LAS VEGAS — The Bruins had a bye, the Trojans were in Seattle, and so I thought it would be a good weekend to bond with the daughters, the wife and even the grocery store bagger, everyone coming here to bet on football.
So the whole family piled into my car, the grocery store bagger following in his own vehicle, of course, and driving so well, it made it almost impossible to lose him.
Before the discovery of cell phones, it must have been easier to ditch future sons-in-law, but he found us at the MGM, the bonding experience taking a troubling turn when I learned the girls would be rooming together in one room, the guys in another. I suppose it could have been worse.
"YO, POPS," the grocery store bagger said, and at that moment, I'd have jumped at the chance to leave and go on a two-week trip with the Kings. "You and me--we'll get some brewskies, kick back, compare notes."
Well, I'm saying to myself, what's he talking about? I shop at the same Ralphs where the grocery store bagger works, so it's not as if we're going to disagree on the price of Rice Krispies.
"I'm thinking the Giants are a lock to beat the Redskins," he said, and I'm thinking I spent $98,412.53 on my daughter's college education--loans that won't be paid off until at least 2011--and this is what I get in return.
"Who knows," the grocery store bagger said, "maybe you can win enough to pay for the wedding."
IT'S ONE thing to write about sports and throw around opinions, and quite another to get permission from your wife to use your own money to bet on games.
But I assured her I had done my homework, and I know one sure thing in sports--the best jockeys get the best horses to ride. So who is the best jockey in football?
"Doug Flutie," she said. "If you're serious about betting on the Chargers to go the distance, it'd be nice to know how many of the them are first-time Lasix users."
Try living with her ...
"You know, Phil Mickelson picked the Chargers to win," she said. "And he knows what he's talking about."
Mickelson, of course, is a golfer who bet $500 that Jim Furyk would hole a bunker shot in a playoff with Tiger Woods earlier this year, and Furyk made the shot. He also bet Baltimore would win last year's Super Bowl before the season began, grew up in San Diego and went on the Dan Patrick radio show this week to say he's picking the Chargers over the Browns.
Because it's a regular-season game and it doesn't qualify as anything "major," there's no concern here that Mickelson might be choking.
NOW THE experts tell you it's a mistake to bet with your heart, my heart screaming at me every waking moment of my life to root against the Chargers.
But this week Las Vegas has San Diego listed as a 15-1 shot to win the Super Bowl, while this week's opponent for the Chargers, Cleveland, is 70-1. I believe Vegas is giving me a clue to go big on the Mission Bay Shrimp today.
I thought about betting the house on San Diego, but with Downey Savings really owning it, the only way I was going to make big money here was to play a parlay card, 11 for 11 paying 1,500 to 1.
I took the Chargers--giving 31/2 points to Cleveland and while I could have added USC in there to start putting together my parlay card, Coach Pete Carroll said his players aren't very good, and he should know.
I filled my 11-team parlay card with the list of teams that have threatened to move to L.A. over the years, including the Raiders. Just cover, baby.
THE GROCERY store bagger wanted me to bet Pittsburgh. I wanted the grocery store bagger to go away. For the longest time I was betting he would.
But I was betting with my heart, so now I'm sitting here in the sports book with a fresh brewski, kicking back, bonding with someone who begins every sentence saying, "Yo, Pops," while betting on the Chargers because the choker picked them, and telling people, "I just love the Raiders today."
Where did I go wrong?
I THINK it would be a nice Babe Ruth gesture, now that Chan Ho Park is making a career of delivering historic homers to Cal Ripken and Barry Bonds to add to the suspense by pointing to the fences when he takes the mound.
YOU CAN imagine Fox's excitement Saturday, broadcasting the Dodger-Giant baseball game of the week, the Giants eliminated from the playoffs the night before, Bonds breaking the record the night before, and Bonds not in the starting lineup.
They did have plenty of James Baldwin highlights, though.
CALIFORNIA GOV. Gray Davis declared Saturday "Barry Bonds Day," so we could be reminded who the governor is.
THE ANGELS have an option on Troy Percival that allows them to sign him to a $5.25-million deal next year, which now has Percival whining about not being treated properly. I believe closers should be seen and not heard.
NBC'S PAT Haden, asked Saturday by his broadcasting partner why Miami would be playing Troy State, replied, "I don't have no answer for that." I don't have no idea why a Rhodes scholar wouldn't have no answer for that.
ABC'S BRENT Musburger during the Oklahoma-Texas game: "This game, folks, is for men only."
I immediately told my wife she had to leave the room.
TODAY'S LAST word comes in an e-mail from Paul:
\o7 "You find hockey boring. My students find "Beowulf" boring. That which we cannot possibly understand bores us."
\f7 I don't understand your e-mail.
\o7 T.J. Simers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.