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My Accidental Moment of Happiness

Posted by on Jan 26, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Personal | 0 comments

 

 

Much of my life has been dedicated to selfish pursuits.

Gambling.  Making money.  Pursuing opportunity.  Drinking fine wine.  Enjoying leisure.

I don’t like to admit this, but it’s true.

Age and wisdom aren’t necessarily linked.  There are no guarantees that as one gets further from the beginning and closer to the end some great enlightenment awaits us with open arms.  But I do believe compassion is an evolutionary by-product of getting older.

I was lucky to marry someone better than myself 26 years ago.  She made me do things I initially didn’t want to do and didn’t like to do.  Over time, I came to not only appreciate these forced distractions.  I began to value them as an absolute necessity.

Charity isn’t something I’ve written much about.  I don’t believe giving of either one’s time or money should be publicized by those who do good deeds.  Calling attention to oneself for volunteering or making a donation strikes me as a tainted benevolence.  Yes, it’s a good thing.  But the motives are suspect.  I realize not everyone will agree with me and that spotlighting acts of kindness can promote even more giving.  I totally get that.

With that disclaimer, I’ll share two deeds with you now — one big and one small.

The bigger act of charity was entirely Marieta’s idea.  It was an accident, really.  I can’t elaborate too much on the particulars because there are some risks.  If too many details were divulged on social media, I could kill the golden goose of charity.  So, I will be intentionally vague for reasons hopefully understood.

Last week, Marieta and I delivered our 150th shipment of produce (fruits and vegetables) to those less fortunate here in Las Vegas.  Sometime in 2012, Marieta established a connection with a supplier who was about to throw out boxes filled with “old” food — like carrots, corn, potatoes, celery, etc. — which were about to expire.  By law, they had to trash the stuff before its expiration dates.  Rather than toss away perfectly healthy food, Marieta went out of her way to establish a network of contacts which got the fruits and vegetables to a countless number of needy families, including a local shelter.  About once a week, we deliver 6-10 boxes to various people who do good work for hungry people.  Sometimes, the people come to our house and pick the boxes up after Marieta has gathered them.  This isn’t a sacrifice for me.  Marieta does all the work.

Before anyone accuses me of false modesty, let me make it clear my generosity has its limitations.  A few years ago, I wrote about my dear friends Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher and the sacrifices they make during the holidays.  Every Christmas morning, going back many consecutive years, Linda and Jan drive downtown and set up a table where they give away boxes of clothing to homeless people.  They arrive at 6 am.  This past Christmas, it was 34 degrees outside at that hour.  My reaction is — I love Linda  and Jan and love what they do.  But I’d rather be at home in a warm bed.  Call me a dog.

I tell this story about giving away the boxes of food because it happened entirely by accident.  We didn’t wake up one day and decide to start helping people.  It kinda’ just happened.

Here’s a picture of the back of the car I took some time ago which shows the typical “shipment.”

 

 

The smaller act of charity was also an accident.  Here’s what happened.

I woke up yesterday morning and was greeted by one of those annoying pop ups on Facebook which asked me if I wanted to set up something called a “birthday fundraiser.”

I almost deleted this on the spot but then got to thinking.  Birthdays don’t thrill me (not with #56 approaching).  I don’t send birthday greetings to anyone.  It’s just another day to me.  I don’t care.

However, every February 6th — I receive hundreds of birthday wishes, all by friends and family and associates who mean well.  I do appreciate these kind thoughts.  I really do.  I just don’t fancy the ritual and routine of it all.  If I could delete this invasion of privacy, I probably would.

So, I decided to use the Facebook prompt and set up a “fundraiser.”  I presumed that in lieu of the usual birthday balloons which kinda’ scream — “hey, look at me!” — instead all that attention would go to the charity I picked.

I’m a cynic.  I’ve bashed countless “charities.”  I am suspicious by nature.  But another accident happened to me about 15 years ago while I was working a major poker event in Tunica, near Memphis.  I got to visit the local St. Jude Children’s Hospital.  That was a life changing experience that brings a tear to my eye as I write this sentence constructed upon that faint memory of a cold January 2001 day.  I learned that everything at St. Jude is free.  The children are given every available treatment.  The families are even housed free of charge.  Meals are provided.  This was the charity founded by the great entertainer Danny Thomas, now chaired by his daughter, Marlo Thomas (best known as “That Girl!”).  I don’t believe in god.  I don’t believe in saints.  But I believe St. Jude does god-like miracles for people who could sure use a miracle.

That’s why I picked St. Jude.  [Note:  Contrary to its name and the late Danny Thomas’ strong Catholic faith, St. Jude is not affiliated with any religious organization.]

So, I hit the “approve” button and expected the post to appear on February 6th.

Well, of course it hit the page instantly.

Annoyed by this, I tried to go back and delete it.  How ridiculous this all seemed.  Me posting a request for money nearly two weeks before my birthday.  I was mad, actually.

Then, before I could delete the page, I noticed someone had already hit the link and sent in $20.  John W. L. Berry might not know it, but his quick reflexes was another “accident” of good fortune.  Oh well, cat’s out of the bag.  They are already donating.  What have I done?

Shit.

I set the fundraising bar modestly low.  Not wanting to making some major campaign out of this, I figured a couple of hundred dollars would be a nice nest egg of a donation — each and every penny going straight to St. Jude.  Well, it’s been 24 hours now, and so far 14 nice people have made a donation.  Here’s the very thoughtful people who sent a donation in to St. Jude:

Earl Burton, Ken Kubey, Marissa Chien, Larry Greenfield, Tom Booker, Michael Hunter, Matthew Moring, John W.L. Berry, John Butremovic, Bruce Frank, Dave Tuley, Jennifer Winter, Brad Willis, and Ross Poppel

Thank you.

The $200 fundraising goal was obliterated within the first hour.  Now, another 11 days remain to raise a few extra dollars.  Every little bit counts.  See the link to the “accidental” Facebook page below.

This all got me to thinking about what the sum of $200 raised means to just one family at St. Jude.  It likely means housing and feeding them for a day, with a little left over to spare.  Just a day.  It’s small.  But’s it big.

Sure, we need more big acts of charity.  But we also need small acts of charity, which are easier and can be done with little or no sacrifice.  A parting thought — if there are enough small acts, it can even become a big act.

Here’s a link to the the accidental Facebook page I created should you wish to give a small donation to this wonderful charity that helps so many children and their families.  CLICK HERE

 

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Smart Money and the Super Bowl (Don’t be impressed by lots of 000’s)

Posted by on Jan 25, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Travel | 3 comments

 

 

I don’t give a damn who the millionaire bet on.  What I want to know is — what bets did my friend with the $9 knapsack make?

 

A few years ago, a highly-respected sports-gambler and associate of mine (who shall remain nameless unless he wishes to identify himself) used to fly into Las Vegas for just one reason — to bet on the Super Bowl game.  He’d show up at the Westgate Sportsbook on the big night when all the Super Bowl props were first released.

The Westgate (formally the Las Vegas Hilton) was and remains the bellweather of Super Bowl propositions.  They post hundreds of creative props — on everything from the coin flip to what the exact time the game would end.  Props have became more exotic in recent years.  Now, you can even wager on the odds of something happening in the Super Bowl positioned versus the outcome of another sporting event in a different part of the world (including — basketball, hockey, golf, and even soccer).

Example:  Will there be more interceptions thrown in the Super Bowl or goals scored in the English Premier’s Liverpool-Tottenham match?  More Interceptions is Listed at -145.

My friend, who made quite a successful living exploiting margins wherever he could find them in any form, would usually show up carrying a $9 knapsack.  But that knapsack was worth far more for what it contained inside.  Some years, he’d come into the casino staked with $250,000 — all in cash.

He had a routine.  A clever plan was necessary because it was practically impossible to get down that much action on the very juiciest betting props, those obscure and often absurd betting exotics that most typical football fans wouldn’t notice.  My friend couldn’t walk up to the betting window and plunk down $60,000 on the number of catches by a tight end.  No casino, not even the Westgate Sportsbook, would accept that volume of action (not all at once).  Hence, $1,000 and $2,000 limits were usually the norm for most props (this varies today).

A far more annoying obstacle for serious bettors is the serpentine parade of (mostly amateur) bettors, which gums up the works. Too many people slows down access to getting the best numbers.  Hundreds of casual fans waffling around at the betting windows fishing out $20 bills on a parlay ticket was like molasses glued to the fuel line of a Ferrari.  While standing in line and waiting, those precious outlier betting values were steadily being hammered into shape by the sharps, minute by minute, bet by bet.  It’s a cliche, but time is money in sports betting.  Waiting around usually means getting the worst of it — and by that I mean the worst price.  It’s why most successful sports bettors wager early in the week.  They don’t wait around for stale leftovers.

So, the routine was to bet as much as he could on as many props as possible and go though the line over and over again until every single prop was covered to the greatest extent feasible.  The knapsack would get lighter with each visit to the betting counter and by the time the night was done, my friend would be holding a fist full of tickets, perhaps 200 in all — the equivalent of juggling five decks of cards.  Armed with a quarter million in paper confetti, he’d quietly exit the rear door, wave bye to Man O War, head into the parking lot, start the rental car, take his wife out to a nice dinner, and they’d fly back home the next morning.

That’s a “pro.”

You never see any news about these guys.  They don’t parade around town bragging about their bets.  You don’t know their names.  Instead, the media often report trivial news of no significance, other than tinsel.

Consider a report from ESPN earlier this week that the MGM Casino (Las Vegas) had reportedly accepted a huge bet exceeding $1 million.  Someone bet a million dollars on the Philadelphia Eagles.  My first and last thought is:  So what?

To be clear, I like and respect David Purdum, the ESPN Staff Writer who first broke this story [READ HERE].  He’s just doing his job.  It is newsworthy to accept a wager of this  size.  I don’t begrudge Purdum for breaking the news.  However, since the exact amount of the wager wasn’t disclosed, nor was the identity of the gambler given, why does this matter at all?

Most important of all — THE LINE DIDN’T MOVE.

That tells you everything.

It tells you the casino doesn’t respect the bet, nor the gambler.  Another schnook.

Next customer!  Step right up!  What’s your bet, Sir?

All successful sports gamblers know the Super Bowl is just another football game.  That’s right:  Just.  Another.  Football.  Game.  Often, it’s an unbettable situation — at least when it comes to the side and total.  What makes the Super Bowl special (for gamblers) is the bacchanal of bizarre bets in the form of odds and props, which no sportsbook in the world can possibly get 100 percent correct in their assessment of actual probabilities.  This is where some bettors — often math gurus and nerd analysts — are truly smarter than the house, and that’s why they win.

The smart money moves the line.  The stale money doesn’t move anything.  It just goes into the vault.  And so it is with big bettors and their big bets.

From September though January, among the most suspiciously-hyped football wagers by local Las Vegas sportswriters are the weekly reports of bets made throughout the week.  We are seeing what amounts to a marketing gimmick way too often.  It’s become roadkill.  We shouldn’t even pay attention to it.  Inexplicably, these stories get lots of attention.

Sportsbook managers often get quoted when they accept huge wagers by so-called “smart bettors.”  A few weeks ago, a perfect example of this hype occurred when one local sportsbook manager stated, “We accepted a six-figure wager from a smart bettor on the Rams.”  Hmm.  More notable than the Rams outright loss three days later as a nearly touchdown favorite was my justified cynicism the sportsbook manager probably just wanted to keep his rich customer on the hook and stroke his ego.  But announcing to the media that a “smart bettor” was on the Rams, that made the schnook feel good when he saw he was referenced in the local newspaper.

He’s talking about me!

Like I said — a schnook.

In the offshore betting market, which has displaced Las Vegas as the real epicenter of wagering, there are $200 bettors who move lines.  Another of my associates (again nameless, unless he wants to step forward) was beating the holy hell out of Canadian College Football.  I swear this is a true story — until then, I didn’t even know Canadian College Football existed.  He was crushing the offshore sportsbooks so badly (and sharing his analytics with friends — wink, wink) they cut him down to $200 a game.  Now, if he even opens his account and blinks at a game, the line jumps a couple of points.  Last time the subject came up, I think he can only bet like $50 or $100.  So, he’s betting peanuts.  But he’s a line mover.  He’s a shaker.  Not some millionaire trust-fund baby bullshitter.

This image versus reality flimflam bears remembering since we’re just ten days away from the Super Bowl and an avalanche of hype is on the horizon.  I don’t give a damn who the millionaire bet on.  And neither should you.  What I want to know is — what bets did my friend with the $9 knapsack make?  He’s got the goods.

Oh yeah, speaking of “Mr. Knapsack,” you’re probably wondering — how’d he do on his quarter million in Super Bowl wagers?  Or, how does he usually do every year?

It’s all a numbers game for him.  Out of 200 wagers, it doesn’t really matter which team wins or loses.  Some percentage of those wagers will fall into line with the predicted analytics.  For every bad beat on a prop, a lucky break results in the cashing of another.  Since his early calculations are (usually) superior to the initial openers, “Mr. Knapsack” simply relies on the 10-15 percent edge he’s uncovered on most of his props.  So, if he goes close to 50/50 he still pockets five figures.  The years he shared profit data with me, his earn was between $20,000-$30,000.  Best of all, this was without even breaking a sweat.

And — I can’t exactly swear to this.  But I don’t think he even watches the game.

 

Note:  Super Bowl betting props are being posted live at the Westgate as this article is being posted.

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A Political Wager (Walton v. Cousineau)

Posted by on Jan 21, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Politics | 0 comments

 

 

“Will Donald J. Trump be President of the United States on January 19, 2019?”

 

A POLITICAL WAGER

An unforeseen consequence of last week’s political thread posted by me on Facebook is a real-money wager between two of my friends — David Walton and Tony Cousineau.

This wager has officially been booked.  Both parties are now in action.

For the purposes of full disclosure, here are the rules which are agreed to by both parties.

THE PROPOSITION: “Will Donald J. Trump be President on January 19, 2019?  Time stamp will be 12:01 am EST.”

DAVID WALTON — NO (getting 1:2 odds)

TONY COUSINEAU — YES (laying 2:1 odds)

 

1. David Walton has posted $2,000 front money. Tony Cousineau has posted $4,000 in front money. The total sum of $6,000 is being held in escrow on PayPal in my personal account.

2. If Trump is not President FOR ANY REASON (including removal from office, impeachment, resignation, and/or sickness or death), Walton will be declared the winner. If Trump is President (in any official capacity), Cousineau will be declared the winner.

3. On January 20, 2019, the winner will be determined and the full amount of $6,000 will be transferred to the victor.

4. Both parties can negotiate/re-negotiate the terms of this wager (including buy-out) at any time.

5. If either party becomes incapacitated for any reason, the wager continues and funds go the estate.

6. If both parties become incapacitated for any reason, Nolan Dalla (the intermediary) keeps all stray funds. (North Korea, hurricanes, and mudslides are my friend) ***SEE FOOTNOTE

7. The winner agrees to buy Nolan Dalla dinner at the conclusion of the wager (the vig). The dinner must include wine ($50 or higher in value).

8. In the event of any dispute, a Supreme Court will convene and settle any and all claims. This Court will consist of five persons and will vote based on evidence presented. This Court shall consist of the following members: 

Alan Tiger (University of Connecticut Law School alum); 

Larry Greenfield (Georgetown Law School alum); 

Linda Kenney Baden (Rutgers Law School alum); 

James Hammer (UC-Berkeley Law School Alum); 

Rich Korbin (School of Hard Knocks Alum).

 

Posted this 21st day of January, 2018.

[Note: Both parties have granted permission to have this wager publicly disclosed]

David Walton and Tony Cousineau please acknowledge reading these rules and agreeing to them by posting at Facebook:

__________

*** FOOTNOTE: If Walton, Cousineau, and Dalla all become incapacitated, any surviving member(s) of the Supreme Court will split the funds. If all three principles AND all members of the Supreme Court become incapacitated, we really don’t care what happens to the money. It means everyone’s fucked.

 

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NFL Conference Championship Games

Posted by on Jan 20, 2018 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

 

 

I’ve enjoyed a modestly successful 2017-2018 NFL season.  Since posting picks weekly here at my website, I’ve now posted 4 winning seasons, and 2 losing seasons.  I’m slightly ahead overall after six years, and that includes more than 1,000 NFL wagers since I began doing this prior to the start of the 2012 NFL regular season (note that I posted picks at other sites prior to launching this site, dating back to 1996…years which were far more successful before picking winners became increasingly difficult).

This narrative isn’t intended to brag, but rather to give readers a broader perspective that beating the NFL consistently over the long haul is an excruciating challenge.  Some say, it’s become impossible to win over the long run.  It’s certainly true that very few handicappers win from year-to-year, and this includes many experienced handicappers (touts) who charge money for their picks.  That’s something I have NEVER done.  Show me a handicapper or a website which posts free picks and wins consistently.  Please.  Go ahead — I’ll wait.  I’d love to learn about it.  That said, I’m pleased with this year’s record, hitting about 56 percent winners.  But I also feel I’ve lost a few chances at having a huge season with some bad plays.

Heading into the NFL’s conference championship games, followed by the Super Bowl coming up in two weeks, the focus on the remaining game intensifies.  Many gamblers bet more money on these games, and then go all out on the Super Bowl.  That’s a big mistake.  I can’t stress more strongly how foolish this is.  These are three football ball games scrutinized by tens of millions of gamblers with billions of dollars in action.  If you think you have an edge and know something the rest of the world doesn’t, you’re mistaken.  If I think I have an edge, I’m mistaken, too.  I’d much rather fire a sizable on an obscure college basketball game with 2,500 fans in the stands than any of the remaining NFL games.

That said, I know readers have come to expect my to post an opinion on these games.  So, I will comply.  But these upcoming games are probably situations I wouldn’t touch if they were played during the regular season.  Please keep that in mind.

It pains me to admit this, but I no longer have confidence in my analysis from a betting perspective given how I’ve been spinning my wheels in recent weeks.  I’ve been stuck at the +12 games over the .500 mark for two months.  Nonetheless, I’ll analyze the three remaining games and try to give some perspective.  Take this for what it’s worth.

I made only one wager (so far).  Read the details below.

***********************************************************

2017 NFL REGULAR SEASON RESULTS

STARTING BANKROLL:  $10,000.

CURRENT BALANCE:  $11,770. (+$1,770.)

OVERALL W-L RECORD:  58 wins / 46 loses / 3 pushes

Week #1 — 3 wins, 4 losses = net -$250

Week #2 — 1 win, 0 losses = net +$350

Week #3 — 7 wins, 2 losses = net +$1,070

Week #4 — 1 win, 1 loss = net -$20

Week #5 — 7 wins, 3 losses = net +$740

Week #6 — 2 wins, 2 losses = net -$40

Week #7 — 3 wins, 4 losses, 1 push = net -$280

Week #8 — 4 wins, 2 losses = net +$360

Week #9 — 2 wins, 2 losses = net -$270

Week #10 — 9 wins, 6 losses = net +$480

Week #11 — 3 wins, 4 losses = net -$280

Week #12 — 2 wins, 4 losses = net -$480

Week #13 — 4 wins, 2 losses = net +$360

Week #14 — 4 wins, 4 losses = net -80

Week #15 — 2 wins, 2 losses, 1 push = net +$60

Week #16 — 2 wins, 3 losses = net -$370

Week #17 — 1 win, 0 losses = net +$300

Wild Card Week — 1 win, 1 loss = net -$30

Divisional Playoffs Week — 1 win, 1 loss = net -$60

**********************************************************

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS:   Last week, I posted 1 win and 1 loss — for a net loss of -$60 (the vig).  This puts me at +12 games over .500.  I went 6-5-1 in my “leans” which were posted at the conclusion of the report.  Playoff results are 2-2 on four wagers, thus far.  My leans are 12-5-1.

THIS WEEK’S PICKS:  On to this week’s games (lines current as of Sunday morning).  I made just one wager, and also posted my leans in every situation:

 

Jacksonville / New England UNDER 46 (Risking $330 to win $300)

All the talk centers around Patriots’ QB Tom Brady and the condition of this throwing hand.  Brady’s right hand was allegedly injured in practice this week.  Those accustomed to head coach Bill Belichick’s mind games and manipulation of injury reports don’t fully trust the diagnosis, which lists Brady as “questionable” for the first time ever in his career for a playoff game.  Let’s cut through the bullshit and all agree that Brady will start and play the entire game, provided he has a pulse.  We should presume Brady will take every snap.  We should also expect he will be in usual playoff form.  That said, Brady’s “injury” does present JAX and UNDER bettors with a nice freeroll.  If there’s anything to the injury and/or it gets worse during in-game contact, that certainly helps the dog and the under.  This total opened at 47 and was bet down to 46 upon news of Brady’s hand, and has dropped to as low as 45 in some places.  I still believe this the right number, even with Brady at 100 percent.  Here’s to the injury report being real and affecting his throwing ability.  Aside from Brady, I think we can agree the Jagaurs’ offensive explosion for 45 points last week was an aberration.  Steelers feel behind early last week 21-0 and that changed the entire complexion of the game.  Certainly, Jaguars won’t enjoy that early success this week.  The game plan will be much more oriented towards burning lots of clock and keeping the Patriots’ offense on the sidelines.  Keep in mind Jaguars’ defense is very real, despite surrendering 42 points last week.  Nine of 18 opponents (half!) were held to 10 points or less.  Meanwhile, Patriots defense has stepped up and played well when they had to.  After holding the Titans to just 14 points last week, there’s evidence that same thing could happen again here, especially given the inconsistent play of Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles.  Jaguars running game came alive in Pittsburgh last week.  But I’m not sure every trick was exposed in that contest, giving Patriots’ plenty of film to study to counter-strategy.  I’m also concerned about Jags scoring much given the Patriots enjoyed a pretty easy game last week, after a week off, while the Jaguars had to scratch their way to two wins to get into this championship contest.  Looks like a classic case where Jacksonville simply runs out of gas.  If I’m wrong on this account, and Jacksonville make a close game of it, that’s likely to be because of defense.  Hence, I’ll go UNDER this number based on the expectation that at least one of three things will happen:  (1)  Brady’s hand is a problem and he can’t throw at 100 percent; (2)  Jacksonville’s offense is shut down most of the game; (3) Jacksonville’s defense rises to the occasion and plays well, likely resulting in an UNDER.

 

NO BET:

Minnesota at Philadelphia

I think Minnesota is the better team on both sides of the ball.  However, I’m not convinced they are -6 on a neutral field, which is what this line at -3 (even) suggests).  That seems to be a contradiction to prefer Minnesota, but also consider taking the points with the home dog, which appears to have added value.  I’m passing on the game because the Eagles must still be concerned about the effectiveness of the offense under backup QB Nick Foles, who hasn’t done much that last 9 quarters he’s been on the field.  Eagles produced just 15 points last week in a game they probably should have lost, and would have lost had it not been for their defense (holding Atlanta scoreless in the second half and at the goal line due to Falcons’ horrific play-calling the final four plays).  I’m not sure what this Eagles’ offense will do against Minnesota, which has at least a good a defense as Atlanta.  I was also very impressed with Minnesota’s preparation last week, jumping out to a 17-0 lead versus New Orleans in the first half.  The Saints moved the ball most of the game last week (then again, the Saints move the ball on everyone), but the Vikings tightened up inside the Red Zone.  Looks like a much easier task this week to slow down Foles, as opposed to Drew Bress.  I see big problems here for the Eagles.  Given these factors, I can’t pick either side.  I don’t think Minnesota should be favored by -3.  But I also want no part of an Eagles’ offense which might not score enough points to win or cover.  This game is a pass for me.

 

LEANS:  Here are my leans on the major wagering options, which means bets I have not made, but would consider:

Game Line:  Minnesota -3; New England -7.5

Total:  Minnesota/Philadelphia OVER 38.5

First Half:  Minnesota -1.5; New England -4

 

Good luck!

 

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President Archie Bunker

Posted by on Jan 16, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 0 comments

 

 

If you think Donald Trump and Archie Bunker are very much alike, wait until you read about the differences.  Fact is, the President doesn’t have any of Archie’s virtues.

 

America elected Donald Trump.  We ended up with Archie Bunker.

So it seems.

Last week, the president blurted out yet another incendiary comment.  He said nations filled with lots of brown-skinned people are “shitholes.”  That sure sounded just like something Archie Bunker might have said back in his heyday.  For those who don’t recall, a little over a generation ago Archie starred in the most popular television show in the country, which was called All in the Family.  Chances are, if you were born anytime prior to the 1970’s, you tuned-in each and every Saturday night to the Norman Lear-produced sitcom which aired weekly on CBS.

All in the Family wasn’t just a television comedy.  It was one of the most significant and influential television programs in history.  The sit-com was a cultural breakthrough and for its day — a bold political statement that often generated controversy.  Subjects thought to be taboo — including abortion, gay rights, race relations, breast cancer, divorce, infidelity, terrorism, and death — nothing was off the table.  What was most amazing was the show took on so many politically divisive issues, but somehow managed to remain consistently funny, at least during the years 1971-1975, when it steadily ranked as the Number 1 television program.  Just about everyone in America talked about All in the Family the following week.  It was that popular.

Archie Bunker was played by Carroll O’Connor.  Up until then, he’d been a little-known character actor mostly known for small bit parts in war films and instantly-forgettable made-for-TV movies.  O’Connor fit the unprecedented role of a lifetime perfectly as the portly, balding, boorish working-class simpleton.

The show’s political slant was indisputable.  Archie was a flag-waving patriot, a proud veteran, and an unabashed Republican.  He loathed Democrats and hated liberals.  But Archie, always one for malapropisms, also loved President “Richard E. Nixon,” who in a lucky strike of perfect timing igniting the show’s mass popularity, was about to get get caught up in the Watergate scandal.  As it increasingly became apparent that Nixon was a crook, willfully ignorant Archie never lost faith.  Turns out, the affection between the White House and CBS’ Television City where All in the Family episodes were filmed in front of a live studio audience, wasn’t mutual.

[Listen to Outlandish Tape Recordings of President Nixon’s Reaction to Archie Bunker — Here]

 

Many controversial topics brought up in episodes of All in the Family wouldn’t be touched by mainstream television networks today.  Punch lines about Blacks, Jews, gays, women, hippies, and Archie’s other liberal targets wouldn’t just be considered too risky or politically incorrect.  Such subject matter would likely be scandalous and might even lead to boycotts.  Some activists, even those well-intended, would likely blast the show and call for its cancellation.  That’s a deeply sad commentary on the sorry state of the limitations on artistic expression in entertainment today.

The wonderful irony of Archie’s pathological narrow-minded bigotry is that in real life the actor Carroll O’Connor wasn’t at all like the character he played.  In fact, they were polar opposites.  Like Lear, the show’s progressive creator and lead writer, O’Connor sympathized passionately with Leftist causes.  Some years later, O’Connor even shocked most of America when he openly endorsed and campaigned for Jesse Jackson (who’s Black) when he ran for president.

O’Connor and Lear weren’t alone.  Archie’s son-in-law, Mike Stivic, was played by Rob Reiner.  He later became the famed movie director (This is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally, A Few Good Men, etc.) and an outspoken champion of liberal causes.

The show eventually declined in quality and tailed off in popularity.  All in the Family finally ended with barely a whimper in 1979.  Nonetheless, Archie Bunker has since become the embodiment traditional (White) working-class views in mainstream America.  He was loud.  He was bigoted.  He was sexist.  He was intolerant.  But he was also lovable — even to the millions of viewers who vehemently disagreed with his bullheaded opinions.  Perhaps that’s because so many of us saw our own families living inside the household at 704 Hauser Street, in Queens.  Everyone knew an Archie, somewhere.  We worked with Archie.  We drank beer with Archie.  Archie was our father.

What’s the point of all this and what makes Archie still relevant today?  Well, the similarities between Archie and Donald Trump are striking.  But then, so too are the differences.

First, the similarities:

  • Archie Bunker and Donald Trump were both from the borough of Queens, in New York City.  They were born as outsiders of the establishment and lived their early years in the shadows of New York’s powerful elite over in Manhattan.
  • Archie Bunker and Donald Trump were both White Anglo-Saxon Protestants — otherwise known as WASPs.  They shared common advantages as the final generation of those born into privileged ethnic and religious backgrounds before America began undergoing significant cultural diversity.  Later, both came to rebel against these demographic trends.
  • Archie Bunker and Donald Trump exhibited unflappable working-class personalities and tell-it-like it-is attitudes.  They told you exactly what they thought, at all times.  Their comments were unfiltered and often embarrassed those around them.
  • Archie Bunker and Donald Trump were both uncomfortable around people considered to be different.  Excluded groups included minorities, gays, nonconformists, radicals, and anyone that didn’t share their traditional values.  Archie was horrified when a Black family moved in next door.  Trump was guilty of racial discrimination against Blacks when he served as president of his real estate company and paid a hefty fine.
  • Archie Bunker and Donald Trump were both deeply mistrustful of the mainstream media, academics, intellectuals, and cultural elites.
  • Archie Bunker and Donald Trump were both stubbornly irreligious.  They professed to be Christians, occasionally even misquoting The Holy Bible, but almost never attended religious services nor observed the typical rituals of faith.  In fact, both often openly violated religious teachings.
  • Archie Bunker and Donald Trump were both plainspoken.  They weren’t readers.  They spoke in common language.  They didn’t know much about history or the rest of the world, nor were they particularly curious to learn about it.  Both held the belief that most problems could be solved using good, old-fashioned common sense.

Now, the differences:

  • Archie Bunker paid his bills.  Donald Trump often lied, cheated, skipped out on paying taxes, and bankrupted himself and his investors, many times over.  Those who trusted Trump became his victims.
  • Archie Bunker was a proud military veteran who served in World War II.  Donald Trump dodged military service five times, feigning a minor injury (bone spurs in his foot) which he claimed kept him from enlisting.  Archie was brave.  Trump was and is, a coward.
  • Archie Bunker loved his wife Edith, his devoted companion of many years.  From all outward appearances, Archie always remained faithful to her.  Meanwhile, Donald Trump engaged in multiple elicit affairs and bragged about his sexual conquests.  He went through two bitter divorces.  He paid off at least one porn star to buy her silence.  Trump even boasted he could touch women’s private parts and get away with it — something Archie would never do.
  • Archie Bunker always told the truth.  We might not have liked the things he said and what we we hearing.  But Archie didn’t lie.  Trump has lied so many times, he can’t be believed anymore — on anything.  Trump is a pathological liar.
  • Archie Bunker enjoyed the camaraderie of many close friends who were featured regularly on the show as repeat guests, and he stayed loyal to them through thick and thin.  Archie never betrayed those around him.  By contrast, Trump appears to have no real close friends, nor does he show any loyalty to those around him.  He’s turned against just about everyone who’s departed his inner circle.  Even with all his imperfections, Archie was beloved by just about everyone.  Trump, far less so.
  • Archie Bunker was a lower-middle-class working man who often struggled financially, but always somehow found a way to make ends meet.  Donald Trump was born into great wealth, blew his vast fortune multiple times on idiotic business deals, and in the end was finally left with no other option than to hawk his name to try and sell products.
  • Archie Bunker held onto many outdated opinions.  But he also revealed tremendous empathy for everyone, even those he viewed with suspicion.  Many episodes of All in the Family showed Archie’s softer side, usually after he was taught a lesson about the wrongs of bigotry and sexism.  Meanwhile, Trump hasn’t learned any lessons at all.  He appears to have no empathy for others, particularly those he views as his adversaries.  Archie had and often showed compassion.  Trump shows no compassion, especially towards those he considers weak.

My conclusion is as follows:  While Archie Bunker and Donald Trump possess a number of similarities, there are just many stark differences.  It’s an astonishing indictment of the President to say, but Trump lacks all of Archie virtues.

Indeed, Donald Trump can only wish he was more like Archie Bunker, who is a much better man.

 

 

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