Sunday, October 23, 2011

Born a Gamblin' Man

Being the geniuses that we are, my buddy Chris and I decided that the best way to end my birthday week was to gather up a bunch of people, trek up into the mountains and throw large amounts of our money off a cliff. In other words, we decided to go gambling at Blackhawk.

For those of you who aren't quite familiar with it, Blackhawk is a city up in the mountains of Colorado made up almost entirely of casinos. So me and my buddies figured we would head up there on a Saturday night, drink some booze, lay down some money and then sleep in our hotel room. At least that was the plan.

First off, we got a later start to the night because I had to work (you have to first earn money to lose it). So it was just after 10 p.m. when I began driving up to Blackhawk. Now, the road to Blackhawk is a windy, narrow excuse for a donkey-route that weaves it's way through perilous mountains and cliffs. OK so I might be exaggerating a bit. But just remember, I lived for 20 years on an island. Plus, when you drive up that late, you are fighting the headlights of about a gazillion cars making their way down from the casinos, which makes it very hard to tell if you are about to drive off the highway and get raped by bears.

I finally made it up to the casino while only getting molested by a large deer, so I considered it a victory. It was the only winning I would be doing that night. Because within about five minutes, almost everyone in our group had lost $100 to a particularly lucky dealer on the blackjack tables.

You see, there is a reason they call it “gambling,” and not “winning.” You would think you would realize that you are bound to lose just by walking into a casino. Buildings with elaborate fountains and fancy chandeliers and fish tanks do not get that way because they are losing money.

And yet, the second you walk into a casino, and you hear the lights and see the ringing and smell the disorientation and you are powerless to resist it. Plus, they have all-you-can-eat buffets, which have always been my weakness.

And so there you find yourself, sitting in front of a machine, mindlessly pulling a mechanical arm. Notice I say “yourself.” “Myself” is not going to be caught dead playing the slots. It's just too boring. Also, as Chris pointed out, you never see any healthy people playing the slot machines. They are all either morbidly obese or old or both. I prefer to be mentally engaged while I lose lots and lots of money (about the only time I like being “mentally engaged”).

So that's why we went first to blackjack. It's a simple enough game that only requires me to count to 21 which is just within my capabilities. I normally do pretty well at blackjack, but that night we just could not win. If we got 19s, he got 20s. If we got 20s, he got blackjack. If we got blackjacks, the fire alarm went off and we had to evacuate the casino before they could pay us. It was just one of those nights.

I decided to go over to the craps tables, which is a problem when you are in a group of people, because the odds that nobody else in your group knows how to play craps are much better than the odds of actually winning at craps. Craps can look really scary with all its green felt and its random numbers and random people shouting random things and throwing random chips everywhere. Sort of like what football must look like to women.

I did a little better at craps, but I still was losing money. So we moved onto some games we had never heard of, which I strongly recommend against. At one point we were playing something called blackjack switch, in which you are dealt two hands and allowed to switch the cards. It seemed like a no-lose proposition, but then all of a sudden the dealer broke out this rule that if the dealer gets 22, they push. We pointed out that the dealer was now just clearly making up rules as she was going.

Now normally none of this would bother me because of (drum roll please) … FREE BOOZE!!! Now, the casino's call it free, but while you are drinking the free booze you are losing ten dollars a hand, but still it's FREE BOOZE!!! The two greatest words in the English language once put together (just ahead of “chicken bucket”). Sure, you may be losing money, but you're getting drinks and having a good time while you are doing it.

The problem in Colorado is that they stop serving booze after 2 a.m. because apparently snowing half the year and having no ocean doesn't make Colorado lame enough. And “gambling” becomes “throwing away beer money,” once they stop serving free cocktails.

So we just decided to go to sleep and call it a night. Overall it was a fun night and I learned a valuable lesson about gambling: go earlier so you can drink more.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Case of the Mondays

So I'm a little upset today because my night has been ruined. It's a Monday, which of course means Monday Night Football. But ESPN recently announced that Hank Williams Jr. will no longer be singing “All My Rowdy Friends,” which for years has been the signature opening of Monday Night Football.

Now, I'm not saying Hank Williams Jr. didn't deserve it. I mean, he compared Barack Obama to Hitler, and he never really apologized. There are some events and people that should never be used in analogies. Hitler is probably ten of them.

But I am a little sad that the song is going. Sure, it's a horrible song sung by a horrible singer. But for as long as I can remember, the line “Are you ready for some FOOTBAAAAAAAALL!” meant the start of Monday Night Football. The second I heard those words, a Pavolovian response occurred that required me to instantly sit down on the nearest couch and start ingesting large amounts of greasy food and beer.

I look back very fondly on watching Monday Night Football as a young boy growing up. Living in Hawaii, most Sunday games came on at ridiculously early times of the morning, and by the time I got home from church almost all the games were over. But when Monday Night Football was on ABC, they tape delayed the game. Now, this was before anyone knew how to work the Internet, so back in those days, if it hadn't happened on TV yet, as far as I knew it hadn't happened.

My parents never let me watch TV on the weekdays, because my mother was under the belief that TV and video games were the sole root of violence, sex, disease, economic recession, drug use, global warming, prairie dog overpopulation and mental retardation. But they always let me watch Monday Night Football as long as I promised to lie and tell them I was all done with my homework.

To this day football is my favorite sport because growing up, it was all I could watch. For years, watching MNF made me dream of being an NFL star. Then I discovered I am fat and uncoordinated, so I settled for being a famous sportswriter covering NFL stars. Then I discovered I suck at that, so I settled for being a newspaper reporter (settling is a common theme in my life). So MNF really made me who I am today, as sad as that may sound.

Then of course, Monday Night Football began to lose its way. First, for reasons that will always be unclear to me, they hired Dennis Miller to be a commentator even though, as a comedian he was A) not a football expert who was just trying to be funny and B) not very funny. I'm not sure what ABC expected with that killer combination, but it never really worked out.

They finally got rid of him and brought in John Madden, who at least is entertaining even if you have no idea what he's talking about half the time.

John: “And then the quarterback throws the ball, cause that's what quarterbacks do, they throw the ball, cause if they didn't throw the ball, they wouldn't be quarterbacks cause quarterbacks throw the ball and BOOM I like turduckens.”

But then they made the worst move of all: they went on cable. This was crushing for me, because our family didn't have ESPN. They also didn't time delay it, so even if I did have ESPN, the games would be going on while I was in school.

I've sort of been estranged from MNF ever since. For one thing, I'm not a big fan of the announcers. Ron “Jaws” Jaworski has a very appropriate nickname, since that is the only part of his head that works. He once commented on how a cornerback was in “great position.” When Jaws said this, the aforementioned cornerback was lying on the ground. Plus, MNF has shown a propensity to pick horrible games. How horrible? My Jaguars are on the schedule this year, and right now they could not beat a lingerie football team.

And now ESPN is doing away with my last connection to all those nostalgic memories I had growing up. So, for old times’ sake, let's hear it one more time Hank:

Hank: “Are you ready for some FOOTBAAAAAAAALL!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Revenge of the Fallen Fruit

In what may be the deadliest fruit-related epidemic since Richard Simmons was taken off the air, deadly cantaloupes have killed 18 people so far in a listeria outbreak. Over 100 cases have been traced back to the Colorado-grown fruits, the only thing out of Colorado making more people sick than the Tim Tebow controversy.

How did the virus start? Should the government step in to punish the growers? Would “Listeria and the Lyrics” be a great band name? All very important questions that we must ask ourselves going forward. But before we can ask ourselves these questions, we must first stop this frightful epidemic.

Now, I personally am not at risk, despite the fact I live in Colorado. Why? I don't eat cantaloupes. I have to be honest, I'm not really sure what a cantaloupe is. I always assumed they were pessimistic antelopes. From what I can tell it is some sort of large round fruit they serve at continental breakfasts at Motel 6.

Now, the twisted side of me is wondering why we keep referring to them as cantaloupes. They are technically in the melon family, so I say we start referring to them as melons. The headlines would be way better, for instance “Attack of the Killer Melons,” or “Melons of Mass Destruction,” or my personal favorite, “Massive Melon Listeria Hysteria.” We could sell women's T-shirts that say “Make sure to check your melons.”

But all kidding aside, this outbreak has really scared people about the safety of their foods. This does not include me. I long ago adopted a policy of never eating fruits and vegetables and stuff that is good for me because I have learned they will kill you. Oh sure, every once in awhile you hear about a mad cow outbreak or something in the middle of Canada. But not nearly as often as spinach or Brussels sprouts or some other fiendish fruit or villainous vegetable is unleashing some sort of brazen bacteria upon our innocent intestines. (All in favor of me stopping with the alliteration raise your hands. Yeah I thought so.)

So I try not to eat fruits or vegetables, unless you count candy corn. Sure, in ten years I may die of scurvy, but at least I won't be pooping out my intestines with E. coli. And sure I may live only ten more years, but they will be ten joyous years filled with large fatty steaks and oily fried chicken and bypass surgeries.

But since I'm a selfless problem solver, I still feel obligated to try and find a solution to this problem. I'm still not sure what it would entail, but I do know that it would somehow involve Dick Cheney torturing Justin Bieber. Is the Biebster even remotely related to this epidemic? I don't know yet, that's what the torture is for.

Anyway, I think that we need to have a Bureau for the Analyzing and Research of Food (BARF). Every single product made or fruit grown would have to pass the BARF test, in which small samples of food are fed to people. Then we wait to see if they die. If it passes the BARF test, we will release it to the public. Unless it was fresh produce, which probably went rotten in the waiting process, so we'll just throw that away. Nobody needs fresh produce anymore, we have cans and preservatives now.

Who will be the guinea pigs in my program? Well, I hear we have to feed child rapists in prison. And we can't be too naïve and eliminate the possibility of Justin Bieber being an official BARF tester. It's genius. If there is a deadly virus, only a few people will die and we can then track down the farm that grew the killer plants and publicly flog them.

In fact, I think that it's such an ingenious idea they should make me the head of BARF. And trust me, I would do my fair share of tasting. Because somebody has to make sure those steaks don't have mad cow.