Call me Stretch. Some days ago — never mind how long precisely — having little or no money in my purse,* I thought I would build up my bankroll by “going heavy,” as wagering etymologists might say, on professional football games. (I do not bet on college games, so as to avoid sullying the purity of amateur athletics.)
Then came the bug. Musca domestica, as the entomologists say. I could add that I was, sadly, distracted, but it was more like obsessed. As patient readers will see, those house flies cost me more than just a little phobic anxiety.
Now, then: my entire philosophy of wagering can be boiled into three words: “Always bet more.” That is, when the moment strikes, forget about hedging. In fact, forget about the co-pay, the juice, the rent money and any intimate relationships just in case you haven’t already incinerated them all.
And I had one wager that couldn’t miss. A once in a lifetime opportunity. The pathetic Dolphins, a semi-professional football club based in Florida, had decided to not just lose every game this year, but, to guard against accidental victories, lose by as many points as possible. And all the competent Baltimore Ravens had to do was win by a touchdown or more.
I began borrowing money. Interest rates were low. I relentlessly squeezed friends, family members and total strangers who had borrowed from me back in the days when I was riding high. (That was a long time ago.) I had three off-shore accounts, plus a cousin in Las Vegas who could beard for me. I figured that if all went well, I might be able to bet as much as $30,000 on the game. In other words, the score of a lifetime awaited me. The weekend as arriving and I was ready to execute my plan.
And then musca domestica got in my way.
Fast forward, then, to Friday night. I was waiting to execute my plan, pausing to consult line changes, weather reports and news of any late injuries. I was exhilarated, but strangely calm. But not for long. As I combed the Internet for breaking news, I thought I heard the dreaded buzz. I felt the first pangs of anxiety. My obsessive-compulsive heart was pounding. How could this be? My house is hermetically sealed. Back in the late 90s, a mosquito had broken in because of a tiny tear in a window screen, but since then there had been no notable breach.
But the buzz grew louder. The virulent creature grew bolder — even buzzing my bald head. Who knew what pestilence it carried? Typhoid? Dysentery? Perhaps the plague itself?
I grabbed a 64-ounce container of Purell and the new copy of The New Yorker, willing to sacrifice that great magazine in order to inflict a mortal blow to the creature. But it was no use. It was too fast, fed by panic and perhaps a stray bread crumb.
Finally, it came to rest on my desk. I prepared to impale the creature and struck a savage blow, only to nearly break my wrist as it flew off.
I slept fitfully, awaking every few hours to track it again, but to no avail. This went on into Saturday. By nightfall, I had sequestered musca domestica to the bathroom. I shuddered to ponder where it might alight, but the magazine and a jug of Lysol were ready to be activated.
By Sunday morning, I was flailing desperately and harming only myself. At last, I began to sweat and gasp for air and then, in full frenzy, began swinging my weapon hysterically, knowing all along that I wasn’t going to be able to strike the fatal blow while my prey was in mid-air. It was, however, a fight to the finish. Only one of us was going to leave that bathroom alive.
When my tormentor paused on the shower door, I was losing my grip on both the magazine and reality, and I flung my projectile somewhere in the direction of the fly. I missed, of course, and then fell to the floor. I think I blacked out for a few minutes, because I remember awakening on the cold tile. I opened my eyes slowly, not even sure where I was. The first thing I saw was my mortal enemy, just sitting on the floor. I was so desperate that I was about to attempt to impale it with my bare hands, but something stopped me.
The fly was dead. From what, I didn’t know, but it wasn’t hunger. It was now a whale of a fly; it had at least doubled in size since the hunt had begun. Dead now, I suspected, of natural causes. The final and ultimate indignity, at least to me.
I looked at its corpse and pondered my next move. The creature was now so big that I think Don Jr. would have had it stuffed and mounted.
I, however, flushed the damned thing down the toilet and staggered into my office to make my bets. Whereupon I fell asleep on the couch. When I awakened, the first half was ending and the Patriots were ahead 42-3.
The bets you never get to make are always the ones you would have won. So, my friends, bet freely, bet often, and always bet more.
I went 2-0 last week to put the bankroll at $1,090. (I start each year with $1,000 and then usually work my way down.) I made these mythical wagers on Bob Sansevere’s podcast on Friday morning, thus locking in the lines at that time, so your line at kickoff will probably be slightly different.
Minnesota at Green Bay
I don’t want to overreact to Packers’ offensive pratfall in Chicago. They did, after all, win the game 10-3 even though they could muster just 213 total yards. That’s almost impossible in the NFL, and when it happens it’s a tribute to the opposing defense and testimony to a feckless offense. They might put it all together on Sunday, but with no running game it won’t be easy. The mighty Pack have defeated my cherished Vikings just twice in their last six games in Wisconsin (one was a tie), and I feel the need to take the points during what might be a rare window of good health for Dalvin Cook. Having said that, I don’t think Cousins can get away with throwing just 10 passes, but a man can dream.
The pick: Vikings 21, Packers 20 — Minnesota plus 2 for a mythical $40
New England at Miami
I thought the Patriots would be favored by something like 23 1/2 — it was 18 1/2 as I wrote this on Friday — and I still think they might be when they’re kicking off this fiasco. Actually, I kind of admire the Dolphins’ approach. So many teams have gone into full tank mode with maybe six weeks left in a season, but to do it before the season even begins is as revolutionary as it is sleazy. But thanks to the symbiotic relationship between overweight slobs drinking beer and breweries making billions, the Dolphins not only don’t have to win, they don’t even have to pretend. When I made this pick on Sansevere’s podcast, I wagered a mythical honeybee ($100), but by Friday night there was talk of a tropical storm rolling into Miami around game time. Meaning lots of rain and heavy winds, so I’m cutting back.
The pick: Patriots minus 11 in the first half for $50…and a final score of 48-10.
New Orleans at L.A. Rams
The Saints have been pretty scary as road dogs in recent years — 15-7 against the spread going back to 2014. I’d rather have three, but I’ll trust Kamara and Brees to cover.
The pick: Saints 31, Rams 27 — New Orleans plus 2 for $40
* My thanks to Herman Melville