Monday, December 13, 2010

It's a Gamblin' Monday!

Hey folks, fire up the addiction centers in your brain, because we're going to start off this week with a little gamblin' action. There are three orders of business on the itinerary.



This is something I did last year, and it's a lot of fun. Before I get into the rules, here's why I dig the hell out of it.

A - It keeps every single bowl game interesting, including the boring ones on December 18th. (Ohio and Troy in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, I'm looking at you.)

B - You can win lots of money. Like $300 worth. That kind of cash is accepted at most major American stores.

C - You only have to spend a little money. $15, to be specific. You can probably find it in your couch, or you could try to rob an old person on the street. Believe me, the chances you get caught are small, and they always carry cash. Old people don't trust banks.

D - There's a blog where I update the standings and mention people by name. Last year's is here.

Here's how it works: There are 35 bowl games. You can see them here. You will pick the winner of each game, and you will assign each game a confidence rating from 1-35. You'll use each number once and once only. So if you believe strongly that Oregon will beat Auburn, you might assign that game a rating of 35. And if Oregon wins, you get 35 points. If they lose, you get 0. The player with the most points at the end of the pool is champion.

The top 3 or so win money. I'll be sending out a spreadsheet for everyone to fill out before the games begin on Saturday. If you're interested or have any questions, drop me a line at shane.spr8 at gmail dot com. Please keep in mind that you don't have to be an expert at college football to have a chance. Last year, my aunt flipped a coin for every single game, and she finished in 7th place.


The HOT POTATO standings have been updated. After Baby Dawk's disappointing 2 points against St. Louis, everyone took a major hit. Dylan retains first place with 13, but only by a single point. Marion and John, the guy who hates Duke, are lurking at 14. Is it because they both have names from Robin Hood? It's impossible to say. Am I going to start calling them Maid Marion and Little John? I'd be crazy not to.

In case anyone is curious, this is a simple game where people pick the points scored by a given player chosen by me before a Duke game. The difference between their pick and the actual points scored is their total for the day. Low score is better. If anyone misses a game, they get the average score of that game plus 3. If anyone hits the nail on the head, they get a -3 bonus. People can join at any time.

Here are the new standings:


Drama in the Pick Six! After Friday's NFL picks, the whole thing comes down to Monday Night Football. Spike, Swetha & Sabreena, and Mike all have a shot depending on the outcome of tonight's games. You know I usually keep Pick 6 to Fridays, but this is just TOO DAMN EXCITING! Here are the possibilities remaining:

Spike wins if: the Giants lose and the Ravens cover
Mike wins if: the Giants win.
Swetha & Sabreena tie Mike if: the Giants lose and the Ravens don't cover.

If that last scenario happens, there will be a 3-day playoff between S&S and Mike. Just like Dodgers-Giants, 1954! This is the greatest ending to a Pick 6 ever.

Okay, enough gambling. Let's get serious for a second here. Time for Duke content.

-First, a couple folks sent me a great piece on Coach K in the Fayetteville Observer. It's got a lot of cool details about his private life, like how his two favorite shows are "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Criminal Minds." Which makes sense, since those shows are very similar. You can check it out here.

-Second, we still know nothing about Kyrie Irving, although I absolutely love this story sent in by 'bluefaceddevil' in Friday's comments section:

I saw this comment at TDD:

"DISCLAIMER: I am NOT claiming to be an inside source here or to have them, just wanted to share...

I am a freshman at Duke and a friend of mine lives in Bassett (where the basketball players live). He said he was hanging out with Kyrie on one night this past week and when Kyrie was [not totally functional... you can figure it out], he confirmed that "yeah, I'm done for the year."

Just passing it along. Not putting it up as fact, but I trust that my friend was telling the truth."

THAT'S IT, GUYS. EVERYONE CAN GO HOME. Kyrie Irving was drunk and he told a guy in his dorm that he was done for the year. End of season. The medical mumbo jumbo he and Coach K are spouting is a red herring.

Thanks to bluefaceddevil for relating this wonderful tale, and I invite everyone reading to send me your best Kyrie Irving stories. I'll even feature the best in tomorrow's post. Here's mine:

Guys, I don't want to make anyone panic, but I've got some bad news. I used to take jujitsu from this undocumented Cambodian guy in Durham (I WILL NOT SAY HIS NAME, SO DON'T EVEN ASK). Anyway his jujitsu business failed because he tried to hit on a middle-aged woman during the middle of practice once and not only did he fail and get turned in but she also kicked his ass which pretty much ruined his jujitsu reputation around town. But he's a great guy, completely trustworthy, and now he works at a gas station on 15-501 (I AM NOT GOING TO SAY WHICH GAS STATION, FORGET IT!) where Kyrie Irving and some of his friends go to buy bubble gum on most Wednesdays. I was skyping with my old teacher last night and he told me that this week when Kyrie stopped in, he looked real upset. He and his friends were talking, and here's the story: Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler were jealous that he was doing so well, so they pretended to give him slippers as a gift after the Butler game. Kyrie was thankful, but he only put the right slipper on before he realized something was amiss. Turns out, they had put poison acid in the toes of the slipper. The problem isn't even Kyrie's big toe; every single toe on his right foot is gangrenous and days from falling off completely. There's a HUGE cover-up in Durham, led by none other than Coach K. Apparently one coach is upset and ready to blow the lid off (I WON'T SAY WHICH COACH GUYS, FUCK YOU.). This could get real interesting.

-Duke beat the St. Louis Billikens by a healthy margin on Saturday. This was the first game of the year I've missed, as I was in Winston-Salem watching the Hillside Hornets win their first state championship. There are two important questions raised by this game:

1) Why did Andre Dawkins get only 18 minutes of playing time? Why did Mason only get 11? None of the recaps I've read seem to offer any explanation.

2) What the hell is a Billiken? Well, according to this site, it's a "good luck figure who represents things as they ought to be." Here's a picture:

And here's the Billiken statue at St. Louis:

I can't decide if this is the best or worst mascot in the world. But let's take that article piece by piece to figure it out.

Often called one of the coolest or most unusual campus mascots in the country, the Billiken's history -- and how it became affiliated with Saint Louis University-- remains debatable to this day.

Also debatable? The fact that it's "often" called the "coolest" mascot in the country.

The designer of the Billiken also seems to be fact. Florence Pretz, a Missouri art teacher and illustrator, patented her "design for an image" of the jovial creature in 1908.

Good thing she nailed down that patent, as I'm sure there was a rush of copycats trying to beat her to the U.S. Copyright office.

It's also known that the Billiken was manufactured in the early 1900s as a bank and statuette and was the national rage for about six months -- kind of that period's pet rock.

A. It was manufactured as a bank? Like an actual bank? How did it fare during the Great Depression?

B. If the Billiken was a "national rage," the democratic experiment we call America was always doomed.

C. Pet rock?

During this time, the Billiken was turned into all sorts of things: dolls, marshmallow candies, metal banks, hatpins, pickle forks, belt buckles, auto hood ornaments, salt and pepper shakers and glass bottles.

Oh, I guess they meant like a piggie bank. Cute. Also, this just gave me a great idea for a Christmas gift. Let's cut to December 25th, my house:

My Mother: Oh, it....


My Mother: Oh, oh...well thank you, sweetie, it's...


My Mother: No, no, I love it. I really do, I think it's-


That's about where the certainty ends, however.

And the magic begins...

It is believed that Pretz found the name Billiken in a poem by the Canadian poet Bliss Carman and gave the name to her patented design, which she sold to the Billiken Company of Chicago. It is not confirmed if the firm acquired its name from the Billiken or if it was an established name before the company bought the rights from Pretz's invention.

Scenario A

CEO: What a wonderful product! We shall change the name of our company to reflect this wonderful statuette! Quick, Ezequiel, place an order for new stationery!

Ezequiel: I am unfortunately bedeviled with yellow fever.

Scenario B

CEO: Finally! An enterprising young woman has made a product and named it after our company! What ambition! What moxie! Ezequiel, place an order for 1,000 of her products!

Ezequiel: It is my dismay to tell you I am accursed with malaria.

By 1912, the Billiken and its value as a good-luck charm were just memories for all except the loyal fans of Saint Louis University.

In 1915, the Billiken was killed in an aerial battle with German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen. But you might know him as...THE RED BARON.

The uniting of SLU and the Billiken seems to have happened sometime between 1910 and 1911 at the height of Billikenmania.

This came just before William Howard Taftmania and followed hot on the heels of Hating Indiansmania.

One story reports that a St. Louis sports writer decided that Bender resembled the Billiken. Later, a cartoonist drew a caricature of the coach in the form of a Billiken and posted it in the window of a drugstore. The football team soon became known as "Bender's Billikens."

This name was quickly dropped when they learned it was also used by a group of British homosexuals in Manchester.

Another version of the story begins in a 1946 obituary that speaks of the death of Billy Gunn (say the name quickly) who owned a drug store close to SLU.

Billygunn! Billgyun! Bilgyun! Bilygyun! Blagayun! Blagabon! Vagabond! Vagabond! HOLDY SHIT, IT'S VAGABOND! VAGABOND! DID I GET IT? IS IT VAGABOND?!

A short, bespectacled man with a lively wit, Gunn was friend and confidant to SLU players and coaches. Said the obituary, "Gunn gave the Saint Louis University athletic teams their nicknames. Coach Bender walked into Mr. Gunn's drugstore one afternoon and was greeted by the proprietor with: 'Bender, you're a real Billiken!' William O'Connor, a noted sportswriter who was there, took up the name for Bender, and eventually the University teams became known as the Billikens."

God, this story is so long. Also, does this even make sense? Wasn't the big deal that Billy Gunn sounded like Billiken? Then why would he call the coach a name that sounded like his own? GOD WHO EVEN CARES.

Yet another story gives an alternate perspective. During a 1953 dinner honoring Charles Z. McNamara and William O'Connor, a different story was told: One afternoon at practice, as McNamara and O'Connor looked on, Bender was all smiles. Bender's broad grin and squinty eyes so impressed O'Connor that he exclaimed, "Why, Bender's a regular Billiken!"

He was all smiles because he'd just committed his first murder. The first of many. You see, O'Connor wasn't like most men. O'Connor was different. O'Connor needed death. He needed it like your I need oxygen. And that's why they called him a Billiken. I think.

McNamara later drew the cartoon of Bender in the form of a Billiken and posted it in a drugstore window near the practice field.

His mutilated body was found in the Missouri River later that week.

"It doesn't bother me that there are multiple versions of the Billiken story," said University archivist John Waide. "That's the way history goes. It's a constant search for the truth that will take considerable research, and we may never know exactly what is true."

"And you'd be wise to stop poking around these parts, young fellow!"

However the story is told, Billikens always possess cheery personalities, broad smiles and rotund bellies. They bring luck to Saint Louis University's sports teams and smiles to the faces of SLU fans.

One last point on Billiken luck: To buy a Billiken gives the purchaser luck, but to have one given to you is better luck.

The kind of luck a person might...die for.


Today is the last day of the semester, gang. One more law test and I am up and out of here, hot-dogging it north like a dissatisfied southern teenager. Send me your Kyrie Irving stories, and let me know if you want in on the football pool. See you tomorrow.


  1. On distribution of minutes:
    “Well I mean Coach K always does that by feel. And I think it was a feel thing. I mean we felt great when the guys came off the bench. I mean Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton did a great job, especially in the second half. They hit us with a little run to start the half. We weren’t as happy with our energy coming out of halftime. We went to our bench and those guys played great. Coach K is always a guy, that if you’re playing well, you’re staying out there. That’s why we were just so proud of those guys. To be ready when called upon. And I think those two guys in particular, who haven’t been getting a lot of minutes. For them to get 15 and 14 minutes and play really well, I think it was just more of an instance where, ‘hey, let’s go with them. They got it going today, so let’s keep them out there.’”

    That was Chris Collins at the post-game press conference from

  2. Self-proclaimed mascot connoisseur reporting to confirm that yes, the Billiken, representing things as they ought to be, is absolutely the very best mascot there has ever been. Bar none.

  3. Shit a Maryland fan knows more than I do. Give me your address and I'll mail you my old Duke student card out of shame.

    I'm with you, Carrie.



    I am in possession of Evidence, obtained through various and entirely reliable sources* who shall remain anonymous, that the affliction befalling Kyrie's toe was NOT an accident-

    *God, logic, history, and common sense were my four major sources.

    1. The injury purportedly occurred on December 4, 2010. Do you know what else happened on December 4? Let me enlighten you.

    -Led Zeppelin officially disbanded in 1980, leading to nearly a decade of crappy music with frontmen who tried to copy Robert Plant's flowing locks and midriff shirts. The lesson here? You can't replace the maestro. There will be poor imitations, but nothing like the original. Unless Duke signs Rajon Rondo somehow, I'd say the whole season, perhaps the whole decade, is done for Duke basketball. Facts are facts, I'm just the messenger.

    -The first Burger King restaurant opened in 1954, sparking a Miami turf war with Ronald McDonald and his ragtag band of guerilla misfits. There very well could be a turf war in Durham if Nolan Smith steps up and dominates in Irving's absence. Rumor has it that Smith and Irving have a "polite, yet cold and distant" relationship. Sounds like a potential powderkeg if the pecking order gets upset. You know who would benefit from this turf war? Sports pundits, bloggers, and the rest of the ACC.

    -In 307 A.D., Saint Barbara was martyred. St. Barbara is the patron saint of artillerymen. Artillerymen drop bombs from long distance. Kyrie Irving's skills allowed Duke's bombers to get good looks. Coincidence? I think not. Also, her father cut off her head because she was a Christian. Did someone cut off Kyrie's toe because of his religious affiliation? Definitely in play.

    -In 1909, the Montreal Canadiens hockey team was officially chartered, and 100 years of Canadian smugness has ensued. I don't know what the significance of this really is. But that doesnt mean it that Montreal isnt at least tangentially responsible for this situation.

    2. I dont know of anyone who has seen this mysterious toe injury. Is it even injured? Does Kyrie even have toes? I'll believe it when I see it, which is the same reason why I dont believe in air or dinosaurs. Now he's got his foot in a plaster cast. Hmm, thats convenient, i'm sure he's getting lots of sympathy from females around campus who want to help him and sign his cast. Face it, this whole injury thing could very well be a ploy to get girls' attention. It worked for me when I wore a sling in 5th grade even though I didnt hurt my arm.

    3. Mesa State football player Trevor Wikre had his finger amputated to keep playing football during his senior season. How come amputation hasnt been suggested by the so-called "medical experts" treating Kyrie's toe? If all options are really being considered, as has been reported in several major media outlets, why havent we heard more about the possibility of amputation? Maybe because THERE'S NO INJURY IN THE FIRST PLACE.

    4. Take a moment and digest this information. Still not convinced? Allow me to present a syllogism that conclusively proves that Kyrie's injury is not an accident: Accidents don't happen to people who are prepared. Kyrie is always prepared. Therefore, accidents don't happen to Kyrie. Whoa. Irrefutable logic trumps medical speculation. Its why I chose law school over med school. That, and the fact that the sight of blood makes me queasy.

    Now I'm not going to get into the "why" issue- thats a matter of speculation, and as established above, I only deal in facts and near-facts. However, I have recently learned that Coach K struck a bargain with Satan just seconds before Christian Laettner hit the buzzer beater against Kentucky in the 1992 Elite Eight. In exchange for victory, Coach K offered the toe of a future freshman phenom, courtside season tickets at Cameron for life, and Dick Vitale.


  5. "Now I'm not going to get into the "why" issue- thats a matter of speculation, and as established above, I only deal in facts and near-facts."

    Nominated. Thanks, Craig.

  6. Well done Craig. It's a shame you have to win by default, because I think you would taken down a lot of worthy competitors. You're like Michael Jordan playing basketball by himself.