Sunday, February 4, 2018

Rugby for fairies...the Minny Bowl

One thing that Bokolis just cannot stomach about the NFL is the way it allows for people other than players to decide the outcome.  Almost on cue, we were thrown today's Liverpool-Tottenham match.  The way that disaster played out, it almost conditions us for some nonsense to happen in tonight's super bowl.

Eagles (+4.5) over Patriots -  The playoff season is sitting at 5-4-1 (6-4 really), meaning Bokolis must hit this game to say I've done something this playoff season.  As such, I cannot cop out by offering what I'd do in real life, which is to buy two points on both sides and play Patriots -2.5 and Eagles +6.5, hoping to hit the middle while laying 3-2 odds on each side.

Even with two weeks to sit on this, Bokolis has a weird feel on this game.  Similarly to how I felt about about the second Giants-Patriots matchup, the sense I have is that the Eagles will play at least as well as the Patriots in this game, but it just won't work out for them.  Of course, the Giants wound up winning/covering that game, but it was as close as Wes Welker getting two hands on a pass he couldn't hold to going the other way.

After the fiasco of last year's super bowl, where the vagaries of the NFL allowed for a team that was mauled for three quarters to win the game, it is quite easy to succumb to the notion that the Patriots will find a way to scam themselves another championship.

It may indeed play out that way, but Bokolis is going to bank on the Eagles staying close regardless.  I'm also asking the Eagles to keep up the effort they've put in during their home playoff games and asking Foles to continue his uptrend.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Underdog Masks dot com

Just like the last Super Bowl, the early game went almost exactly as Bokolis had envisioned it.  The Jaguars roughed up the Patriots.  Nonetheless, some friendly officiating and the Patriots' efficiency delivered the game to the Patriots.  It sort of helped that they knew the way home a little better. When a team loses but covers for you, it's always a fond farewell.

Bokolis believed that people were sleeping on Foles, that they forgot that he once tore up the league for a season.  After I posted the predictions, I surfed around long enough to find the NFL network lineup of talking ex-jocks (mostly) pick the Vikings.  It gave Bokolis more confidence.  When I then heard that dome teams were 0-12 when playing the conference championship outdoors, I had a hearty chuckle to myself and remembered what the Giants did to the Vikings years back...but I still didn't expect a train-run like this.

Bokolis sweeps the conference championship round and brings the playoff performance back into the black at 5-4-1.  More pointedly, the underdogs are 9-1 in the playoffs.

The Eagles performance has brought the early line down to 5.5 after early indications at 7.5 and eventually opening at 6.  Predicting where it will end up (7?) is likely a fruitless endeavor.  It might be a better idea to corner the market for Underdog masks.


UPDATE: As of 1210 (UTC, that's 0710 on the east coast), the line has dropped to Patriots giving 5.  It's almost obligatory to buy the Patriots down to -3 and wait/hope for the line to move back up during the two weeks.

For the uninitiated, "buying" points involves laying odds to get a more amenable point spread.  On a standard play, the odds are typically such that you have to lay 110 to win 100.  Each 1/2 point you buy will increase those odds by 10, and you'll typically be allowed to buy up to two points.  To use the present example, buying the Patriots down to -3 would mean laying 150 to win 100 (or 3/2).

While this strategy is available for most point spreads, it is most often used when the line is at an awkward number, like anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 and from 4.5 to 5.5.  Some people will also buy a -3 down to -2.5.  As they say, your mileage may vary.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Oh-fer crying out loud

In something that NEVER happens, Bokolis took a bath in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.  Atlanta didn't fire enough to match the Eagles' effort.  The Titans were a (bad performance/bad-calls) throwaway, as I wouldn't go near a game like that.  While I typically avoid the Steelers because they never do as I want, who knew Jacksonville would be Pittsburgh's Trap Game!

Finally, we get to the nonsensical end of the Saints-Vikings.  Too many NFL playoff games are being decided on stupidity for Bokolis' taste.  That's the way it seems, anyway.  Because I had a buddy of mine- a real firestarter- call me (right before the final drive) the to tell me he had found himself partying amongst (strangers) a group of Vikings fans, I had to put on the reverse malocchio -otherwise known as an Act of Bokolis- to make sure he could keep the party going.  Hey, the guy means that much to Bokolis.

Unlike an Act of God- an Act of Bokolis often gets you more than you've bargained for.  An Act of God more likely would've resulted in a fiel...who are we kidding- God doesn't give a shit about football, and he doesn't give a fuck about the NFL.

Now, while Bokolis had listed the line at Vikings -5 at the time of the post, the game went off at -5.5. While the Vikings humanely taking a knee on the eventual point after try made for a cash, for the purposes of this narrative, it was a push.  Therefore, the 0-3-1 week puts the playoff season at 3-4-1.

Chastened, Bokolis moves on.

Jaguars (+8) over PATRIOTS - They have suckered Bokolis in with this Tom Brady hand caper.   I presume they've got eyes on those pigskins and a pressure gauge handy.  Actually, I want to believe the Jaguars defense will hit and harass enough to make this a dogfight, and that the Patriots ruthless all-around efficiency will merely be enough to pull them through, not pull away.

EAGLES (+3) over Vikings - Both teams lucked out last week, the Vikings to an infinitely larger degree.  The Eagles caught a ball off a knee, but played defense like studs and stopped the Falcons when they had to.  That is something the Vikings cannot claim, as their luck simply avoided them pissing away another playoff game.  The line here is based on the subjective view of the QBs.  Bokolis sees this as close to even, so I'll take the home team and the points.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Rugby for fairies- 2017 Divisional Round

3-1 heading into the divisional round and looking for more of the same, Bokolis spent less than the 10 minutes allotted to ruminating on the Titans-Pats number on ANY playoff thought this week.  It took about 20 minutes to write this- double the thought!

Falcons (-3) over EAGLES - 2.5 is certainly available, but 3 is listed for these purposes.  The factors here are, whether a second road game- on a second coast- will be too taxing on the Falcons or, whether the bye week was enough to install a playbook that Foles can execute.  Bokolis figures that the wind's effects will bog down the Falcons, but will put more pressure on Foles, as the Falcons will stack the box and dare the Eagles to pass if Foles doesn't show he can hang.  The experience and the more certain QB should win out here.

Titans (+13.5) over PATRIOTS - Don't the Patriots typically come out and shell an opponent when scandals surface in the media?  With coordinators running around interviewing for other jobs, this feels like a time when enough people will stop giving a fuck for long enough for the Titans to hang in.

STEELERS (-7) over Jaguars - Typically, when the Steelers get smoked by a team, they are usually keen to take them out the next time they play.  Bokolis also surmises that part of that Jaguars victory earlier this season was down to the relative emphasis placed on the game by both sides and that, this time, with the season on the line, the Steelers will be suitably motivated to put it on the Jags.

Saints (+5) over VIKINGS - When this line opened at 3.5, it seemed light, as Bokolis expected 6.  The Saints defense showed enough lapses against Carolina to warrant an increase in the expected production of the Vikings.  The line indeed has moved toward the expected number.  But this is likely a mistake, as the lapses came with a relatively comfortable lead and the Saints held the only time it was absolutely necessary.  With Brees in a dome and expected to hum along, the Vikings will have to prove that they can handle the stage and not choke away another playoff game.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

2017 Wild Cards to trip aces

Bokolis bangs out a 3-1 wild card round, only getting tripped up by some soft Saints defending down the stretch.


You can whinge about the Titans being (more often) on the right side of some dodgy officiating.  Bokolis prefers to see this as Andy Reid getting hungry and swallowing the useful part of his playbook.  After all, the motivation for picking against the Chiefs is that Andy Reid always does this and the Chiefs having lost five consecutive home playoff games.

While the Titans were struggling to find their feet, at least they were tackling.  If you have that, you'll always have a shot.  Bokolis always says that this game is 90% hitting, so I was thinking, like the Ravens did to Jamaal Charles when he was running free on them a few playoffs ago and flipped the game, it's time to put one on that little muthafucka Tyreek Hill.  The Titans did one better, doing the honors on Kelce, spooking and chastening Andy Reid in the process.

The Chiefs had a 18-point lead at the half.  The officials were no help, but the coaching lost them this game.


The Falcons victory was so straightforward that Bokolis didn't even lock in on this game.  It was said that first-time playoff QBs were 1-10 in the last 11, with that one win coming against another first time starter.  It was also said during the week that the Falcons came to work all-business this week.  There might have been something to that, as, right from the beginning, you could see the Rams were not fully there.  The inefficiency in the passing game was comprehensive, as everything seemed off the whole time.  The Falcons, far from explosive on offense themselves, did what was necessary to keep the ball moving and let their defense deliver.


Speaking of inefficiency, the Jaguars and the Bills were all the worst parts of Andy Reid's playbook.  Speaking of first-time playoff QBs, we had two in this game. If there was a game where the line was too high, this was it.  There was one touchdown, scored on 4th and goal, and it had to survive a review.

Bortles was most only effective running.  Given that he couldn't make an accurate pass when guys were open and wasn't taking chances down the field, it was strange that the Bills didn't account for his running.

But Bokolis doesn't want to be harsh; if you give up 10 points in the sun, you expect to win.  But the Bills had QB, Bokolis doesn't even know his name, who I wouldn't let that guy QB in the family Thanksgiving game, much less in a NFL playoff game.  With a hobbled McCoy to boot, it seemed like half the Buffalo first downs were by accident.  When they did break off a run, there was holding.  When the QB was slammed to the ground on the final drive and the backup came in, I joked that the in-game money line on the Bills must be +10 million and that he was more likely to throw one for six the other way to blow the cover.

Luckily, the DB didn't catch it cleanly and had to go to ground to complete(?) the interception.


Bokolis thought that the Saints would win this game by 10-11 points.  When they were up 14-3 even though the Panthers had done reasonably well on (passing) offense, I had this one in the bag.  At 21-9 and, with the theme continuing, I spent halftime looking for the bow.  But, the game was at an inflection point, especially with the Panthers receiving the kickoff.

We got to the 4th quarter at 24-12.  The Panthers soon had a 3rd and short inside Saints territory.  Because, from the living room, Bokolis knows everything and anything, it smelled like a play-action pass.

Olsen got a clean release, picked up 20 or so yards, then subsequently caught his touchdown.  On the TD, it was so obvious to Bokolis that this was where the play was going that I wondered why the safety didn't rotate (and why the slot guy lined up on Olsen doesn't see that).  Newton has shown a marked bias towards his tight ends in the best of times; he is certainly going to favor Olsen here.

After the Saints restored 'parity' and, with another receiver out of the game, they again decided that there was someone to cover other than Olsen and McCaffrey.  They left a linebacker on the latter, who promptly shook his marker and scampered another 50 yards to the endzone.

They had to figure out how to hang a loss on Bokolis somehow.   It's on to the divisional round.  While the AFC will feature nobility at home and big numbers, the NFC will be wide open.  I will spend the next week- about 10 minutes of it, anyway- deliberating over whether to lay the two touchdowns on New England.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Let's play Rugby for Fairies: 2017 postseason WC round

While people have been dropping the NFL left and right, Bokolis actually hung in for a good deal of the year.  Whereas I felt the play was actually better and more exciting than it had been for a large part of the season, people have found reason to reconsider their commitment to the NFL.

Maybe it's all the talking heads deliberately saying "Jagwires" - as if those 'dilly-dilly' commercials aren't insulting enough to our intelligence- driving people away.

The ideologue crazies would have you believe that it's all down to players kneeling during the anthem; that's just the normal cycle of racists coming and going.

But, it did move many people to consider and assess what they are supporting, including the product.  Further, by (sometimes) programming four games on Sunday and, with the Thursday and Monday games, the NFL has breached the saturation point, giving the audience a reason to skip games.  A sizable portion of the audience then realizes it isn't missing much, and all this might possibly be a big fucking waste of a Sunday.

Nonetheless, Bokolis saw some attractive fairy rugby.  I saw several excellent games in matchups involving the Rams.  While I didn't want to see him get hurt, I was kind of glad Rodgers was out of the picture, as his almost mechanically-good decision making, scrambles on third down when no one is open and endgame maneuvering gets to be off-putting.

It is also that the Packers are part of NFL nobility, and the calls that brings.  This season's playoffs feature only two teams with this distinction.  Between the Bills, Jaguars, Rams and Titans, we have a host of infrequent participants, which may just freshen up the tournament.

It's no surprise, however, that the Patriots and Steelers are first and third-favorites to win the Super Bowl; the only reason the Vikings are second-favorites is because, should they make it that far, the Super Bowl may well be the third consecutive game they would play in the same arena, their home field.

The Eagles will have something to say about that.  But, with the Wentz wagon having busted a wheel and the Foles ferry looking like a bumpy ride, they are the top seed in name only.

That's an issue for next week.  This week we have the dilettantes.  Bokolis is kind enough to offer his predictions for the wild card round.  Because of that rigged Super Bowl- which one? heh, the latest one- last year was the first one in many that I didn't send y'all to the window.

Regardless, keep in mind that these picks are worth about what was paid to view them.  With the analysis that follows, Bokolis might characterize this the deal of the century.  Given my historical record in the wild card round, the talk is unnecessary.

Titans (+8.5) over CHIEFS - Titans have dipped in form and are missing a RB...bah, too many points.
Falcons (+6) over RAMS - Rams QB first playoff game...bah, too many points
Bills (+8) over Jaguars - The Jags are pretty good...bah, too many points
SAINTS (-7) over Panthers - Unless Newton calls his own number every play...Saints already waxed the Panthers twice.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Waybach Machine: Romania vs Sweden 1994

Occasionally, Bokolis will jump in the Waybach and go for a ride.  This time around, we go to 1994, the quarterfinals of the World Cup; Romania vs Sweden, July 10, Stanford Stadium.

Everybody has random people who, for reasons that matter only to them, hold special places in their hearts.  For Bokolis, that roster includes Kennet Andersson and Thomas Ravelli.  I was told that Andersson jumped 15 feet in the air to head that ball into the net...and that's kind of how I would like to have imagined it.

Back in the day, Bokolis miiight have had a few fazools riding on this match.  The only thing I'd ever seen was the instances of the goal seen in the video above and Ravelli running off with his fist raised after saving the final spot kick.  I gather that this game must have been eminently forgettable to any neutral.

It was a Sunday afternoon.  I was already preparing myself for a life after gambling, so I was trying to find other things to do.  In this case, it was the beach.  This specific day was not your typical lay-out-and-eyeball-babes, but rather (I was roped into) an outing with many other people.

For further background, Bokolis was doing exceptionally well at this World Cup.  It was helping me re-fund after an absolute horrid prior nine months.  By the time of the this match, I was a decent way towards backfilling my way out of the hole. 
But the ground was always shaky. 
It really was mean reversion- after months of rough going, Bokolis was on fire, on the right side of it for once.  There was some expertise in it, too.  For the most part, I had been feasting on low-hanging fruit during the group stage, like fading Columbia and Greece, both of which I knew to be shit.  I jumped on lopsided matchups and snuck in a few draws, which always pay nicely. 
But the ground was always shaky. 
Bokolis hit every match I played in the group stage, but I couldn't play every match.  While I knew Brazil to be the top side, they certainly weren't vintage and were prohibitive favorites in every match.  Also, keep in mind that this was 1994 in America- it serious work to get any football information, never mind coverage/match footage.  whatthefuck were we supposed to know about Morocco, Bolivia, Russia and Switzerland when we had a hard enough time getting games of Argentina or the Netherlands! 
Bokolis had a hard enough time objectively determining whether Gheorghe Hagi was as good as they say he was.  While they pumped him up as a number 10, I thought he was more of a engine-room midfielder.  Bolivia had some guy called Erwin "Platini" Sanchez, which, after seeing him play, was quite the stretch- granted, that one wasn't as difficult to presume.  But,  I was supposed to determine whether Mustapha Hadji was good?!? 
In the round of 16, the only loss in a 4-1 turn was Nigeria.  Bokolis had taken a stand against what I perceived to be a weak Italy side with a hobbled Roberto Baggio somewhat out of favor with the coach.  I was almost home, but il Codino foiled me- fucker, it would have paid so nicely. 
But the ground was always shaky.
Being on the right side of both Saturday quarterfinals emboldened Bokolis to raise the stakes on the Sunday matches.  But, I caught the bad one when Germany inexplicably pissed away the match to Bulgaria.  Taking another hit would've undone much of what was built up.

Bokolis forgets how I'd gotten wind of the Germany result.  I didn't watch the game.  While the outing was outdoors, it was large enough that someone had a portable television.  More likely, it was my running partner getting a hold of me.  I was told Stoichkov hit a bomb of a free kick- after seeing it, the kick was nothing special, merely a decent curler against a badly positioned keeper.  He was almost as culpable on the second.  Bodo Ilgner now hosts a show on BeIn Sports...fitting.

Romania-Sweden was a tossup, both as a matchup and at the windows.  Since a little bit more was riding on the result, Bokolis needed to be in touch with this game.  As stated above, I was preparing for life after gambling, but it was a process.  For this game, I pulled out the portable radio.  Whatthefuck are you talking about asshole- they don't broadcast soccer games on American radio.  They do for the Spanish speakers, pendejo.  As my Spanish was on point back in those days, I could understand most of what they were saying, unless they spoke Puerto Rican-speed.

So, yes, Bokolis sat on the beach listening to a soccer match in Spanish on the radio.  Sweden scored in the first half- on what I now know was a well-worked free kick.  As time went on and full time approached, that Spanish started sounding more like mumbo-jumbo- I count my money in English, putos.

They spoke faster than the clock, for they announced a goal for Romania.  This, Bokolis now knows, was not as well-worked a free kick.  It deflected and fell kindly to Florin Radicioiu, who, rather than atrophying from being surplus at AC Milan, was plenty fresh to pounce and finish.

The match went to extra time.  By this point, Bokolis could no longer understand Spanish.  Soon enough, I hear, gooooooooolll de Roma-nia!  It was Radicioiu again.  No sooner that I'd stopped cursing, wait- what?  Somebody was sent off?  From Sweden?!?  Oh, shit!

Despair set in.  Radicioiu, in the right place to capitalize on a weak touch by a defender, slotted home his gift.  Stefan Schwarz was then sent off for a cynical foul on Radicioiu to stop a counterattack.  Listening to a Spanish language radio broadcast, it was easy to figure, I'm sunk.

Schwarz wasn't going to be missed.  At this point, Sweden's plan was to bomb balls into the 6'4" Kennet Andersson.  The full eleven wasn't necessary.

This brings us to the embedded video.  Gooooooooooolll de Suecia.  Bokolis goes crazy on the beach.  Luckily, I had the good sense to sit far away from anyone.  Andersson was 15 feet in the air for sure...for sure!  I'll further ruin the memory by breaking down the tape.

Just before the throw in, you can see the Romanian back line in its proper form, virtually a straight line across.  Allegedly, they opened in a 3-5-2 formation but, by this time, there are four at the back.  They had likely switched to a 4-5-1, with Radicioiu up top.  Since the only substitution was a like-for-like midfielders, at least one man is playing out of his nominal position. 
The best guess is that Sweden was in a 3-3-3, with another man bombing forward because of the throw in. 
You also see four other Romanian players; three are midfielders and one is a forward player who is not Radicioiu in a box around a potential target, Hakan Mild.  What is important to understand is that Romania is now seriously out of position. 
This setup dissuades (probably Klas Ingesson), who instead throws it in to Roland Nilsson, who has come all the way over from right back, able to do this because of the void left by the bad Romanian positioning.  The Romanian playing the left side of midfield comes over to track Nilsson (or sneak up from behind), meaning all five Romanian midfielders are on one side of the field. 
Nilsson has turned in time to spot the pressure.  You'll notice that, of the four Romanians previously in a box around Mild, two drift into a useless position and one can't be bothered to be involved in the action.  Only #5, Lupescu, seems interested. 
Nilsson tries to play a one-two with Kennet Andersson, who has come back in the hole from his centre forward position.  He has successfully sucked out the centre half Belodedici, who was probably better served to give Andersson his space in that position with his back to goal and leave it to the midfielders. 
Nilsson slips his marker to take the return pass from Andersson, but the return pass is short and Nilsson has to deal with the onrushing Belodedici, who has come off of Andersson to challenge the imprecise return pass. 
In this time, the midfielder who came over to pressure Nilsson has now given up on the play and is walking.  So, of the five midfielders, two are in a useless position and two others- one of whom is Hagi- are walking. 
Belodedici, already sucked out to tend to Andersson, has gone out even further to see about winning the short return pass.  The thought of being so far from his goal is too much for him to bear; he is not fully committed and only does enough to force Nilsson to take a heavy (retreating) touch to keep the ball before turning to get back to his line while motioning for a midfielder to deal with it. 
The only one available is Lupescu, who had drifted into the space Belodedici had vacated.  By this time, Nilsson had retrieved, retreated and settled, and was now in a customary attacking position for a right back, with plenty of space.  To boot, with Lupescu and Belodedici switching, they have lost track of Andersson.  Nilsson floats in a pass that Andersson easily finishes. 
While the present day goalkeepers are quasi-sweepers who will come well off their lines to get to a ball, in 1994, even national team keepers were comparative spazzes.  Similarly to how, in baseball, they made the fat kid the catcher, outside of Italy and Lev Yashin, the goalkeeper was usually the guy crazy enough to want to do it. 
While today's keeper would never let an attacker get to an angled cross at the 6-yard box, especially if he knows his defenders are out of position, you couldn't always count on 1994 keepers to do the same.  Romania's Florin Prunea was no match for Kennet Andersson.  Belodedici didn't have enough time to re-engage with Andersson and Daniel Prodan apparently wanted no part of it. 
Not shown is that, a moment before, Patrik Andersson- no relation- flipped the ball to (probably Ingesson) to take the throw.  As this Andersson is a defender, you can see him retreating at the very beginning of the clip.  He apparently saw this defensive setup and wanted no part of it.  Talk about serendipity! 
Also not shown, to be fair to Prunea, is that he subsequently made two massive saves to keep Romania in it.  Kennet Andersson latched on to an over-the-top ball to fire first time.  Prunea dove to his right to save it.  The ball had too much force for Henrik Larsson to redirect the rebound, and he had to take a touch to settle.  This gave Prunea time to close the distance and bravely get in front of Larsson's eventual shot.
Those were still days when players smoked cigarettes and Bokolis guesses that, the way they dragged ass in those final minutes, even while up a man, most of those Romanians were smokers.

They went to spot kicks to decide it.  Sweden missed the first one, as Mild Jaap Stam-ed it.  Ravelli saved one along the way.  They were 4-4 after the requisite and, after Larsson converted, it was left to Belodedici to prolong the match.  Ravelli saved and Bokolis, tension eased, did a little jig on the beach.

It took a few players doing the right thing, many players doing the wrong thing and some serendipitous convergence of events and circumstances to get Bokolis on the right side of this match.  I suppose it remains so memorable to me because it was one of the few times that winning felt as good as losing felt bad.  In the larger context, it was part of the "correction" of a really bad run and part of the last days, which culminated the following Sunday.

That is entirely another story.