3 heads

3 heads
The Last Great Prizefight: Jack Johnson, Tex Rickard, Jim Jeffries

Monday, August 22, 2011

The World's Best Horses (used to) Race in the Breeders' Cup

ESPN online reports discontent about the Breeders' Cup being hosted by Santa Anita, again.
Mike Repole, co-founder of Vitaminwater, and owner of Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty, who has invested heavily in the Thoroughbred Industry with guidance from Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher feels New York has been "fouled" by the Breeders' Cup decision makers. "I love California but I'd be mad if New York got the Breeders Cup three times in five years," Repole stated.
I wouldn't. Belmont should get the Breeders' Cup 3 times in 5 years. As it stands, it's been mostly Churchill and Santa Anita since Belmont last hosted in 2005. If the Breeders' Cup really wants to continue attracting the world's best horses, and not just the world's best dirt horses, the Breeders' Cup should be held at Belmont frequently. Most tracks, including Santa Anita and Churchill Downs, are one mile ovals with a 7 furlong (7/8 mile) turf "bull ring" running along the inside of the dirt rail. Compare that with Belmont's Widner (outer) turf track at a mile and 5/11 in circumference. It's sweeping turns are more suitable to top Europeans and although this may not have made much difference when the BC had the fall championships to itself, it now has to compete with the nascent British Champions Day at Ascot. According to the Gulf News, some of the top turf milers, including Goldikova, may be heading there instead of California.
An outstanding entry of 31 horses for the £1 million Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Group One) — which will be by far the richest mile race ever run in Europe — includes the world's top four milers headed by superstar Frankel.
Also entered is the world's joint third highest rated miler, the brilliant French-trained mare Goldikova, who recorded her 14th success at the highest level with a record fourth consecutive victory in the Prix Rothschild at Deauville earlier.
These are pre-entries; my guess is that Goldikova will still go in the BC: the money is slightly better and she has a chance to "four-peat," but in the absence of definite news, I would't play Goldikova at 5/2 in the Wynn future book.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Žižek on the NFL

The NFL (pre) season has commenced, so for the next five months, the background noise of seemingly every bar and restaurant will be inane NFL blather (from the Dept. of Redundancy Department) emitted from the ever-present television hanging above the bar. I don't mind that sushi chefs need to be entertained, if you can call it that, while they're slicing hamachi, but why the need for so much colorless color during NFL broadcasts? That's a rhetorical question which I'll answer anyway. The network needs to fill 3 hours of air time and there is very little actual game to fill it with. Hence, color commentary from colorless commentators who get paid to fill that time.

It is quite possible that Americans actually prefer TALK about the NFL to the actual game itself and therefore we get extensive pre-game, halftime, and post game shows. Although I wish there were demand for games without announcers, such as NBC's 1980 Dolphins - Jets match-up, TALK has become integral. But TALK, even "expert" analysis, is entertainment, nothing more. If you're an NFL bettor, tune this nonsense out; this information is rarely useful and more likely to hurt, rather than help, your bankroll.

However, there is at least one expert commentator worth following on Twitter: Slavoj Žižek.
@ZizekOnNFL The official Twitter account of The NFL on NBC's newest commentator, Slovenian Philosopher Slavoj Zizek
Okay, this is obviously not the real Žižek (Žižek would probably say that even he is not the Real Žižek), but a parody. If you've ever read or seen Žižek, the concept of Žižek tweeting on the NFL is hilarious. Limiting Žižek to 140 characters is absurd; It would take him 140 pages to explain an interference penalty. Unfortunately for followers, the most recent tweet from @ZizekOnNFL was in June, so I'm hoping the tweets resume once the regular season begins.

Žižek's actual works are not easy to read. You need a good night's sleep, a strong cup of coffee, and some warm-up exercises before attempting to comprehend him. But, that is why tweeting @ZizekOnNFL is so funny. A critic, Geoffrey Galt Harpham, explains Žižek's style, in Wikipedia, as
"a stream of nonconsecutive units arranged in arbitrary sequences that solicit a sporadic and discontinuous attention."
I think Harpham is trying to say "It's hard to concentrate on that $h*! because it is so disorganized."

Here are a couple of @ZizekOnNFL tweets: 
As Lacan says, "transcending the Imaginary Time Outs, we arrive at the only truly Real T.O.: Terrell Owens. This realization is essential."
you say "asshole?" in america, i am correct? i think i have heard jerry jones say this term about almost everyone so i am confused a little
If Žižek really did follow the NFL and if Fox or NBC Sports would add him to their team of analysts, then I would turn on my television every Sunday to hear what the great Slovenian philosopher had to say.

Pack your bags, Bradshaw. Your days are numbered!

Monday, August 8, 2011


I've been inspired by Rick Perry's prayer fest. In fact, I am so feelin' the love that I need to get a little action on Rick Perry to be the Republican nominee; God is on his side. Or is God on Michele Bachman's side? That is the crux of the gambler's decision. Certainly, you want to be on God's side with your wager, but how do you know which candidate is truly God's choice. Whomever it is, they're a lock to win the nomination and naturally, also the presidency. See Bush, George W; 2000, 2004. In the English books Perry is currently the 2nd choice behind Mitt Romney, but Romney can be tossed. I'm not sure what the bookies are thinking; everybody knows that God is not a Mormon. That also excludes the 4th choice, Jon Huntsman. You could cover your bases and wager on both Bachman and Perry. But, what if, hypothetically, God does not really control the outcome of the election. I know that's hard to imagine since God, by definition, controls everything. As the song goes, "He's got the whole world in his hands." But what if ?

That reminds me of a joke:

Bob is just a regular church-going midwestern guy, minding his own business, mowing his lawn, when he hears a voice.
VOICE: Bob, sell your house, take the money and fly to Vegas.
Bob thinks he must be hearing things, must have something to do with the ringing in his ears from the lawnmower. He cuts the engine and massages his ear holes with his index fingers. All quiet, but before he can restart the mower, he hears the voice again.
VOICE: Bob, sell your house, take the money and fly to Vegas.
Bob: Who is this?
Bob: Why do you want me to sell my house and go to Vegas.
VOICE: Do not question God. Do as I command.
Bob: Okay.
So, Bob sells his house, take the entire proceeds in cash and flies to Las Vegas.
VOICE: Bob, go to Caesar's Palace, to the high limit table games area.
Once there,
VOICE: Bob, go to the roulette table, take all the cash, bet it on black.
Bob complies. The Pit Boss approves the bet. The dealer spins the wheel and throws the ball, which rolls and bounces around the wheel for few seconds before coming to rest.
DEALER: 12, Red.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Crack Cocaine of Gambling

Last night on 60 Minutes, Leslie Stahl assaulted former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell with that "I'm disappointed in you look," that indignant expression and disbelieving roll of the eyes that you normally get from a disappointed mother who thought she had done a better job raising her child. "Just because the other boys are doing it, doesn't make it right. Haven't I taught you anything!?" The ex-gov was trying to defend his decision to promote legal gambling in the state by explaining that if Pennsylvania didn't offer casino gambling, than it would lose that revenue to neighboring states. He failed to convince Stahl that he, or the state of Pennsylvania, really had no choice. Once the genie is out of the bottle, neighboring states are compelled to fight back, to compete for that revenue. Indiana and Pennsylvania have been huge winners; it was only a matter of time before Ohio got fed up watching its citizens flock across state lines to lose their social security checks when they could just as easily lose them at home. And New York City, the primary feeder market for Atlantic City, finally wised up and licensed their own monstrously large slot parlor at the Aqueduct race course in Queens. It's the domino theory. And in the Northeast, most of the dominoes have fallen.

The 60 Minutes segment was on the proliferation of gaming but mostly it was an exposé (hatchet job?) based on the alleged highly addictive design of penny slots, and their role as the primary weapon for state-sponsored, predatory gambling. "More people are addicted to slot machines than any other form of gambling," reported Stahl. Really? And more people play slot machines than any other game, too; i's not even close. Why? The same reason that people watch TV rather than read or go for a bike ride; it's easy and doesn't require any thought or effort. ( I wonder if the writers of the piece considered video poker to be slots, because video poker appears to be the most addictive game in the casino.)

Leslie chastised Howard Shaffer, a Harvard MD who defends gaming, for once having made the statement that "slot machines were the crack cocaine of gambling." Shaffer feebly defended himself by asserting that most people who try crack cocaine don't become addicted. But that surely is a phrase he wish he'd never uttered. It carries a heavy payload. Once you call anything the "crack cocaine of..." there's no taking that back. And it implies a lot more than mere addiction: like physical and financial ruin and exploitation of the poor and uneducated. Crack cocaine is very wrong, much more addictive, much more ruinous; much more wrong than plain old cocaine. Isn't it?

 Coincidentally, I ran across that same expression in the August issue of Harper's Magazine, in "The Luckiest Woman on Earth" by Nathaniel Rich, a story about Texas Lottery scratch cards, on which one "exceptionally lucky" person had won 4 times, a total over $20 million, at estimated odds of 18 septillion to one. Those are the kind of odds that quantum physics gives me of walking through a wall. But that's not the point. The point is the highly addictive and regressive nature of scratch cards. I'll give you one guess what scratch cards are: "the crack cocaine of...."

According to a study commissioned by the Lottery in 2006, the more education a person  has, the fewer dollars he or she spends on the lottery, and the demographic differences are even starker whan it comes to scratch-off games. " Scratch-off tickets are to the lottery what crack is to cocaine," said a Democratic state senator from El Paso when the $50 tickets were introduced.

Shame on scratch cards.

Gambling is no panacea; it brings with in lots of social problems. But, to single out one game as the "crack cocaine of..." seems biased. What if Pennsylvania banned penny slots and Texas banned scratch cards. Would some other game fill their places as "the crack cocaine of gambling." No doubt, because there will always be gambling addicts and whatever game they chose to be the source of their ruin will be the new "crack cocaine."

Dirk Hansen blogged about pathological gaming a few weeks ago. He referenced Howard Shaffer's article in in the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, and gave a much more nuanced view than 60 Minutes. One of the most surprising points about addiction does not jibe at all with what Leslie Stahl was saying:
In the traditional view, pathological gambling was a matter of exposure to the proper stimuli—it could happen to anyone.  But as more and more gambling outlets and opportunities bloomed in Nevada, on reservations and riverboats, and in convenience stores, that view began to fall out of favor, because a funny thing happened. According to Shaffer and Martin, the prevalence of pathological gambling has remained stable over the past 35 years, even as opportunities to gamble have exploded. The lifetime prevalence rate of pathological gambling in the U.S. in the mid-1970s was 0.7%, say the authors, and by 2005, U.S. lifetime rates had actually fallen slightly, to 0.6% or less. Where was the concomitant explosion in the number of pathological gamblers? 
Seems counterintuitive. Maybe Shaffer is right, but what Leslie Stahl says seems more common sensisical. Plus, she has that voice of authority.