GELFAND: Gambling, Anger and Shame...and Week 12 Picks

Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

I think I speak for most of us, regardless of our political bent, when I say that I am quite relieved now that the impeachment hearings are over. Just in time for Thanksgiving, we are now poised to put the divisiveness behind us and march together, united as one, toward a new national unity.



In a more placid geo-political universe, I would be shimmering with good vibes and wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving. In fact, by Thursday night I will probably be in a happier place — perhaps my favorite chair, consuming my monthly beer, going about the difficult process of digesting 3,000 calories worth of mostly unhealthy food. Before the first quarter of the Atlanta-New Orleans game, I will have muted the announcers and reflected on the miracle of my survival.

By then, all national norms will have been observed: the football, the parades, the happy news stories on TV, the black Friday advertising swelling even the St. Paul newspaper and, of course, the Presidential pardon of an especially impressive gobbler. Unless, that is, the commander in chief decides to behead the bird on the White House lawn.

I kid, of course. He would never do that. He might have Lindsey Graham do it for him, but that’s another story.

Sorry. I promised myself I wouldn’t go there, but my anger got the best of me.

Anger doesn’t become anyone, although I don’t accept the notion that it is always unhealthy. My dad entered the world and ended it prosecuting a long list of insults, injustices and inequities. By then he was 91, so you might argue that if he had found serenity, he might have lived to be 100. A flawed argument, to be sure, given the reality of what those extra 10 years would look like.

So it’s in my DNA, except that I’m at a point in life where I’m neither a fighter nor a lover.

These days, however, it’s hard not to relapse. Case in point: on Friday, I was at the grocery store, oblivious at first to the reality that panicked holiday buying had commenced. All I wanted was to stock the larder with the ingredients for a wild rice casserole, but it was impossible to get down an aisle without incident.

After I’d been bumped by runaway carts a few times — carts being pushed by boomers and zoomers and millennials in between — a woman who was careening through produce while paying attention only to her phone threw me off balance with a jolt to my hip. I should have ignored her. Instead, I grabbed her cart and brought it to a stop and then smiled biliously and said, “Hey, how’s that multi-task thing going for you? Not that great, huh?”

She paid no attention to me. There are days like that — days when an old guy can feel like a ghost living in a world in which he sees everybody but nobody can see him.

Yeah, these are angry times, and even though my old man thrived on rage, it can be pretty hard on the bankroll.

A losing bet can spark a whole lot of negative emotions. First, of course, is denial. You’re down three touchdowns in the middle of the third quarter and you’re entertaining the notion that your guys can come back.

They cannot. If you’re thinking Vikings-Broncos, think again. Or look at the box score. Uh-uh.

Then there’s anger. You were screwed by the refs. They must be on the take.

And who knew Hopkins was going to drop that sure touchdown pass? He never drops that throw.

Finally, there is the one emotion that is far worse than anger: shame.

If you’re a politician, you have no idea what I’m talking about. If you’re a gambler, there’s a better chance you’re hip to this scourge. Maybe, in fact, you gamble because the shame is already there.

I don’t know. Anger and shame walk hand in hand into the abyss. The upside is that feeling shame because you lost a bet is a temporary thing. Eventually you’ll get used to losing and the shame will dissipate. I guess that’s not exactly a best case scenario, but we all know by now that it’s the truth.

Now, where was I? Oh, yeah. Football. Gambling. Anger. Shame.

This is not where I had intended to go. What began as a fervent journey that would end with serenity for all took a left turn and ended up on the corner of Down and Out.

No, what I meant to say was this: Stop watching those cable cluster-panels and spend more time with actual humans. If that’s not possible, just go straight to ESPN or, if you’re addled and decrepit and thus read newspapers, skip right from Section A to the box scores.

Ignorance, after all, can be bliss. But if you’ve been paying attention lately, I guess you know that.

Oh, and seriously, enjoy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your family, watch as much football as you can get away with, and, of course gamble.

One more thing: turn off that damned phone and put it in your sock drawer.

After a 3-0 Sunday, the bankroll is temporarily above water, up from the original $1,000 to $1,040. And this week I’m betting the same amount as I did on Sunday, except that the risk is compressed into two games.


Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

In keeping with my theme, I’m making a play on what should be billed as the Swing State Bowl. An indifferent “crowd” will witness this non-event, but it does have curb appeal to gamblers. After last week’s disgraceful confrontation with Cleveland, the Steelers will be missing the multiply-concussed All-Pro receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster and probably their second-best offensive asset, running back James Conner. Then we have the hapless Bengals, and feckless quarterback Ryan Finley. After two games on the big stage, he has a QB rating of 52.8. But it’s the technical stuff that really stands out. To wit: the Steelers have gone under the total in 12 straight games in which they were road favorites by more than three points.

The pick: Pittsburgh 16, Cincinnati 13 — Under 38 for $50

Monday night

Baltimore at L.A. Rams

The numbers are staggering because the Ravens are staggering. They are almost certainly the best team in the NFL. That can change quickly, but until it does, I’ll be trying to ride their coattails. One stat, though: in their most recent six games — including contests against Seattle, New England and Houston — the Ravens have allowed an average of 12 points.

The pick: Ravens 30, Rams 16 — Baltimore minus 3 for $100

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