapping up a trip to Asia, where he lectured Myanmar officials on their campaign of genocide against the Rohingya minority in their country, and criticized China for persecuting its Uighur muslims. I’ll bet their leaders just snickered when they heard about Trump’s position on the Khoshoggi killing.

There used to be a time when the U.S. tried to provide some semblance of moral leadership for the world. But Trump has made it clear those days are gone. Now, it’s all about the Benjamins.

ONE MORE THING: As if to illustrate their importance, Trump publicly thanked the Saudis for keeping oil prices low. Uncharacteristically for him, Trump failed to take credit for his contribution to lower prices. That would the waivers the Trump administration gave eight countries that buy a lot of oil from Iran when the latest round of “sanctions” were imposed. Nobody’s saying how much oil the countries, which include China, are being allowed to buy, and for how long.


Posted in Donald Trump, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Will it be deja vu all over again when the Bruins face Colfax?

Will history repeat itself Friday at Nevada Union when No. 3 seed Bear River faces No. 1 Colfax for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V football championship?

If the answer is “yes” then the Bruins will take home the championship for the second year in a row. They claimed the title last year after losing their league game to Colfax, the same thing that happened this season.

Colfax beat the Bruins handily on their home turf, 41-14, for BR’s only loss of the season. The outcome surprised me: I had the Bruins 5-point favorites in the game.

Since then, the schools have become almost even in my calculations, mainly because the Falcons had an easier path through the first two rounds of the playoffs. With the game on a neutral field, it is basically a toss-up.

I think the outcome will be more one-sided when the third member of the Foothill 4 to make the playoffs,  No. 2 seed Placer, takes on No. 1 Capital Christian for the Division III title at Whitney High School on Saturday.

My predictions for the two games:

–Colfax by 1.5 points over Bear River

–Placer by 8.5 points over Capital Christian

The picks: I went 4-0 in the last week of the regular season to finish with a 15-3 record (83 percent). I should do that well in Reno.

Posted in Bear River football, Colfax football, Placer footballl, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

QUICK HITS: Making Alabama look good

–I can’t decide which is higher: The body temperature or IQ of new Mississippi Senator Cindy  Hyde-Smith. But I do know this: She will further validate my contention that Mississippi is the only state that can make Alabama look good by comparison.

–There are 3 possible reasons Paul Manafort is lying after making a plea deal in exchange for telling the truth: He’s a congenital liar, which would explain why Trump hired him; something really bad will happen if he tells the truth; or Trump has signaled that Manafort will get a pardon if he protects the prez.

–Trump is threatening GM after the company announced it will cut almost 15,000 jobs because its going to quit making sedans that are unprofitable. One reason the cars are unprofitable is the Trump steel tariffs that have raised GM’s costs by $700 million a year–enough money to pay about 9,400 employees.

–Thanks Don: A chart in The Wall Street Journal shows that the areas of the country hurt most by Trump’s tariffs were his biggest backers in the presidential election, while the parts of the country that backed Clinton are relatively unscathed.

–Retired educator Terry McAteer reports there’s an “obvious typo” in the plaque honoring slain diplomat Christopher Stevens. Maybe Grass Valley should have hired Jeff Pelline to proof read it for them.


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Bear River comes up short in battle of the unbeatens

Bear River probably lost its shot at its first Pioneer Valley League championship since 2005 and a top seed in the Division V playoffs last Friday when it was overpowered by Colfax, 41-14.

The Bruins will be assured a high seed and a good shot at getting redemption against Colfax in the division final after  they end league play tonight against a weak Marysville squad. Bear River lost its league game to the Falcons last year and then beat them for the division title.

But at least Bear River is in the playoffs. Nevada Union will have to beat Rio Linda this week to be considered for an at-large berth after getting manhandled by Lincoln last Friday, 44-24. My numbers say the Miners will finish the season 3-7.

          *          *          *

Colfax moved into the top spot among the Foothill 4 with its win over Bear River, but the Bruins managed to beat out Placer for the second spot because it lost to a strong team while the Hillmen beat a weak one.

Here are the rankings:

  1. Colfax                      (9-0)          136.9
  2. Bear River              (8-1)           135.8
  3. Placer                      (9-0)          135.0
  4. Nevada Union       (3-6)            95.8

This week’s picks:

Bear River over Marysville by 41.5 points

Rio Linda over Nevada Union by 29.5 points

Placer over Lincoln by 26.5 points

Colfax over Center by 13 points

I missed on Bear River last week to go 2-1, bringing my season record to 11-3 (78 percent). Who said high school kids are unpredictable?

Posted in Bear River football, Colfax football, Nevada Union football, Placer football | Leave a comment

How we honor the dead–in this case, Hank Greenwald

If you grew up in the Bay Area and was a big sports fan like I was, you never really appreciated how many good play-by-play announcers worked in that market until you become exposed to their peers in other parts of the country.

Hank Greenwald

Among the best was Giants play-by-play announcer Hank Greenwald, who died Monday at the age 0f 83. Hank combined an extensive knowledge of the game with a dry wit to keep the broadcast entertaining during a period when the Giants weren’t very good.

Where else could you learn that the average score of every major league game played in the first 100 years was 5-3. You thought there were only 3 Alou brothers? You should have heard Hank riff on the other members of the family, like Bobalou and Bebopalou.

Noting one day the 75th anniversary of the first radio broadcast of a baseball game, he added: “By the third inning, people were calling the station and complaining the announcer wasn’t giving the score often enough.”

Greenwald first worked in the Bay Area broadcasting Warriors game with Bill King. He joined Lindsey Nelson on the Giants broadcasts in 1976 and was the lead announcer from 1979-86 and then 1989-96, when the Giants basically fired him.

The story then was that Larry Baer, the Giants’ president and CEO, didn’t think Greenwald gushed enough over the team’s star player, Barry Bonds, or bowed down to him like everybody else did. Bonds developed a reputation for being a first-class jerk who was feared more than liked, but the team tolerated him because he was biggest draw at the gate.

Greenwald basically confirmed the story in 1999 with publication of his autobiography, “This Copyrighted Broadcast,” which included critical comments about Baer and the unpleasant behavior of Bonds. The team initially ordered 500 copies for the team’s dugout store, then somebody read it and it was returned to the publisher. “Did they have a book burning?” Greenwald asked.

But that was then. Here’s part of the statement issued earlier this week after Baer learned of Greenwald’s death: “Hank was a  broadcasting legend throughout the Bay Area and was a huge part of the Giants throughout his 16 seasons as our play-by-play announcer…He will be deeply missed.”

Posted in Hank Greenwald, San Francisco Giants, Sports, Uncategorized | Leave a comment