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NFL 2019: Week #2 Picks

Posted by on Sep 15, 2019 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

 

 

Last week, the 2019 NFL Regular Season began with a small loss.  I posted 3 wins and 4 losses for a net loss of -$160.  Minimal harm done.  Let’s remember — the 21-week season including the playoffs is a marathon, not a sprint.

My private investment fund (BD /SM) closed with 37 brave souls who put in amounts ranging from just a few dollars up to $1,000 max.  My fund raised nearly $8,300 in all.  Look for the fund’s wagers to become increasingly aggressive once some early season data points have been established.

Once again, if you are involved, please do check your name and status at the end of this report and inform me of any errors.  I expect this will be the final tally on investment figures going forward.

Oh, and in case you missed the boat.  It sailed, man.  It’s cruising.  Go ahead and cap your games out of the newspaper or listen to PTI.  Poor things.  My people are on board.  First-class.  I take care of my people.  Remember this, next time.  You missed the Concorde and are stuck in the middle seat in coach on Spirit.  Hang in there.  I might toss you a lifeline if I feel charitable.  Let me generate some scrub before inviting more players onto my handicapping life raft.

Also, $200 of the fund has been put into a contest where the objective is to simply pick the game-winner (no points).  In Week #1, I went 10-5-1 — which is currently good for a middle-of-the-pack standing.  I’ll update our progress on that investment as the season continues.

Thanks again to each of you who invested in the fund.  Hang in there, it’s a long season ahead.  Hopefully, a profitable season, as well.

Live and learn, people.

Now, let’s move on to Week #2.

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

2019 NFL WAGERING RECORD

Wins — Losses — Pushes          3 — 4 — 0

Starting Bankroll:   $ 8,296.

Current Bankroll:   $8,136.

Last Week’s Results:         3 — 4 — 0  (- $160.)

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

Wagering $1,925. to win $1,700. on eight bets.

This Week’s Wagers:

First Half:  NY Giants + .5 (-120) vs. Buffalo — Laying $180. to win $150.

Comments:  NY Giants didn’t play a bad game, last week, a 35-17 loss to the Cowboys.  Dallas just might be among the NFC elites, right now.  Now at home facing a beatable opponent, look for the NY Giants give a better effort.  I think this line has over-reacted to last week’s results.  A few weeks ago, this line probably would have been NY Giants favored by 2.  While NY Giants have been a horrid team at home in recent years (both SU and ATS), I expect the opener to inspire a good effort.  Meanwhile, Buffalo had to rally late to win in this same stadium, last week against the hapless Jets.  This is a rare case of back-to-back road games in an away arena.  The Bills defense played exceptionally well, which is a legitimate concern in the game backing the Giants.  However, the Buffalo offense continues to be anemic.  Inconsistent QB Allen looked lost much of the first half and was responsible for four turnovers (two ints. and two fumbles) in the first half alone.  For some reason, Allen has shown a tendency to play much better in the second half.  These factors — Giants at home, getting a half-point with slightly elevated juice, a weak offensive opponent, and perhaps some extra motivation compels me to make a modest-sized wager on the G Men in the first half.  I don’t think the Bills should be laying points on the road to anyone (except perhaps Miami).  Let me put it another way — last week, Buffalo was down 16-3 entering the 4th quarter in this stadium against the lowly Jets, and yet they are laying points?  That’s ridiculous.

Tennessee – 3 (-120) vs. Indianapolis — Laying $300. to win $250.

Comments:  Several trends favor the underdog Colts in this game, who have won 6 of the last 7 meetings in Nashville.  However, with the Luck factor gone, all eyes point to replacement QB Brissett who admittedly played very well in last week’s loss (but cover) to the Chargers.  I see a tougher spot here for the visitor, making a second-straight road trip versus division opponent.  It’s also always tough to recover emotionally from OT losses and then have to travel again with less prep time.  Oddsmakers say these teams are rated as roughly equal in talent (home team usually gives -3, which is the game line), but I’m of the opinion the Titans still might be a bit undervalued.  Tennessee destroyed Cleveland last week, although they were certainly helped by a +3 turnover ratio in that game.  Tennessee continues to run the ball well, dating back to midseason 2018.  Titans have been one of the league’s best rushing attacks, led by RB Henry.  I expect they’ll enjoy some success against Colts defense that entered the season with concerns and gave up 30 points in the first week.  Titans will look to make a statement here in the home opener.  They’re 8-5-1 last few seasons at home ATS.  With a win here, Tennessee takes the early driver’s seat in the division.  One added intangible is some concern Indy placekicker Vinatieri is still his old self.  He missed three kicks last week (33, 46, and an XP), which merits a red flag.  Betting on teams with concerns in the kicking game is probably undervalued as a handicapping tool — it really should be taken into more consideration.  I like the Titans, which looks to be a well-rounded team, especially at home, to cover this number.

Cincinnati -1 (-110) vs. San Francisco — Laying $275. to win $250.

Comments:  49ers picked up an ugly false win last week.  They’re frauds.  They were trailing 7-6 at halftime to the Bucs and were outgained in yardage for the game.  The lifeless offense looked weak, even with QB Garoppolo healthy (just 255 yards of total offense).  Tampa’s QB basically gift-wrapped the game with three turnovers, including two interception returns for TDs.  Sorry, but San Franciso isn’t the caliber of a team to go on the road again and get another win, particularly since it appears the Bengals are getting slightly disrespected here.  Also important to note these aren’t close road games.  Both are though three time zones.  Cincy took Seattle down to the wire in a 21-20 loss in Seattle last week.  The big spark was the Bengals’ passing attack, which ran up nearly 400 yards, even with playmaker WR Green sidelined.  49ers will face a motivated team with a new coach in his first home game and won’t find it as easy as trying to defense Jameis Winston.  QB Dalton threw 51 passes last week, so it will be up to San Fran to shut down the receivers.  Betting the Bengals is often an exercise in faith if not futility, but seeing the noble effort last week and laying a very low number (-1) this seems like a gift.  I have to play the Bengals at this price.

Miami / New England UNDER 48.5 — Laying $275. to win $250.

Comments:  Many sharp bettors are on the big home dog Dolphins, and I certainly see that line of reasoning.  But I’m persuaded that the far better wager is the UNDER here, especially at this high number.  Miami, as the undisputed NFL’s worst team at the moment, shows little to no ability to score many points.  That brings to question how motivated the reigning Super Bowl champs will be to run up the score.  Given that new Miami Coach Flores was previously a defensive assistant to Bill Belichick (and was with Pats organization 15 years), it’s hard to see the Patriots running up the score and making a mockery of a division rival.  A hot and humid day, an opponent that’s clearly outclassed, and (oddly enough) Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB for the Dolphins —-who isn’t prone to rookie mistakes leading to easy points off turnovers—- is a perfect recipe for a “boring” low-scoring game.  31-10 looks about right.  But it also wouldn’t surprise me if the Dolphins were shut out in the game given how awesome New England is on the D dating back to last season.

Arizona / Baltimore UNDER 46.5 — Laying $275. to win $250.

Comments:  I have concerns so many handicappers are touting this as one of the best totals on the board.  As a contrarian, I tend to fade public (and even some expert expectation).  But too many factors weigh heavily here to discount the obvious, including a higher-than-average total, which compels us to play the under.  Arizona was horrid offensively for 3 quarters, last week.  Detroit’s defense was gassed by game’s end, and that’s when the home underdogs came to life.  I think some of what we saw in the epic comeback was misleading  That won’t happen here in Baltimore, a much tougher place to play, certainly for the inexperienced Cardinals.  It’s hard to say where Baltimore ranks defensively (yes, they are #1 after shutting down Miami — but that was Miami).  It looks to be another relatively easy task for this defense, facing a rookie QB and new head coach both making their road debut.  So, let’s assume the Cardinals won’t be lighting up the scoreboard.  Meanwhile, Baltimore’s laugher last week should probably be discarded.  This isn’t a 59-point offense.  This is more of a ground attack, short pass dunks, and a ball-control game plan that will be content with the home win.  I look for the Ravens to build a lead, sit on the ball, and walk away with a 26-13 type of win that goes under the number.

LA Rams – 2 (-110) vs. New Orleans — Laying $275. to win $250.

Comments:  New Orleans isn’t a good early-season team.  We saw this trend continue last week, as the favored Saints barely escaped with a win in a thrilling game.  Now, off a short prep week, New Orleans must travel west for an NFC title game re-match.  I might like the Saints were this game at home, especially given some revenge motivation after one of the worst non-calls of all time.  But New Orleans isn’t the same flashy high-scoring team when on the road.  We know the Rams can roll up points at home, and have shut down New Orleans in the past (credit Wade Phillips).  Saints lost six of last eight road openers; Rams have won both home openers in McVay era, decisively so — 46-9 and 34-0.  Rams are slightly more balanced in my estimation, especially on defense and with home field against an opponent they won’t take lightly, I look for the favorite to cover, especially given New Orleans history of starting slow early in the season.

Atlanta + 1.5 (-110) vs. Philadelphia — Laying $165. to win $150.

First Half:  Atlanta +.5 (-120) vs. Philadelphia — Laying $180. to win $150.

Comments:  Two wagers on the contest — one for the game and another for the first half.  It’s painful to take real money and bet it on the Falcons, right now.  This team looked horrid in the opener at Minnesota.  I can’t make any case for the Falcons statistically speaking, but this team still has plenty of talented veterans, a coach who knows how to win, and certainly — added motivation this week in the home opener.  Seems like a critical game already for Atlanta.  Meanwhile, Philadelphia looked totally lost for 35 minutes last week (down 0-17 to Washington) before coming to life and nearly covering.  That “win” was rather unimpressive considering how mismatched the opponent was at +10.  The Eagles don’t appear to be anywhere near the elites of the league, just 18 months after their Super Bowl win.  But, they’re still favored here because (I presume) many bettors are overreacting to the Falcons’ really bad performance last week in which they were down 0-28 at one point.  I’m glad to fade this (hopefully mistaken) popular perception.  Moreover, the Eagles defense was ripped last week for several big plays.  One expects a talented Falcons offense at home in the dome to exploit some of those same weaknesses.  Oddly enough, Eagles have been a poor indoor turf team at just 5-9 ATS under HC Peterson.  Also, Atlanta has historically opened up well at home, winning 13 of last 15.  Falcons also 8-2 as a home dog in last ten games, which tells me these veterans rise to the occasion against top competition when in Atlanta  I’ll take the home dog in the game, as well as the half-point in the first half.

 

Other Games and Thoughts:

I was really tempted to play DET plus the points at home hosting the LAC, but a few things kept me off the game.  DET really looked poorly coached and conditioned down the stretch in last week’s tie.  That was an unforgivable collapse, and as tempting as it may be to bet the home dog, Detroit really is outclassed here.  LAC are aware they dodged a bullet last week.  But the Chargers also moved the ball well and should have no problem with this defense.  The play here is probably the OVER 47 if you must bet the game.  Two veteran QBs with good wideouts on the rubber grass.  Game could fly OVER.  But no action for me.

DAL laying -5.5 to WASH is worth a look, but I shy away from laying points on the road in division games.  DAL could come in overconfident, which happens with this inconsistent team under coach Garrett.  Credit K. Moore calling the plays on offense last week (new OC), which makes me think this team might step up.  But when you look at how WASH moved the ball in the loss/cover last week in Philadelphia, it’s certainly possible the ‘Skins give another solid effort.  Too many points to lay.  Should be -3.5. tops.

Hard to figure what state of mind HOU will be in after the crushing defeat in New Orleans Monday night.  But they face a team that should be shut down, with a backup QB (who looked fabulous statistically, 22/25 last week in loss to Kansas City).  Highly-coveted free agent signee QB Foles is out.  So. it’s doubtful JAX can produce enough offense to stay with HOU, but I’m not laying -9.5 points with any team that’s as inconsistent as HOU.  Let’s also remember JAX brings in a top defense.  KC rolls up points against everybody, so look for a better rebound effort.  It’s taking the dog or nothing here, for me.

PITT is laying -3.5 to SEA, which almost lost to Cincy at home last week.  PITT looked horrendous in loss to the Patriots.  There’s valid concern about these Steelers, who missed playoffs last season, might be taking a step downward.  So, this game should tell us a lot.  Many serious cappers are on PITT, but I think that faith is grounded too heavily on history.  I don’t see any spot where PITT enjoys definitive advantages, so I don’t want to lay points, especially since SEA is one of those teams capable of beating anybody.  Some analysts insist SEA defensive secondary could get shredded here (which game up 400 to Anthony Dalton in Week 1).  I’m just not convinced PITT has the talent anymore to flip a switch and beat well-coached opponents, especially given QB Russell’s skill set.  Pass.  But I do lean to OVER 47.

GB is laying -2.5 to -3 to rivals MINN.  Line looks about right.  I don’t have a good read on GB defense (was the opener just an aberration?) nor MINN offense, which uncharacteristically threw just 10 passes last week in domination over Atlanta.  The total at 43 does seem a little low, given QB Rodgers’ impressive numbers historically at home.  But that’s just a slight lean.

Many pro cappers are taking OAK this week, getting +7 in a divisional matchup against KC.  Horrible spot for Chiefs here, with the cross-country back-to-back games.  My guess is — OAK is the right side.  But I can’t step in front of the roaring KC money train right now.  Total at 53.5 seems a little high.  But given what we see from KC week in and out, this game could fly OVER.  Too much volatility for me to bet this one.

DEN is getting +1.5 to +2 at home hosting CHI.  Both offenses were steaming piles of puppy shit last week, so I’m tempted to play any side getting points.  But I’m going pass this temptation and invest my money elsewhere.  I suppose CHI with 3 extra days (played last Thursday) to prepare should enjoy some advantages.  Whichever offense struggles, you can pretty much say it’s — season over.  If Flacco bombs, he and Elway should get a 2 for 1 bus ticket out of Denver.

CLE is laying a whopping -6.5 points to NYJ, which lost another softie USC QB draftee (to mono, this week).  Poor NYJ played pretty well on defense last week, and that could keep them in the game.  Seems ridiculous for CLE to be laying this high number on road, after getting bounced like clowns at home in the humiliation of an opener.  I was tempted to play the home dog, but something tells me DC Gregg Williams is going to pay a price in this game for some off-the-field controversy regarding (now) Browns’ WR Beckham.  He’s been an overrated injury-prone act for a while, but could be the difference in a CLE win and over.  Normally, I don’t weigh these personality issues, but those of you who have followed the issue know it’s very volatile as a betting prop.  It’s probably NYJ and an UNDER here, but that’s an arm-twister.  Skipping this game for greener pastures elsewhere.  And since you are still reading, CLE is a sucker play here.  You drank Koolaid last week and got poisoned.  Why on earth would you do that again?  Sucker play = Cleveland.

 

PICK THE WINNER CONTEST [NO POINTSPREAD] — $200 entry fee

Season Record To-Date:  10-5-1

Week #2 Picks:

CAR over TB

CINCY over SFO

SDI over DET

GB over MIN

TEN over INDY

NWE over MIA

NYG over BUF

PIT over SEA

DAL over WASH

BAL over PHX

HOU over JAX

KC over OAK

CHI over DEN

LAR over NOR

ATL over PHIL

CLE over NYJ

 

BD /SM INVESTMENT GROUP [37 persons]

211. — David Heldar
100. — Steve Watanabe
1,000. — Peter Lucier
302. — Bruce Kramer
200. — Finbarr O’Mahony
100. — Howler
500. — Linda Keenan
100. — John Pickels
100. — Patrick Kirwan
300. — Sean McGuiness
252. — Jim Anderson
200. — Chad Holloway
500. — Eric Schneller
351. — Randy Collack
100. — David Lawless Lawful
1,000. — Paul Harris
51. — Dan Goldman
51. — Sharon Goldman
102. — Ken QB
102. — Chuck Weinstock
102. — Peter Taki Caldes
51. — Kenny Shei
51. — Jeff Dietch
128. — Kevin Un
22. — Becca
102. — Corey Imsdahl
102. — Don Bingo Reick
1,000. — Jeff Siegel (payment pending)
100. — Stephen Cohen (payment pending)
51.  — John Reed
51. — George Wattman
51. — Mickdog Patterson
100. — Larry Lubliner
100. — Guy Grizz Berentsen
100. — Edmund Hack
500. — Bob Feduniak
63. — John Reed

__________

 

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NFL 2019: Week #1 Picks

Posted by on Sep 8, 2019 in Blog, Essays | 1 comment

 

 

This year in my posts and wagers, I’m doing something different.  I’m controlling an “investment fund.”

Several thrillseeking investors bought into my NFL investment pool, which will be used as a wagering bankroll.  My investors posted amounts — ranging between $50 up to $1,000.  This grand sum will be my starting bankroll for the regular season, which will (hopefully) last all the way through the Super Bowl, and if past results are any indication of future returns, we might also realize a profit.

The name of my private investment group is BD/SM, which stands for Balls Deep / Sports Management.  Not for the timid.

As in years past, I’ll post my write-ups and recommendations here on this page, expected to be up at the site by late Saturday night.  To investors, fans, lurkers, and enemies alike, I suggest checking in at midnight Saturday night PST which will have my latest updates.  It’s also suggested you follow me on Facebook, where I might post some late plays, including second-half wagers.

IMPORTANT:  At the end of this report, please see the member consortium of the BD/SM investment group, along with the dollar amount(s) invested.  If you see errors or your name is not listed and should be, then please-mail me privately at — nolandalla@gmail.com

Moreover, I have invested $200 of the total fund into a season-long “pick the winner with no pointspread” contest which is run by someone many of us know based in Philadelphia.  I will post my plays in that contest in each weekly report so investors can check the progress of that speculative endeavor, as well.

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2019 NFL WAGERING RECORD

Wins — Losses — Pushes          0 — 0 — 0

Starting Bankroll:   TBD

Current Bankroll:   TBD

Last Week’s Results:          + /- $0

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Unfortunately, an injury affects the betting action this week.  Not with the players.  But with me.  Last weekend, I lost the use of my left hand which is now engulfed in a cast.  So, I’m typing this report with one hand — not easy for someone who does lots of writing.  My point in telling you this — is not to gain sympathy — but to convey that this will be a somewhat abbreviated report.  I normally handicap every game in full, in writing.  That won’t be as easy for the next week, or two without the use of half my fingers on the keys.  So, please don’t think I’m cutting corners in today’s report.  Here we go:  Wagering $800 to win $700 in seven bets.

This Week’s Wagers:

Atlanta +3.5 at Minnesota (at -110) — Laying $110 to win $100

Comments:  Several trends favor Minnesota as a home favorite here, including Vikings’ strong ATS record at home combined with Atlanta’s stinky recent road history.  However, Falcons might be the better team at the moment, certainly true on offense.  Falcons will get to play 12 of 16 games inside a dome this season, which plays to the experience of their skill positions and sets them up for favorable advantages given their strong history indoors.  I also like QB Ryan over QB Cousins, even though both very posted similar stats last season.  Gamebreaker WR Jones is expected to start according to late reports, so that likely explains the line drop (in some spots) from +4 down to +3.5  I think Jones even at 80 percent is well worth the half point, even around those sensitive key numbers in the 3-4 range.  In what looks to be a close matchup on paper and in coaching, I’ll take the hook on the 3 and grab the points.  Key in this game will be Atlanta running the ball.  Rushing “attack” was dreadful last year (ranked 29th) due in part to injuries.  Falcons now come into the season fully healthy with five first-round draft picks on OL, which tells me this unit should show improvement to go with a strong passing game.  Vikings also have a league-high 12 rookies on their roster, including a few new starters.  Look for the experienced Falcons to stick with the home favorites for 60 minutes and get the road cover, if not the outright upset win.

Buffalo +3 at NY Jets (at -120) — Laying $120 to win $100

Comments:  This looks to be a pick ’em game in talent, with the customary +3 points given to the home team.  However, Buffalo destroyed NY Jets at home last season (one of only two road wins), which I think gives the young Bills some confidence that this is a division opponent they can beat.  Sometimes, outmatched teams don’t give the full effort when a loss seems imminent, but Buffalo and NY Jets certainly understand this game could set the direction for the season and show who is most likely (if anyone) to challenge New England’s divisional dominance.  I like Buffalo for a few reasons — namely QB Allen’s scrambling ability combined with some questions about NY Jets defense and secondary under (another) new DC, this time, Gregg Williams who seems to be with a new team every year.  Week #1 divisional underdogs are an impressive 11-4-2 the last four seasons, which bodes well for the visitor.  NY Jets are 0-4-1 last five homes games.  New coach Adam Gase was 0-3-1 ATS when coaching against Bills with Miami.  I also like RB McCoy being cut from the Buffalo roster, who was arguably the least effective, highest-paid RB in the league.  Both teams should be interesting to watch.  I’ll take the FG and lay double juice to -120.

Miami +7 vs. Baltimore (at -120) — Laying $120 to win $100 

Comments:  Why the hell is Baltimore laying a touchdown on the road to anyone?  This team has major uncertainties on offense, especially at QB.  I’ve seen QB Jackson ranked as low as dead last among NFL starters.  While I don’t share the level of deep pessimism, the Ravens are still a one-dimensional team.  Ravens wideouts are among the league’s weakest.  However, Baltimore has relied on a heavy rushing game, including Jackson’s legs.  Miami’s few strengths include the pass defense so look for Baltimore to keep it on the ground.  I think this plays into a low-scoring game where points could be at a premium.  So, the +7 looks like a gift.  Valid concerns about what shape Miami will be in, which is in a complete rebuilding phase with new coaches in every area.  Moreover, Miami starter might be the weakest QB in the NFL (poor leader, weak arm, no mobility — other than that, he’s terrific!).  Fynny thing is, I could be talking about either Fitzpatrick or Rosen here.  I’m counting on the home humidity, some genuine energy in Miami for the first time in a while, and perhaps some Baltimore mistakes to keep the Dolphins in this game.  Taking yet another dog.

Tampa Bay -1 vs. San Francisco (at -110) — Laying $110 to win $100

This is more of an anti-San Francisco play than anything else.  First, QB Garoppolo hasn’t started a meaningful game in like….forever.  He hasn’t taken a snap since 2017 when all the games were pretty much against bad teams when coaches were playing for draft order.  This is a weak team, unproven in virtually every area.  The offensive line is average, at best.  Defense doesn’t pressure — this unit had just six (SIX!) takeaways in 16 games last season, worst of any team in 18 years.  You don’t fix those glaring problems with a 27-year-old highly paid QB making just his 11th NFL start.   Oh, and the 49ers get to travel 3,500 miles for an early start in the Florida heat.  Tampa Bay meanwhile, gets the favorable home spot, lays a small number, gets DT Suh on the defensive front as the top free-agent signing, and (I believe) has much better coaching.  Bruce Arians taking this job was a great move for the franchise.  I also like DC Todd Bowles,  who I expect will get more out of that unit than many people are expecting.  Reasonable number to lay here, even with QB Winston’s storied troubles as a pro.  This might be a better system for him, certainly with better coaches, and he faces one of the least intimidating defenses in the NFL in his home opener.  Taking the small home favorite.

Tennessee +5.5 vs. Cleveland (at -110) — Laying $110 to win $100

Another big overreaction to hype.  I love fading hype.  Sure, Cleveland will be a fun team to watch this season.  They are finally heading in the right direction and may have a winning season.  But that’s not what handicapping is all about.  We want to go contrary to those perceptions and take value —  and in this matchup, the points are clearly the more attractive team.  Titans are coming off the better season at 9-7 to Browns 7-8-1.  Titans also closed down the stretch with the NFL’s top running game — RB Henry 135 YPG last six games.  Tennessee should be able to run the ball here and keep this within the margin.  Admittedly, I’m always wary about backing any QB Mariota-led team on the road (he’s dismal on the road versus home).  But Mariota won’t be asked to win the game alone.  I think people expect too much out of the Browns, especially this early.  Tennessee has a better than average defense, a really good secondary, and asking the Browns to cover what seems to be a big number is a prospect I’ll gladly fade.  Taking the Titans and looking for the outright upset.

Detroit -2.5 vs. Arizona (at -120) — Laying $120 to win $100

Rare for me to bet a road favorite, but this is a good spot for the far-more experienced team and roster of key starters.  This is a rebuilding phase for Cardinals and like Miami, they will have home-field and fresh coaching staff, with a new starting QB.  Thing was, Miami was getting +7.  Here, we will lay less than a field goal.  New Cardinal coach Kingsbury is expected to produce fireworks on offense reminiscent from his Texas Tech days, and he might do that in time.  But in their first game with so many question marks, I don’t think we’ll see that for some time.  Cardinals are also missing their best defensive player Peterson due to suspension fo 6 games, plus two starting CBs, which will allow an experienced Lions team some opportunities.  QB Stafford has reliable receiving weapons with WR Golladay, WR Jones and WR Amendola along with top draft pick TE Hockenson.  Detroit won in this identical spot last year, winning by two touchdowns.  Probably just as much a mismatch at this stage of the season.  Hard to write this sentence and keep a straight face but Lions have an advantage at virtually every aspect of this matchup.

Indianapolis +6.5 at LA Chargers (at -110) — Laying  $110 to win $100

I’m taking the underdogs with the major chip on their shoulders after (now retired) Luck’s disappearing act, which now leaves QB Brissett in charge and under center. Brissett quietly improved and was already widely considered a more than capable backup.  Now thrust into a system that was projected as a playoff contender, I look for a major statement game bere from a very well-coached team, playing an opponent with minimal home support and a reputation for being soft.  Chargers are plagued with some key injuries, a RB holdout, and perhaps a spot where they might be a bit overconfident taking on a team perceived as significantly weaker with change at QB.  Thanks to Stephen Nover for also pointing out San Diego-Carson-Los Angeles has lost three straight season openers.   Colts were getting +7, which was a major gift.  I missed that generous number, but still think the dogs are worth betting at +6.5  Solid live dog here I think capable of winning outright.

 

Other Games and Thoughts:

PHILA laying -10 to WASH looks about right.  Wanted to bet WASH in some early games, people forgetting Redskins won 7 games last season and collapsed down the stretch because they had 25 players on IR at seasons end, most of any team, and were basically starting Billy Kilmer at QB.   Love WASH to make move about midseason as a strong play on team.  But not this week, with awful QB Keenum getting the start.  Highly favored Eagles should be able to name the score and make a statement here.  I just won’t lay double digits in road division games.

JAX getting generous +3.5 is clearly the right side of the KC matchup.  Way too much is expected of KC after a marvelous 2018 season.  However, their porous defense is still a serious concern.  KC did outscore just about everyone last season and they could post similar numbers.  But here on the road, in the Florida heat, facing NFL’s best defense statistically, and then LAYING MORE THAN A FG is just a horrible spot for the favorite.  Anyone who bet JAX at this number can be tattoed instantly as a sucker.  You might not like JAX, but KC is the worst bet on the board this week.  For idiots only.

LAR laying -1 to -2 on the road (lots of road favorites!) is another trap game.  Not sure about CAR coming off a down year.  Here’s an ideal statement game for the underdog.  Just wish I was getting a little more points-wise with the Panthers.  So, this ranks as a pass.  LAR looked pretty woeful in their two road games at the end of last season.  Let’s see if that decline was just due to step up in class.  Interesting game to watch, but I want no part of betting it.

I really do like CINCY plus 9.5 at SEA.  Bengals collapsed down the stretch last season after starting out 5-2.  Same lineup of mediocrity returns, but there’s enough talent to cover this high number.  Seattle overachieved las season given the roster of players.  Now, more is expected.  Accordingly, I think this line is a little high.  I’d go with a 7.5.  Probably should bet this game, but with other more attractive options will pass.  Something to be said for not having to sweat QB Antony Dalton to cover the spread for us.

I love DAL to roll over the weak NYG, but a few trends keep me off this game — divisional dogs in Week #1, NYG-DAL games often being close, DAL relatively poor home ATS record.  DAL should dominate both sides of the line of scrimmage.  Hard to see where NYG have any advantages.  I considered teasing DAL down to -1.  That’s probably the optimal play if you wager on this game.  Nover likes the UNDER here, which I agree is probably best total on the board.

NWE plays PIT.  I don’t have money on it, so I don’t care.  Disgusted with that prick WR A  Brown getting signed by Patriots.  Disgusting.  Hope his season ends on first play.

HOU at NOR…before wagering on Saints and laying points remember that NOR often starts season dreadfully slow.  Don’t know if it’s the complexity of offense, or the heat, or whatever, but NOR is a terrible Sept. team as a favorite.  Might be wise to play visiting HOU here to keep it closer than a TD.

I’m likely playing DEN on MNF and will post late action on Facebook.  OAK looks to be a fade with all the distractions and mess of a team, right now.  DEN gets Flacco under center for the first time.  Hard to see how this will turn out, but the first week might be a good spot to bet the slightly-favored Broncos.  Another division road favorite.  Have to be careful with these.  If it’s -2 surely a bet, but if this moves to -3, will pass.

 

PICK THE WINNER CONTEST [NO POINTSPREAD] — $200 entry fee

Season Record To-Date:  0-0-0

Week #1 Picks:

Green Bay over Chicago

Tennessee over Cleveland

Baltimore over Miami

Atlanta over Minnesota

Buffalo over NY Jets

Philadelphia over Washington

LA Rams over Carolina

Jacksonville over Kansas City

Indianapolis over San Diego

Seattle over Cincinnati

Dallas over NY Giants

Detroit over Phoenix

Tampa over San Francisco

New England over Pittsburgh

New Orleans over Houston

Denver over Oakland

 

BD /SM INVESTMENT GROUP [29 persons]

200. — David Heldar
100. — Steve Watanabe
1,000. — Peter Lucier
302. — Bruce Kramer
200. — Finbarr O’Mahony
100. — Howler
500. — Linda Keenan
100. — John Pickels (payment pending)
100. — Patrick Kirwan
300. — Sean McGuiness
252. — Jim Anderson
200. — Chad Holloway
500. — Eric Schneller
351. — Randy Collack
100. — David Lawless Lawful
1,000. — Paul Harris
51. — Dan Goldman
51. — Sharon Goldman
102. — Ken QB
102. — Chuck Weinstock
102. — Peter Taki Caldes
51. — Kenny Shei
51. — Jeff Dietch
128. — Kevin Un
22. — Becca
102. — Corey Imsdahl
102. — Don Bingo Reick
1,000. — Jeff Siegel (payment pending)
51. — George Wattman

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The Changing Face of Online Gaming and How to Pick the Best

Posted by on Sep 5, 2019 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

 

 

Gambling is no longer what it used to be at one time. While purists might still believe in travelling to Vegas or one of the major gambling destinations of the world, the fact remains that more and more people are looking at convenient ways to indulge in the thrill of money-making.

The drama that revolved around gambling is thus a thing of the past. There’s no need to dress up for a night out on the tables, or the impromptu talks one would have with total strangers. Gambling is now more intimate in every sense possible. You can enjoy a game of slots while lounging in the buff on your bed or whip out your phone and start earning at the tap of a few buttons. Online casinos are on the rise, are not just a trend, and have transformed into a way of life that has revolutionised the gambling industry for the better.

 

However, unlike a land-based casino, where you can get an idea of the environment just by looking at how busy or deserted it is, online casinos require a little bit of analysis. To start with, check for reviews and whether a casino is licensed or not. Just like there are scams nowadays in every form of business, several illegal online casinos exist on the internet. And no matter how good the proposition, it’s better to stand clear of them at all costs.

Once you have a few leading online casinos on your list, it’s time to look at their catalogue and make sure they offer a variety of games. It doesn’t matter if you play them or not, because preferences change and you might one day start liking them all of a sudden. In the simplest of statements, more is better when it comes of games on an online casino.

 

 

Next up, dig deeper to see what all special events the casinos hold. All the casinos have games, but the real kicker is the special events that some hold, which are not only profitable for the players, but also the perfect opportunity to test your skills against other gamblers. One of the very best of these is Casumo, an online casino with enough bells and whistles to really make it stand out from the pack. From poker events to blackjack bonus card event, promotions like these mean that the feature-rich online casino is looking to get players involved and create an ambience that is a lot more exciting and entertaining than a regular casino.

When we look at the popularity of online casinos, slots are at the very core of it all. At one time, slots were considered childish and meant primarily for senior players, or those who did not know how to play card games. Now, online slots are a walking talking entertainment centre with theme-based options that bring alive movies and drama in the most fun way possible. Moreover, they cater to all budgets and tastes, thus becoming the most played online games.

While there is new technology being tested regularly by online casinos, and we already see VR and 3D being integrated into games, there are two aspects that you must consider before joining an online casino. Fist, check for their welcome bonus package.

Remember, the casinos want you as much as you want them, and they will layout a red carpet for you. Secondly, make sure you have all the accounts in order and read up on withdrawal and deposit rules to avoid unnecessary issues later.

Gambling responsibly can be a lot of fun. With the industry welcoming players from all walks of life, its transformation into something unique will only help it expand more in the future.

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A Wine Story

Posted by on Aug 18, 2019 in Blog, Essays | 1 comment

 

How is our memory for taste?

This was put to the ultimate test today when I opened a spectacular bottle of wine. I’d like to share my story with you.

Sometime around 1995 I first became seriously interested in wines. While living in Washington, DC, Marieta and I took two ten-week wine courses back-to-back, presented by a master sommelier who wrote for Wine Spectator. To say those classes were life-changing would be an understatement.

However, given we’re on a budget, I’ve never been able to afford super expensive wines. So, my wine knowledge pretty much is non-existent at any price point above $100. My daily price cap is more like $15.

I distinctly remember about five key wine moments in my life. One of the most memorable of those took place in 1998.

Marieta and I were staying at the Two Trees Inn at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. We were attending a poker event. A friend, who sadly I lost contact with named Nick Partenope (who I believe is/was an NYC MD) presented Marieta and me with a bottle of Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon. I distinctly remember opening the bottle of Arrowood in the hotel room. It blew us away. It was spectacular, and at the time, the best wine I’d ever tasted. Back then, the price was considerably higher and Arrowood was hard to find where we lived. Hence, we haven’t had a bottle since then in 21 years.

Until today and now.

A few nights ago, we went to a local wine dinner and to our surprise received a bottle of wine from the host. We didn’t even look at the label, expecting it to be some run-of-the-mill bottle that was nice, but hardly in a class of its own.

Today, we looked at the bottle. It was Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon! Instantly, we remember Nick Partenope and our encounter with this splendid old friend two decades earlier. Make that two old friends.

We don’t drink many reds during the summer, but this baby couldn’t possibly wait. We wondered aloud: Would this wine be as memorable as all those years ago? Arrowood has changed and we’ve changed, too. Our expectations were ridiculously high, perhaps even unreasonable.

And so, the cork was popped and the verdict was immediate.

The best way to describe the Arrowood was it was as tasty as blood to a vampire. It was ass-kicking incredible! I do mean a blast of fruit that bombs the taste buds. Fucking WOW!

I didn’t expect this. I’ve had most of the fruit bombs and usually don’t find them to be nearly as sophisticated as my taste for the classic Rhones and Bourdeuxs and wines from Burgandy and Loire. If you’d have bet money that I’d be partial to a California wine above my classic traditional favorites, I’d have wagered any amount of money. Well, I would have lost my wager.

This Arrowood is quite possibly the best wine I’ve ever tasted, certainly for the money. Clocking in at $29 per bottle and a 14.5 alc. content, it’s a dangerous and tempting beast.

And so, 21 years after falling in love with a wine, an old flame had been reunited.

I cannot possibly recommend Arrowood more highly. It’s truly THAT amazing, and then some. Dr. Nick Partenope, if you are out there reading, thank you for the memories — then and now.

Note: Marieta had an identical reaction.

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The Check-Deposit Scam

Posted by on Jul 28, 2019 in Blog, Essays, Personal, Rants and Raves | 3 comments

 

 

I’m holding a check in my hand for $6,850.12.

Unfortunately, it’s not even worth 12 cents.

This makes me the latest unsuspecting target of a popular scam that’s been going on for many years called the “Fake Check Deposit.”

Here’s what happened to me and typically how the scam works.

A few weeks ago, I scanned Craig’s List for odd jobs and temp opportunities to make some extra income.  Craig’s List and similar platforms allow people to post long- and short-term gigs doing all kinds of different tasks — from driving a car, to bricklaying, to joining a band, to webcam modeling.  Since my webcam modeling career is on a downswing right now, I answered an ad for a temporary chauffeur.

I sent a short e-mail listing my qualifications and also conveyed my 24/7 ability for the position.

The next day, I received a response from “Dr. Lee.”

Dr. Lee explained that he/she lived in Toronto.  He would be visiting Las Vegas to attend an upcoming conference.  Dr. Lee needed a private driver for one month.  He needed transportation between his hotel and the conference and also wanted to do some sightseeing.  His e-mail was well-written and certainly appeared that it could have come from a doctor.  Although still somewhat skeptical, I believed this job opportunity could be real.

I accepted the position which paid $800 per week, for four weeks, plus a small bonus awarded at the end of the assignment.  The pay seemed reasonable for the work and hours involved.

Next, in his follow-up e-mail, Dr. Lee explained he would need to rent a car which had to be a luxury vehicle.  He noted that he’d leased a Mercedes GLE in the past, which was an SUV priced at $53,000.  This month-long lease would be every expensive.

Dr. Lee informed me that he’d send me certified check by Federal Express.  I’d receive it the next day.  He told me to take the check, deposit it into my personal bank account, and then a few days later when funds were available to make the lease arrangements.  Dr. Lee would later provide the name of the leasing company.

This temp job started to smell fishy.

But I decided to play along.

The next day, a Federal Express envelope arrived at my doorstep.  The only item inside was a single slip of paper.  It was a check for $6,850.12 made payable to “Nolan Dalla.”

The check image can be seen in the image above.  Note that I’ve blacked out personal information and the bank account numbers.

The checked looked and felt very real.  It had a water seal embossed in the paper.  It was signed by someone, but it wasn’t Dr. Lee.  Perhaps this was Dr. Lee’s personal assistant.

I did some quick investigating.  I performed a bank account search, which can be done online within just a few seconds.  To my surprise, the bank ID number wasn’t made up.  It actually matched the name of the bank, listed as “City Bank N.A.”  The account number also appeared legitimate.  But the check also had some glaring peculiarities.

My check for almost seven-grand was drawn from a business account listed as “National Sorghum Producers.”  That company is based on a remote highway in Lubbock, Texas.  I don’t want to seem cynical, but this seemed like an odd financial arrangement that a small company in West Texas would be paying for a car and driver for a Canadian doctor soon to be visiting Las Vegas.

Here’s an image of the company from MapQuest, when I typed in “National Sorghum Producers” located at 4201 North Interstate 27; Lubbock, TX; 79403:

 

 

Well, shit.

My heart sank.  Gee, I guess I wasn’t going to be chauffering a doctor around Las Vegas, getting paid to drive a new Mercedes.

I’d been instructed to deposit this check immediately.  Time was critical since Dr. Lee was coming into town next week.  Within just a few days, my funds would be available.  I was told to keep $800 for my first week’s pay and then send the remainder to rent the car in advance.  I’d be given the details of where to send the money once I confirmed receipt of the check.

This thing wasn’t just fishy.  It was now as smelly as week-old sardines.

Dr. Lee emailed me that same day.  “Did you receive my Federal Express envelope with the check?” he asked.

I decided to play along and get clever.

“No, it didn’t arrive,” I replied.  “Maybe you got my address wrong.”

After a few back-and-forth e-mails, Dr. Lee informed me that he’d Federal Express another check which would arrive the next business day.

“Great!” I replied.  “I can’t wait to start driving for you!”

The following day, another Federal Express envelope arrived at my front door.  Inside was an identical check in the same amount.  Each “Priority Overnight” delivery cost the sender $17.50.  So, Dr. Lee was now on the hook for $35.00 in express delivery charges.  He was a doctor, right?  So, he could afford it.

“Did you get the check this time,” Dr. Lee wrote.

I waited a full day, and then responded as follows:

“Gee, I don’t know what’s the problem.  I’ve been waiting for the Federal Express envelope, but neither one arrived yet.  Can you check with National Sorghum Producers and see if they sent it out yet?”

Bada-boom!

I never heard from “Dr. Lee” again.

The scam was reported to authorities.  I also contacted my bank, which confirmed these scams do often happen.  The problem, I was told, is that some people really believe these checks are real and mistakenly think they have no liability.  The truth is — if a check is deposited and gets returned, the account holder is fully responsible for the funds.  Some banks have been known to close the accounts of people who have fallen prey to this scam, even if from naivete.  Older people, students with little financial experience, and poor people, often desperate for any chance to earn income are particularly susceptible to this scam.

Indeed, I learned the scam does sometimes succeed.  How and why?  Laws require that funds be released to customers and made available in a timely manner, sometimes in as little as a few days.  I could have done precisely as instructed — deposited the check, kept $800 as my payment, and then transferred $6,o00 to the “rental car agency,” who was actually the scammer eagerly awaiting the fruits of his heist.  By the time the check was found to be fraudulent and bounced, which might take weeks, the scammer would be long gone with my money.  I’d be 100 percent responsible for making up the lost $6,000.  Who knows — maybe the scammer really does drive a brand new Mercedes, paid for by unsuspecting victims of the fake-check swindle.

There’s an old saying that goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

We should all learn ways to protect ourselves.  One of the best ways to dissuade scammers is to play along and get them to invest time and money digging down an empty hole.  So, my advice is to make things as costly as possible for them.  Milk them dry, even if it’s just for the cost of a Fed Ex express delivery.  Make them pay.  Then, report the incident to proper authorities.

Now, it’s back to Craig’s List again.  Let’s see what other exciting opportunities I can find and trouble I can get into.

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What Song Had the Greatest Historical Impact on the World?

Posted by on Jul 22, 2019 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

 

 

Here’s the latest edition of my regular series — An Unconventional Convention:

 

AN UNCONVENTIONAL CONVENTION — LVII

What song has had the *greatest historical impact* on the world?

Music can be powerful. It can alter our emotions. It can change how we think. It can motivate us to do good things. It can motivate us to do bad things. It can ignite even revolutions.

Songwriting dates all the way back to the Middle Ages. All cultures produce music of some kind. Millions of songs have been written over the centuries — recorded and performed in every country on earth.

Your challenge today is to pick the ONE SONG that’s had the most profound impact — which can be either good or bad. What song has gone so far as to alter the course of human history? Certainly, some songs have changed how people think and what they believe. Moreover, some songs echo deeper instincts that don’t always produce a positive outcome. Some songs can be bad and motivate people to harmful things.

Keep in mind this is not a question about the “best song” or “most popular song.” This is only about songs that have *made a difference” in some way.

BONUS QUESTION: What specific impacts did your song choice have on people? Try to be as specific as possible.

This is the FIFTY-SEVENTH edition of A.U.C. Here’s another challenging question that will require some contemplation. Honestly, I have *no idea* what my answer will be. I need more time to think about it.

So, what’s your pick?

To participate, please join the discussion on Facebook by clicking HERE:

 

 

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What Movie Have You Seen the Most Times?

Posted by on Jul 15, 2019 in Blog, Essays | 1 comment

 

 

AN UNCONVENTIONAL CONVENTION — LIV

What movie have you seen the most times?

To read and/or participate, click onto the image DOWN BELOW which links directly to the Facebook discussion.

My summation of the comments, my answer, as well as the consensus opinion are listed below:

Think back to all the movies you’ve watched more than once — at the theatre, on television, and/or on demand. I presume that most of you have watched the movies you enjoy *multiple* times. I also presume the next time you’re channel surfing and accidentally stumble across your movie, you’ll stop and watch it. I do this frequently.

Name your movie, and then try your best to estimate the number of times you have seen it (at least, in part).

I have at least a dozen candidates. It’s tough to pick just one. film from so many So, I may have to think about my answer.

If you have to think about this question, then it’s likely the first answer that popped into your head is correct. That will be my pick, which I’ll post later in the thread.

Also of note — older people will have watched their movies many more times than younger people, for obvious reasons. However, one big factor is that those of us who are 45+ grew up with fewer television channels and less options. So, we were limited as to what we could watch. Accordingly, repetition was our only option.

Finally, if you want to explain WHY we do this, I’d be curious to read some answers. For instance, I would NEVER go back and watch an old sporting event I’ve seen previously. So, why do so many of us watch the same movie over and over again? It doesn’t seem to make any sense.

Everyone should have an answer. I’m eager to see which is the most popular (consensus) choice.

This is the FIFTY-FOURTH edition of A.U.C. Thanks for everyone for contributing to the discussion. Lot’s more topics to come.

CLICK HERE:

More to come……

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What is the famous quote or saying that provides comfort which you believe — if shared — might also help others? [An Unconventional Convention]

Posted by on Jul 12, 2019 in Blog, Essays | 2 comments

 

 

Welcome to the latest edition of my Facebook discussion series, “An Unconventional Convention.”

To read more and/or participate hopefully, click onto the image below which links directly to the Facebook page.

My summation of the comments, my answer, as well as the consensus opinion are also listed below:

 

My Answer:  

All things must pass.

Consensus Opinion (most popular answer):  

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Other Popular Responses (in no particular order): 

When you can be anything you want in the world — be kind.

Don’t sweat the small stuff and its all small stuff.

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Love is the condition where someone else’s happiness is essential to your own.

 

To join my future discussions on history, music, movies, books, and living life to the fullest, please follow by clicking — HERE.

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Who is the Most Famous Person in the World? [An Unconventional Convention]

Posted by on Jul 11, 2019 in Blog, Essays | 1 comment

 

 

Writer’s Note: Earlier this year, I launched a new forum for discussion on Facebook.  I called this exchange of ideas — “An Unconventional Convention.”

My platform for sharing thoughts in a civil and constructive manner was in direct response to our deep political and cultural divide, which often blurs reality and distorts how we see others.  So, every couple of days, I came up with an interesting topic for broad discussion.  It’s both wonderful and selfish — because I get to satisfy many of my own curiosities and then call upon lots of smart people for opinions. 

I’ve learned many new things from the feedback posted to Facebook in the comments section.  I expect others have learned quite a bit, as well.  Indeed, An Unconventional Convention is an unbridled success.

Accordingly, I’m re-posting many of the most popular topics, some which attracted hundreds of comments, along with a summation of what we learned.  Also, please follow me on Facebook to engage in future in discussions.   

 

To read and/or participate, click onto the image below which links directly to the Facebook discussion.

My summation of the comments, my answer, as well as the consensus opinion are also listed below:

QUESTION:  WHO IS THE MOST FAMOUS (LIVING) PERSON IN THE WORLD?

Who is the most famous (living) person in the world at this moment?  Note that “famous” could be measured in two different ways:
— the person is identified by name if a photograph was shown.
— if the person’s name were written or spoken, the respondent would be able to identify the subject.

It’s possible your answers could differ depending on which measure is used (facial recognition versus name recognition).

CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW TO READ THE FULL QUESTION AND SEE ALL COMMENTS

My Answer:  Barack Obama

Consensus Opinion:  No consensus opinion (the discussion was divided)

Most Popular Responses (in no particular order):  Queen Elizabeth II, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Pope Francis, Jackie Chan, Dev Patel, Dali Llama, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Christiano Ronaldo, Michael Jordan

 

To join my future discussions on history, music, movies, books, and living life to the fullest, please follow by clicking — HERE.

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“Chasing the Moon” is a Blast [Review]

Posted by on Jul 10, 2019 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 0 comments

 

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Now approaching the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 space mission, get ready for a bombardment of well-intended but predictable homages and historical remembrances to humanity’s greatest technical achievement.  However, one documentary towers above the rest.  The latest episodes “American Experience” on PBS take a familiar story you may think you already know and add some unexpectedly compelling twists and turns — making this the best documentary of the year.  In short, watching “Chasing the Moon” is a blast.

 

Chasing the Moon is a three-part television series running this week on PBS stations all over the country.  It’s the latest offering from American Experience, the typically outstanding weekly documentary which has run for 31 straight years (and counting), yet it somehow still manages to stay fresh with every new episode.

This latest series divided chronologically into three parts at two-hours each (six hours, total) might be the most compelling of what’s been an extensive historical canon, which is really saying something given that American Experience has aired 337 episodes, to date.  Rarely have we collectively watched such an authentic, unabridged, behind-the-scenes story told with such a perfect balance of accuracy and entertainment.

So, what else makes this show so good?

Try this — brutal honesty.  Most, if not all previous documentaries on America’s space program treat the subject with jingoistic reverence.  The astronauts are heroes.  The United States beat the Soviet Union in the race to the moon.  Each successive space program — Saturn, Gemini, and Apollo — represented a concoctive triumph of American ingenuity.

Each one of these points is undeniably true.  Yes, the astronauts were heroes.  Yes, the USA did beat the Soviet Union in the space race.  And yes, Apollo 11 was indeed justification for worldwide celebration — the glorious equivalent which had not seen before, nor since.

Chasing the Moon, made by Robert Stone, extends far beyond what’s been a standard fluffy newsreel-driven, school-classroom interpretation of American history, both in terms of which stories are told and how they are portrayed.  It’s far better than a Tom Hanks’ movie.  It’s even better than the wonderful CNN-produced movie on the space program released earlier this year, which I saw and enjoyed.  This series takes that concept, then digs much deeper.

If you think you already know about the space program and the remarkable story of Apollo 11, consider just a few eye-opening, jaw-dropping facts purveyed from the first episode titled, “A Place Beyond the Sky,” which covers the early period of the American space program, roughly years 1957 through 1963:

FACT #1 — Americans landed on the moon (first) because we got the smarter Nazis.  We were lucky.  After World War II and the downfall of Nazi Germany, the East and West divided former-Nazi scientists who had been the first to develop advanced rocket technology.  Ugly pasts were scrubbed.  Old associations were buried.  History was forgotten.  This story isn’t exactly new, of course.  But it’s told in this documentary with refreshing candor that lends to credibility for other controversial aspects of the film.

FACT #2 –— America’s space program had absolutely nothing to do with the pursuit of scientific progress, at least in terms of attracting popular support.  The NASA space program was all about one thing only — winning the Cold War.  Early on, America was losing that crucial battle.  1. The Sputnik satellite in 1957, followed in short order by 2. Laika the Dog’s orbit (the first living creature in space), and 3. Yuri Gagarin’s manned-space mission, 4. the first woman in space, 5. the first multiple manned mission,  and 5. first spacewalk outside the capsule — ALL these Red Scare triumphs scared the hell out of most Americans, who thought the United States was falling behind the Soviets.  This fear (recall the phantom  “missile gap”) probably swung the outcome of the 1960 presidential election, resulting in John F. Kennedy’s election.  The average American wasn’t/isn’t interested in science.  He/she wants to be better than the other guy.

FACT #3 — We forget just how dangerous early space flights were for the astronauts who boarded those rockets.  At least a dozen test-rockets blew up on the launching pad.  Each disaster is shown here on film, in astonishing clarity.  It took someone truly special, with “the right stuff,” to strap himself into a tin can with enough high-octane fuel and explosives underneath the seat to blow up ten city blocks, trusting one’s fate entirely to engineers.  Moreover, let’s also remember the astronauts were civil servants.  They didn’t earn much money.  They were expected to look and act like celebrities, on the salary of a mid-grade military officer, with a growing family.  The financial burdens of being an astronaut are explored here for the first time on film.

FACT #4 — President John F. Kennedy gets most of the credit for the success of the space program and mission to the moon (six years after his death).  But it was President Lyndon B. Johnson who twisted arms of reluctant senators and drove the budgets through Congress.  LBJ got things done.  Kennedy gave great speeches and pontificated his dream of sending a man to the moon.  It was Johnson who actually made it happen, politically speaking.  Unfortunately, our perceptions do not reflect reality.

FACT #5 — The three primary focal points of NASA’s space program were/are in Florida, Alabama, and Texas.  This was not a random occurrence.  The high-tech space sites were not chosen for any geographic advantages.  Each location was nothing more than a political payoff to swing key senators and congressman to vote for the most expensive high-tech program in history.  Furthermore, most of the country (about 60 percent) was AGAINST funding the space program, at least in the early years.  The documentary reveals how the opposition turned into supporters.

FACT #6 — Initially, ten astronauts were picked for the space program.  Make that — ten WHITE, MALE astronauts were chosen for the space program.  Certainly, this lineup was a reflection of the time.  However, in the second phase of the program, Robert F. Kennedy (then, Attorney General) pushed for the inclusion of at least one Black astronaut.  Later, a Black Air Force fighter pilot was chosen — Ed Dwight (not to be confused with counterpart Ed White).  He successfully completed all the grueling astronaut training and passed the tests, along with his colleagues.  However, Dwight was eventually relegated to a remote assignment and never made it into space, largely due to the despicable treatment received from so-called American hero Chuck Yeager, who comes across horribly in this documentary.  The Kennedy Administration, which actually did so little on civil rights, failed to push for Dwight’s inclusion in the program.  Three years later, during the Johnson Administration, Robert H. Lawrence, Jr. became the first to break NASA’s color barrier.

FACT #7 — Here’s a historical fact you’ve likely never heard before.  JFK was uncertain as to whether he could fulfill his 1962 pronouncement at Rice University about putting a man on the moon.  He secretly agreed to a collaborative deal with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev that the two countries would work together on the space mission.  However, JFK was shot and killed before the joint international venture was initiated.  Then a short time later, Khrushchev was ousted from power.  Hence, the demise of these two men derailed what might have been the most unlikely of cooperative efforts.

FACT #8 — Cape Canaveral, Florida (later re-named Cape Kennedy) exploded by 300 percent in population, due entirely to the space program.  New homes had to be built for workers.  That meant a boom, but also higher prices and even some resentment from older natives.  The documentary focuses on how those communities changed with the influx of astronauts, government workers, and tourists.

FACT #9 — Astronauts are unwaveringly portrayed in a positive light, as loyal and faithful men devoted to country and family.  While this is somewhat true, it’s not the whole picture.  Let’s also remember the astronauts were good-looking, age 30-something, strong virile men who were national heroes, who were used to living their lives on the edge.  They were more popular than movie stars.  And, they loved to take chances.  They liked being in the limelight.  High-risk behavior was in their DNA.  It’s why they were chosen.  The documentary touches on NASA having to do some “clean up” on the astronaut’s behavior.  Hey, let’s not kid ourselves.  They were remarkable men, but they were also human.  Bars.  Women.  Work hard.  Play harder.  Bravo to this program for revealing who these men really were, instead of the icons we often associate with their acts of bravery.

FACT #10 — All these incredible events and achievements in outer space took place during a period of revolutionary change, racial upheaval, and intense division within America.  Incredibly, some of the astronauts even confessed they had intense feelings of guilt for being involved the space program while many of their military colleagues in the were fighting in battle, and some were even shot down in Vietnam.  This emotional reaction to being an astronaut and a national hero wasn’t something I’d heard, nor considered before.

FACT #11 — What does a TV network do if the rocket explodes in mid-flight?  Remember, the earliest space missions were highly risky.  No one knew how the public might react to seeing a man die on national television, in an explosion on a rocket.  Television networks and the White House didn’t know if the launch should even be covered live.  What if the space capsule exploded?  Remember, this was 1962.  The viewing public wasn’t used to seeing dangerous, cutting edge, live events broadcast on television.  This is one of many reasons we often see crowds of people crowding around television sets.  It all seems surreal now.  But this was a difficult possibility to ponder, back then.

FACT #12 — Even a bigger problem for CBS, NBC, and ABC — what does a national network show for hours at a time during the coverage?  Relay technology didn’t exist back then.  There were no cameras of the space capsule after a few minutes of taking off.  One executive was interviewed who said, “60 million people were basically watching nothing but live radio broadcast.  There was absolutely nothing to show the public.  We winged it.”

Indeed, America’s space program was “winging it.”  Astronauts.  Engineers.  Politicians.  Television networks.  Everyone was winging it.  No one really had much of a clue what they were doing.  No one had ever done anything like that before.  Everyone looked to the heavens.  Everyone took a shot in the dark.  Thanks to some genius, long hours, trial and error, and even a little luck — it all worked.

This is the remarkable message and story of Chasing the Moon.  It’s an astonishing collection of unearthed footage and facts.  It’s real history.  It’s incredible entertainment.  It’s must-see television.

Lest you think this review has been a spoiler — these highlights are my recollections just from Part 1.  There’s so much more to learn and enjoy in Parts 2 and 3.  Trust me.  Seek out this remarkable program and watch.  Please — aim high.  Chase the moon.  This is what great filmmaking and storytelling are all about.

Here’s a short preview:

 

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