A Trip Across the Pond and Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – Christmas 2008 Edition

london-house-of-parliament-big-ben

I apologize for the brief hiatus since I had to travel to London for work last week.  While this might sound glamorous on paper (and certainly compared to my first job out of law school where I was sent to exotic locales such as Danville and Flint, it’s a significant step-up), I didn’t have time to do any sort of sightseeing because I was working over 13 hours a day (which would have killed me if it wasn’t for the fact that I had visited all of the major touristy items in London on a previous occasion).  Of course, the one thing about much of Europe is that they pay as much attention to American news as their own news, which is root of their insistence that we aren’t worldly since we don’t reciprocate.  The fantastic Rod Blagojevich story was front-page news in the London tabloids and at the top of the hour on the BBC all week long with the tie to Barack Obama’s Senate seat (everyone over there LOVES our President-elect, if you hadn’t figured that out already – he’s seriously just behind The Beatles in the U.K. exultation power rankings).  Also, thanks to Sky Sports 2 (the Deuce!), I was able to watch the start of the Bears-Saints game at 1 a.m.London time last Thursday evening/Friday morning (Minneapolis Red Sox aptly pointed out that the British have greater access to NFL Network games than Americans) prior to falling asleep.  Interestingly enough, former Bear Shaun Gayle provides studio commentary for NFL games in the U.K. – apparently, there is enough of a cult following for American football (along with the presence of ex-pats) over there that the NFL gets pretty good coverage.  (It’s better than, say, coverage of the English Premier League over here.  Speaking of which, my only disappointment from the trip was that my work schedule prevented me from seeing Chelsea play a Champions League game in the middle of the week, knowing full well that Chelsea fans brought soccer hooliganism to new heights during the 1980s.)  As far as British television was concerned, it felt as if though I never left Chicago.

Anyway, I fell asleep in the middle of the second quarter of the Bears game and when I woke up the next morning, I got to embark on a parents-from-Home-Alone-esque path to get home to Chicago.  When I arrived at the airport, I found out that my Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to O’Hare was canceled due to “technical problems” (AKA the company wanted to consolidate a couple of less-than-full trans-Atlantic flights to save some money), which meant that I would need to have a stop-over in the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell (AKA Dulles Airport outside of Washington, DC, which is not to be confused with the Airport Taxi Line to Hell at Las Vegas International) to transfer to a United flight to Chicago.  (Note that while I’m a cost-conscious consumer in general, I will ALWAYS pay for a direct flight when it’s my own money- I don’t have any tolerance for that transfer bullshit.  When it’s a company-paid flight on an expense account, as in this case, a direct flight is my God-given fucking right.  My indignation at Virgin Atlantic’s callousness in trying to tell me that having a transfer would “only” result in me getting home a couple of hours later than expected was only tempered by the fact that any rash action would likely be characterized as an “international incident”.)  At that point, I was in “whatever” mode and simply relieved that I wouldn’t be stranded overseas.

After having a pretty productive flight from a personal enrichment perspective (I finished up Malcolm Gladwell’s new book “Outliers”, who also currently has a great piece in the New Yorker comparing the difficulties in evaluating who will become successful NFL quarterbacks and schoolteachers, and watched both “Wall-E” and “Tropic Thunder” for the first time – all are highly recommended), I arrived at the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell.  Since I was coming off of an international flight, I got to go through the glorious process of having to sit in line at customs, exit the secured area, pick up my luggage, check-in to my connecting flight and drop off my luggage, and then enter through the security checkpoint again.  Luckily, I had a whole twenty minutes to do all of this before my flight back to Chicago left.  As I sprinted across the corridors of the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell and got to the front of the security line, the lovely TSA guard (AKA a Jawa without a brown robe) informed me with almost a certain sense of glee that my flight had been selected for provisional screening.  So, as my connecting flight was making a last call for boarding, I got to be pulled off to the side to patted down and have my bags thoroughly checked.  (I very politely informed another TSA guard who was a complete dead-ringer for Scott Van Pelt that I completely understood that this was a “necessary procedure” and just wanted him to be aware that my flight was about to leave.  He checked my ticket and responded, “Oooh.  I guess you’re right.  I guess we’ll try our best to do this quickly so that you can possibly make your flight.”  Mr. Van Pelt then proceeded to sit down in his chair for another five minutes before he realized that there were no other guards available and finally decided to start checking my bags.  My indignation was only tempered by the fact that any rash action would likely be characterized as a “domestic incident”.)  After finally getting through security, I would have run to my terminal, but the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell is set up where you need to take a “bus” (AKA double-wide with a couple of wheels attached) between terminals.  Fortunately, I was able to jump onto a double-wide as it was leaving.  As you can see, this traveling day to end all traveling days, so it figured that when I finally arrived to Terminal D, I realized that my gate was the VERY LAST FUCKING ONE AT THE END – and this was a LONG FUCKING TERMINAL.  I did my best Usain Bolt impression while weighed down by a full laptop bag and literally ran as fast I could to reach my gate.  Amazingly, the plane was still there and I was able to get on.  Unfortunately, a number of my passenger-mates from London didn’t make it and, to my knowledge, no one has heard from them again.

In the only smooth part of the day (and at which point, I was pushing close to being awake for 24 hours straight), my flight from the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell to O’Hare landed almost 45 minutes early.  The traveling gods had to throw in one last “we’re completely fucking with you today”, though, as I gave all of that early landing time back and then some waiting for my luggage to arrive… which never came.  It was, of course, still sitting at the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell along with everyone else’s luggage from the original London flight.  At that point, it was just meant to be.  I got back to my house over 8 hours after I was scheduled to get home (with my luggage arriving the next morning).

The moral of the story: take a boat the next time that you go to England.

Thank you all for allowing me to vent – here are this week’s picks (home teams in CAPS where applicable):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) EagleBank Bowl:  Navy Midshipmen (+3) over Wake Forest Demon Demons

(2) Las Vegas Bowl:  BYU Cougars (+3) over Arizona Wildcats

(3) Hawaii Bowl:   Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-1.5) over Hawaii Warriors

Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2

Illini Games for the Season: 5-6
Overall Season: 19-22-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) Atlanta Falcons (+3.5) over MINNESOTA VIKINGS

(2) Carolina Panthers (+3) over NEW YORK GIANTS

(3) CHICAGO BEARS (-4) over Green Bay Packers

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2

Bears Games for the Season: 3-81
Overall Season: 18-18-3

Alright, so the NFL picks this week just happen to align with exactly what the Bears need in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.  It honestly wasn’t planned that way – I just thought they were pretty reasonable spreads.  (In the case of the Panthers-Giants game, if the Giants lose, then they would go into Minnesota in Week 17 needing to win just get any type of home game in playoffs, but if they win this week, then they lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and likely would sit everyone against the Vikings.  As a result, Bears fans need to root for Carolina all the way this weekend.)

Also, it’s very unfortunate that I won’t be able to spend the day after Christmas checking out the Illini in the Motor City Bowl (instead, it’s a whopper of a game with Central Michigan vs. Florida Atlantic).  Still, there’s a return of a holiday tradition that used to rank right up there with the Lions ruining the Thanksgivings of everyone in Detroit:  Bulls basketball!  That’s right – it’s a Rose vs. Beasley matchup next Friday night.  It makes me reminisce of the golden days around Christmas:

I can’t help you if you’re not pumped up after watching that.  My BCS bowl and NFL week 17 picks) will come at some point next week.  Merry Christmas, everyone!

(Image from Study Languages)

Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – 10/24/2008

Quick picks on a Bears bye week with the Illini visiting Madison (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (+4.5) over South Florida Bulls
(2) MIAMI HURRICANES (-3) over Wake Forest Demon Deacons
(3) Illinois Fighting Illini (-2.5) over WISCONSIN BADGERS

Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 2-1

Illini Games for the Season: 3-3
Overall Season: 13-10-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (+3) over San Diego Chargers
(2) PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-3) over New York Giants
(3) TENNESSEE TITANS (-4) over Indianapolis Colts

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 3-0

Bears Games for the Season: 2-41
Overall Season: 9-9-3

Double Goose Egg and Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – 10/17/2008

I was on a blissful vacation last weekend, which means that I thankfully didn’t have to watch a horrific couple of days of football from the Illini and Bears.  Therefore, I’ll direct you to Illinitalk and Blog Down Chicago Bears for their respective rants.  Onto this week’s parlay picks (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) NAVY MIDSHIPMEN (+2.5) over Pittsburgh Panthers – I have few rules in life, but one of them is that a Dave Wannstedt-coached team is not allowed to be ranked for two weeks in a row.

(2) Miami Hurricanes (-3.5) over DUKE BLUE DEVILS – The mighty might have fallen a bit in Miami, but they’re still light years ahead of Puke football.

(3) ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (-15.5) over Indiana Hoosiers – The bookies are absolutely KILLING me with another double-digit spread in favor of Illinois for the second week in a row (and we know how that turned out against Minnesota), especially with the Hawaii-style defense (as in no defense) that the Illini appear to be utilizing lately.  Still, WTF was I thinking in picking Indiana last week after they put up an embarrassing performance against Iowa?  I should have known better than to choose those Satan’s Spawn enablers.  Let’s hope that the Minnesota game was the equivalent of the Iowa game last year – a Zookian brain fart against an inferior team.

Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2

Illini Games for the Season: 2-3
Overall Season: 11-9-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) GREEN BAY PACKERS (+2) over Indianapolis Colts – The bookies have essentially made the Packers into my anti-Illini for gambling purposes this year, where I’m pretty sure every spread involving Green Bay so far has been within a field goal.  They’re way too enticing again, especially at home against an Indy club that largely running on reputation this season.

(2) CAROLINA PANTHERS (-3) over New Orleans Saints – You know that the spreads are FUBAR this week when I’m including this game, which involves two scarily inconsistent teams.  I’m still in denial that we are entering a world where the Dolphins are a favorite against the Ravens and Vegas is spotting double-digits to Brian Griese versus a Mike Holmgren-coached team.

(3) CHICAGO BEARS (-3) over Minnesota Vikings – The fact that the Bears have the same record as the Vikings right now is a complete abomination.  The New York Times pointed out that the difference between the Bears being 6-0 as opposed to 3-3 is a swing of a total of 8 points in an aggregate of 4 minutes at the conclusion of their 3 losses.  Meanwhile, the Vikings needed a questionable pass interference call to pull out a win against the pathetic Lions.  This really ought to be a double-digit spread for the Bears on paper, but Vegas correctly recognizes that there are still plenty of ways that we can pry defeat from the jaws of victory in the fourth quarter.

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2

Bears Games for the Season: 1-41
Overall Season: 6-9-3

FIRST BULLS RANT OF THE SEASON

On a final note, if Larry Hughes starts another Bulls preseason game instead of Derrick Rose (yes, I’ve been watching preseason basketball – there’s some serious b-ball withdrawl on my end), I will personally see to it that Vinny Del Negro’s rims are ripped off his car and sold off on Maxwell Street next Sunday.  In a remarkable turn of events, Stacey King actually stated something worthwhile on Tuesday’s broadcast by noting that the rest of the Bulls need to adjust to Derrick Rose’s game as opposed to the other way around.  My gawd, I think he’s got it!!!  There will be a justifiable fan mutiny if we continue to hear crap that Rose needs to be coddled into the lineup.  I agree that all observers need to temper expectations for production out of 19-year old rookie point guard, but he needs as much time on the floor as possible since this team needs to be built around his talent and skills instead of trying to wedge him into a rotation with 18 other undersized guards.  The regular season hasn’t even started yet and the presence of Larry Hughes is already making me twitch – this isn’t a good sign.  At the very least, I need to be able to take in the sight of two of my man crushes in Rose and Deron Williams going at each other in a special exhibition game at the Assembly Hall in Champaign on Friday night – I’m officially getting all tingly right now.

Go Bulls, Go Deron, Go Illini, and Go Bears!

(Image from ESPN.com)

Excited Once More and Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Picks – 9/12/2008

Like Michael Corleone, every time that I think that I’m out with the Bears, they pull me back in.  After writing a screed last week about how this is probably the least excited that I’ve been for an upcoming Bears season, they of course go out an pull off a monster upset on the road on national television.  After a few days of being drunk off of the Matt Forte Kool-Aid, a couple of things have brought me down to Earth.  First, it was remembering the occurrence of a punchless group of Bears heading into Green Bay on Sunday Night Football last year and administering an upset on par with the one this past Sunday evening, with Lovie Smith’s crew then dumping its offense into quicksand shortly thereafter.  Second, this David Haugh column in the Chicago Tribune goes over some pretty poor recent years for the Bears that followed an unexpected wins in the season openers.  Couple that with the fact that the second game of the year is at Carolina, who is coming off their own unexpected road win at San Diego, and it’s apparent that we’re not in the clear as of yet.  Well, at least I can proceed under the guise that we are at least playoff contenders in some form or fashion.  On to this week’s pro parlay picks (home teams in CAPS):

(1) Green Bay Packers (-3) over DETROIT LIONS – Let me just say that I loathe picking the Packers at any point in time, but the oddsmakers have left me no choice for the second week in a row.  The Lions just lost by 13 points to an Atlanta team that featured a rookie starting the first game of his career and allowed LaDainian Tomlinson’s old backup to run for 220 yards.  As I stated yesterday, I’m not one to question Vegas bookies, but I don’t see how this spread could be less than a touchdown in favor of Green Bay.  So, I’m giving the points here.

(2) New Orleans Saints (pick ’em) over WASHINGTON REDSKINS – I’ve always liked the home field advantage for the Redskins, but that only takes you so far.  It’s possible that Washington played as horribly as they could have played last Thursday night, yet it’s more possible that they are simply horrific this season.  Getting to lay money down on the Saints’ offensive machine against this lackluster ‘Skins team straight up is a gift.

(3) CAROLINA PANTHERS (-3) over Chicago Bears – Let me preface this pick by saying that this isn’t for reverse jinx purposes, although I’ll gladly fall on my sword in real life here.  As I alluded to above, the Panthers themselves came away with an impressive road win against a superior-on-paper AFC opponent last week just like the Bears.  I don’t think that the Panthers (regardless of the presence of Steve Smith) are necessarily better than the Bears, but they are close enough talent-wise that I believe that the home field will be determining factor.  If this game were to be played at Soldier Field, I’d take the Bears, yet since it’s in Charlotte, I’ve got to give the points.

I’ll be enjoying the weekend in lovely Champaign and checking out the newly renovated Memorial Stadium.  Hopefully, Illinois won’t have too many problems with the Ragin’ Cajuns.  Have a great weekend and Go Bears, Go White Sox, and Go Illini!

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 2-1

Bears Games for the Season: 0-1
Overall Season: 2-1

(Image from Chicago Tribune)