Few belief systems are as incendiary and misunderstood as atheism. Even as the number of people who self-identify as “Nones” (non-affiliated with any religion) has become the fastest-growing group in recent years, outpacing all other organized faiths, atheism remains controversial, and for some, alienating.
In this 90-minute discussion, we explore the essence of non-belief in the supernatural and venture off onto several related tangents about how religion remains an unavoidable social influence, even for those who call themselves atheists.
Matt Lessinger and Nolan Dalla are the participants in this unscripted episode of “An Intelligent Conversation.”
0:02 – How have our religious views evolved over the course of our lives?
9:47 – Just because we avoid organized religion doesn’t mean we had a bad experience with it.
16:34 – Most atheists understand they don’t have all the answers.
24:06 – Have people become more accepting of atheism over time?
28:26 – How many “Nones” are there really?
37:17 – Do the “Unaffiliateds” have a voice?
44:30 – Could “Unaffiliateds” be intimidated into self-identifying as Christian?
48:49 – Nolan identifies Putin as the head of the modern global Christian state.
55:29 – Atheists don’t have to be one-size-fits-all.
1:03:44 – Nolan discusses the Skeptic Movement.
1:06:58 – Is science incompatible with religion?
1:13:45 – Maintaining civility around believers.
1:17:41 – Matt is fascinated by the Jerry Falwell Jr. situation.
The mirror may have two faces, but Darvin had just one, and it was freckled, usually decorated with an innocent smile and the confident look of being fully content, comfortable in his own skin with who he was and the proud man he came to be, particularly those who were lucky enough to know him.
I was lucky to know him. And the more time I spent with Darvin, the more humble I became merely by his presence and the more impressed I became with the sincerity and honesty of his character when such redeeming attributes have become increasingly scarce in a bravado world.
Darvin didn’t speak much but when he did, we listened. Less was more.
The first time I met Darvin I was sticking a microphone into his exhausted face at 2 am on a sizzling Las Vegas night at the World Series of Poker inside the Rio when no one in a tournament room filled with thousands was hotter than the unknown “lumberjack” from the Maryland panhandle who annihilated everyone in his path en route to the most unlikely Main Event chip leader in a decade.
Darvin, who I’d never met before and never heard of prior to that year’s world poker championship, seemed like he’d just fallen off a turnip truck into a pumpkin patch. The man could have been an extra in “Lil Abner.” It was hard to believe he was real.
“Is this your first time in Las Vegas, Darvin?” I asked.
“Yes Sir (he called everyone “Sir” or “Ma’am”). I flew here on a great big plane and got to the airport and all these people treated me really nice. It’s was the first time I’ve ever been on a plane.”
Wait. This guy can’t be serious, I thought. He’s got the chip lead in the WSOP and he’s never flown before this trip?
“I’ve never played out here before. This is my first tournament, other than the ones at Wheeling (West Virginia).”
Turns out, Darvin won his seat via some small buy-in satellite tourney at a casino near his home, that’s if memory serves (i’m writing this at past midnight from memory). Now, he was sitting at the center of the poker universe competing for nearly $10 million first prize and would be the star on national television.
“What are you going to do if you win it?” I asked Darvin, wondering where this past midnight conversation was headed and if my subject would ever be heard from again once this tournament ended.
“Oh, I’ll stay the same. I might buy myself a new pickup and get something nice for Wendy (his wife), but that’s it.”
Darvin went on to finish second to Joe Cada, the winner.
Someone else might correct me here, but I believe that’s Darvin’s only major cash in a tournament. Unlike most players who made the final table that year, Darvin didn’t bring a cheering section. He didn’t enjoy the roars of the gallery. His cheerleader was Wendy and she was right there, just as she always accompanied Darvin to every poker event. A delightful lady. A partner of life. An anchor of support. They seemed made for each other.
Darvin won millions of dollars, I don’t recall the amount exactly, but he went back to the rolling green hills of western Maryland and he bought that new pickup truck and he got something nice for Wendy and by the time I saw him again a few years later, he was back on his “farm” chopping wood. His farm consisted of something like 600 acres, which was his land before the big poker paycheck. 600 acres, hell that’s practically the size of a county.
That’s where Darvin was at home, most at ease. He was a real lumberjack — precisely what you expected when you heard that word LUMBERJACK — who chopped wood and had the Popeye-muscled forearms to prove it. He later told me he spent days at a time in the wilderness, connected to the earth, his spirit guided by the stars and the wind.
We saw each other on several occasions around that time, as Darvin was a popular fixture on the set of the TV show “Poker Night in America.” Darvin liked to come around the production and talk to the crew even when he wasn’t playing. Todd Anderson, the show’s creator came to be good friends with Darvin. His genuine kindness and perpetual good cheer were infectious. I think that’s why everyone loved being around Darvin, and Wendy, too.
One time, Darvin gave me a lecture on the most common body injuries of being a lumberjack. He broke his arm multiple times, cut through his flesh, and had scars up and down both arms.
“Those trees don’t mess around,” he said. “If I tree is falling, get out of the way — it’s gonna’ fall where it wants.”
You had to love it. Just listening to Darvin was a treat. It was like being given the wisdom of Yoggi Berra dressed up like a woodsman. Simple. But real. Always real.
With Darvin, the more you got to know him, the more you wanted to know. He spoke a simple language but with profound depth. I don’t think Darvin was capable of telling a lie, which makes me wonder if he ever successfully bluffed anyone in poker.
As for poker, Darvin never pretended to be anything other than Darvin, and that was fine. He could easily afford to play in big cash games with his millions and could have played in far more tournaments. But Darvin never wanted that lifestyle. It would have kept him out of the hills, away from his trees, and required too much flying on great big planes.
That wasn’t for Darvin. What was for Darvin was living with nature. Making his own moonshine, which he did and I sampled (more than once). Being loyal to Wendy. Being Darvin Moon.
Tonight, I learned Darvin passed away. I’m really sad. I could not sleep, especially after all we’ve been through. A shitty year just got shittier.
But hey the good news is at least I got to meet Darvin, and interview him, and eventually be his friend. How cool that is.
Next time I am in a forest, and I hope that day is soon, I will look around and observe the tall trees, and try to absorb the connection to the sacred land that Darvin must as felt and experienced hundreds of times in his joyously fulfilling life. I shall close my eyes and take it all in and listen for the sound of the wind. I am sure I will hear Darvin’s voice.
Note: In a previous report, I listed a betting angle that was not properly been fact-checked. I have since removed this inaccurate text. I regret not checking the numbers before publishing them here and will strive to verify the accuracy of all numbers in the future.
2019 NFL WAGERING RECORD
Wins — Losses — Pushes 5 — 9 — 1
Starting Bankroll: 10,000
Current Bankroll: 8,950.
Best Bets: 1 — 0 — 0 (+$400)
Last Week’s Results: – $1,050.
Jacksonville @ Tennessee Tennessee by 7.5 Total — 42
Comments: JAX got a false win last week where they were badly outgained and mostly outplayed, but won outright as 8-point underdogs. Now, they go on the road and play a better opponent, which likely won’t take them lightly. TEN played poorly in the MNF opener at DEN last week, and was lucky to win the game with a late FG. But had TEN’s kicker done his job (he missed three FGs and an XP), let’s remember TEN would have won that game by double-digits. The mark of a good team is when it plays below its capability and still wins. That applies to TEN here, which will now face a much softer defense. TEN should roll here also based on history — last two years Jaguars are just 4-8-1 ATS as a road underdog. JAX also lost their last six visits to Nashville, with three of their last four losses here by 19+ points. TEN should play a better game this week, while outclassed JAX folds mid-game and is content to go to 1-1. Also lean OVER in this game, as TEN might roll up the score after a poor offensive showing in Week 1. No official play for me in this game, but my lean is to TEN and OVER.
Detroit @ Green Bay Green Bay by 6 Total — 50
Comments: GB looks easy here, laying less than a touchdown. But DET has played GB tough in recent years. Packers won both games in the series last season by a total of 4 points, and the Lions were really banged up then. In fact, DET has beat GB 3 of the last 5 at Lambeau Field, so that’s going to keep me off the favorite. DET is tempting. They’ve crumbled late in games under Patricia, but do seem to come into games well prepared, evidence by a 23-6 fourth-quarter lead last week (which they squandered). DET comes in with more urgency here, and I suspect they’ll keep this close for a while. DET getting+3.5 will be my official pick here, although I’m fearful of GB’s potent offensive attack which decimated MIN last week. DET does have enough weapons to stay in the game, and it’s hard to argue with their impressive results against the Packers the last 2-3 seasons. So, let’s play the dog in the first half.
LA Rams @ Philadelphia Phila by 1.5 Total — 45.5
Comments: Here’s the first of the five games where the betting angle applies. I like LAR anyway, especially given PHI injury concerns. Something is wrong with a team that blows a 17-0 to Washington and if the Eagles couldn’t handle that challenge, they may be in for an even longer afternoon at home against a much better team. LAR were a surprise in the opener, beating DAL as a home dog. LAR defense rose to the occasion in the red zone and the offense did just enough to get the win. I’m also starting to suspect there’s less pressure now on LAR, especially after two seasons when they’ve been under the spotlight. Now, factored at the third-best team in the division based on season win projections, LAR might be on a bit of a mission. To return to contender status they need to beat banged-up teams like PHI, and I suspect they will do exactly that. Last two seasons, PHI is just 5-11 ATS at home. Last three seasons, LAR are 15-9 ATS on the road. LAR +1 is the play. Note: I’ll also tease LAR up to +7.5 on the 6-point tease.
Carolina @ Tampa Bay Tampa Bay by 8.5 Total — 47.5
Comments: CAR offense looked pretty good last week, but the defense was dismal. That sets up a possible breakout game for Brady, who had a poor game in his TB debut in NOR last week. That’s the storyline here, and all eyes will be on Brady and the TB offense. Indeed, this is a perfect setup for a confidence builder. But it seems foolish to lay this many points with an unproven commodity. We have no idea how Brady will perform with his new team, and if last week is any indication, there are reasons for concern. I expect CAR with veteran Bridgewater at QB will keep this close, and within the margin. Brady could light it up, but TB defense might also allow some yards and points. Since 2014, TB is just 4-15-2 ATS as a home favorite. This is the second game where the betting angle applies, and since I like CAR plus the points anyway, this is an easy wager for me. Taking CAR +8.5
Buffalo at Miami Buffalo by 3 Total — 41
Comments: I got a good number here on the total at 41. I like the OVER. But it’s now 42. Tough to know where to score it, so I’ll post this officially at 41.5. OVER is 14-3 in MIA last 17 home openers. The heat and humidity wears down defenses, and here’s a good spot to take advantage. BUF look pretty good last week versus miserable NYJ, and will gain confidence on offense with another sub-par opponent. MIA has to be disappointed as hell with the weak effort at NWE last week. MIA should have covered, but an interception in the end zone late killed that prospect. MIA had been on of the surprising hot teams ATS since last mid-season, going 9-4 versus the number, and winning 5 of those games outright. I think MIA will play a better game here, especially on offense. Ancient journeyman Fitzpatrick played a horrible game last week but should perform better. He tends to play his best when least expected. Low total here, let’s look for the number to fly OVER.
NY Giants @ Chicago Chicago by 5.5 Total — 42
Comments: Both these teams looked dismal much of their openers, although CHI staged an unexpected comeback win. NYG looked weak on both sides of the ball, especially along the OL and defensive secondary. OL missed several assignments and was badly outmatched versus PIT. They now draw another tough chore, facing CHI defensive front. I expect a long day for NYG. Also not much impressed with RB Barkley, who admittedly gets little help but so far shows nothing of the star qualities that were expected of him. Not a fan. Defensive backs were horrific last week, especially Love who apparently doesn’t know what the word “tackle” means. This is a bad team, in for a long season. I can’t trust CHI after being stuck by 17 on the road at DET at one point. Who knows what to expect from the Bears offense. UNDER 42 looks to be the play here, for a small bet.
Minnesota @ Indianapolis Indianapolis by 3 Total — 47.5
Comments: Another angle play, betting against the winless favorite. That means taking MIN which was ambushed versus GB last week. That’s not nearly as humiliating as losing to JAX, however. Not sure how or why IND is laying a FG. Favored by 1 or 2…maybe. But a FG seems like a gift. I expect both teams to make major adjustments here and the outcome to be close. Give me the +3 in a game with lots of uncertainty.
Atlanta @ Dallas: Dallas by 4 Total — 53.5
Comments: Fourth of the 5 angle plays, betting ATL +4. DAL was expected to win division and still might simply by default. Hell, 8-8 might win the NFC East this season. DAL should bounce back after failing to make big plays when needed in loss at LAR last week. Much easier foe with weak ATL defense that was destroyed versus SEA last week. But I still don’t trust DAL, especially laying points. Most indicators like DAL as the favorite, but I’ll still with the system and play ATL. They did roll up 500+ yards of offense in Week 1, but lots of those chunks were in garbage time. Line has dropped to DAL -3.5 in some places. Not sure why.
San Francisco @ NY Jets San Francisco by 7 Total — 43.5
Comments: I must be insane. Give me the NYJ +7. It would take a madman to make a case for the Jets, so instead let me explain why the 49ers shouldn’t be laying this number. SFO scored only 10 points in four trips to red zone, converting just 2/11 on 3rd down, and that was at home versus ARZ. Also some injury issues at WR and DB could be a concern for the road favorites. NYJ last three years are 10-6-1 ATS as a home underdog, so they tend to play well when not expected. This might be another good spot. Few people will touch the Jets, and the reason is understandable. But I’ll go with the home dog getting the TD versus offense that may struggle and hasn’t dominated an opponent in quite a while.
Washington @ Arizona Arizona by 7 Total — 46.5
Comments: WAS gained only 239 yards, but were +3 in turnovers in upset win vs. PHI. Similar to JAX situation where a bad team pulled off an unexpected victory at home and might be in for a letdown, especially with little proven talent. ARZ is the real deal on offense as evidenced by their strong showing at SFO, one of league’s best defenses. They get a much softer opponent here. ARZ is tempting to lay points, but better wager might be the teaser down to -1. If for some reason ARZ has an off day and last week’s win was a fluke, I’m more comfortable with the prospect of them just winning, so the teaser here has appeal. In fact, I’m pounding ARZ on three teasers this week — with TEN, LAR, and KC.
Baltimore @ Houston Baltimore by 7.5 Total — 51 1/2
Comments: BAL virtually got a bye last week with cakewalk win versus CLE, but should be in for a tougher time here. I suspect HOU will play a better game than they showed at KC and with extra time to prepare off Thurs. loss, HOU finds itself in a game where they have no excuses for at least an improved effort. Linesmakers might be overreacting just a bit here to BAL looking so impressive and HOU showing little flash in Week 1. Looks like a classic case of oddsmaker and public overreaction. Serious concerns about HOU offense with bad playing calling and their best WR traded in offseason. However, all teams have off weeks and BAL could be in for a trap here. A full TD is enough to make be bite the forbidden fruit of betting against the Ravens.
Kansas City @ LA Chargers Kansas City by 8.5 Total — 47
Comments: For years, I avoided betting on popular favorites like KC in this spot. A road favorite, playing division foe, yada yada, yada. I did the contrarian thing all the way to the poorhouse and now I’ve learned my lesson. At least on this game. Tyrod Taylor at QB for LAC is reason I’m fading them this week. He struggled in his start at woeful CIN last week, posting just 16 measly points. Now, he’s got to compete against Patrick Mahomes who now also has a running game. Looks scary for Chargers in their home opener. I won’t lay -8.5 but I do feel confident teasing the champions under a FG and look for them to take care of business. Extra rest also helps KC and coach Andy Ried is the all-time best with extra prep time, going 17-2 in games off the bye or on Thurs. Last four years, KC is 15-8-1 ATS as a road favorite.
SNF: New England @ Seattle Seattle by 4 Total — 45
Comments: Sorry to disappoint, but I have no opinion on this game. NWE getting +4 is tempting but SEA just looks so strong right now. I’d nip at NWE if I can find +4.5, but this isn’t enough points. Moreover, NWE offense ran the ball well last week but might not be quite ready versus a SEA team that steamrolled over its opponent and looked unstoppable, at times. Pass.
MNF: New Orleans @ Las Vegas New Orleans by 5.5 Total — 49
Comments: I’ve already decided I’m not betting this game, so spent no time on it. Last four years, the Saints are 12-3 ATS as a road favorite. New stadium and a new city for Raiders, which will be an unusual spot in the sense this isn’t a home field or game yet, with no fans nor any experience in this venue. NOR has some advantages playing in domes, and the road record ATS being impressive but I’m not laying this number. Slight lean to the OVER. Pass.
OFFICIAL PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD (12 picks):
First Half: Detroit +3.5 (-115) vs. Green Bay — $230 to win $200
The Social Dilemma attempts to expose the ways in which technology giants have manipulated human psychology to influence how we behave. And if you think that sounds absolutely terrifying, you’d be right.
I watched Netflix’s new award-winning documentary, THE SOCIAL DILEMMA last night. The topic is certainly timely, and arguably the most important issue of our time. That’s not an overstatement. Yet the pervasive, and some say corrupting influence of social media on most of our daily lives is largely ignored and even widely accepted.
THE SOCIAL DILEMMA stands apart from similar dire dystopian future forecasts because the messengers who warn us are many of the purveyors of destruction themselves. Several current and former executives of the high tech platforms we all use daily were interviewed. Virtually all admit it’s too late to contain the dragon. When asked, “what should we do?” more than a few stared blankly into the camera.
In a time when most of us freely spend 90 minutes watching mindless movies or ball games, taking an hour and a half to learn more about the technology that’s come to dominate our lives, both individually and collectively, seems like a wise investment. Understanding the world’s most powerful tool, channels of communication, and platforms of interaction is essential.
Finally, this topic was the first one addressed by Matt Lessinger and myself on our new weekly podcast, “An Intelligent Conversation.” That’s merely a coincidence. I wish I’d seen this documentary prior to being interviewed on the show. However, many of the same things are discussed. So, THE SOCIAL DILEMMA hit particularly close to home for me, since I’ve spent more time recently thinking about it.
This documentary has my highest recommendation and should be required viewing.
Note: Matt Lessinger, a longtime friend and philosophical compatriot approached me recently with the idea to host a new podcast. The concept was simple: A conversation. An intelligent conversation.
One week later, here we are. Our first podcast, which runs nearly two hours, is finished and posted. We tackle the question with no simple answers, namely — what is social media doing to us?
Here’s Matt’s introduction of the new show on (where else?)….his Facebook page:
Hello friends …
I hope you’ll indulge this experiment. Nolan Dalla and I agree that social media is a very difficult place to try to engage someone in intelligent conversation. So, we decided to have an intelligent conversation of our own. I enjoyed it tremendously, and I hope it will be the first of many.
I conceived this idea because the prevailing wisdom is that you can’t change people’s minds on social media. That may be true, but I knew that talking with Nolan about any topic would open my mind (and hopefully yours) to different possibilities. With each conversation that I post, I will describe an opinion of mine that evolved as a result of the conversation. Here’s the one for this week:
*I believe that social media is continually making our society worse. As we’ve become more and more polarized, I have held a very pessimistic view of what our society will become after another decade or two of social media usage. But in having that view, I was always very narrowly focused on Facebook and Twitter. Nolan pointed out that TikTok and some other social media platforms are catering to teenagers, who are really just trying to have fun. Meanwhile, adults are the ones who are typically more confrontational on social media, and often come off of it feeling angry or miserable. I hadn’t given the generational difference too much thought. Ten years ago, we adults were so worried that teenagers would misuse or abuse social media. We wanted to make sure that they were taught how to use social media responsibly. The problem is, we forgot to give that lesson to ourselves.
If I was 95% pessimistic about the future of our social media society, I would say after talking with Nolan that I’m now only 85% pessimistic. It will come down to whether the next generation will learn from all of the mistakes that we 21+ year olds have been making on Facebook and Twitter, or will they repeat the same dumb mistakes that we continue to make.*
Please enjoy this conversation, and feel free to share any topics that you feel are worthy of discussion.
This will be my 25th straight year to post my picks each week in the NFL. Time sure flies when you’re having fun. All of my picks have been posted at public forums. All of my results are a matter of record.
In 1995, I began posting at AOL’s sports boards. Remember those early Internet days? Then a few years later, I began posting weekly at SPORTSFANRADIO, which really attracted a following. I specialized in NFL totals.
But my really big break came 20 years ago, prior to the 2000 regular season, when Jack Wooden, who I owe a significant debt of gratitude to, hired me part-time to post picks at his website, MADJACKSPORTS. Jack’s support gave me lots of confidence and made me realize there’s a huge sports betting community out there. It also made me work harder because I knew people would be reading my stuff, and perhaps even betting on games and totals I recommended.
Now, twenty years later, I’m certainly older. Perhaps a little wiser. Certainly more experienced at the highs and lows of sports betting, which can be both exhilarating and crushing (sometimes all in the same weekend).
Before I begin this NFL season, I want to thank the many readers I’ve met, online and in-person over the years. I also want to thank Mr. Jack Wooden, a.k.a. “Mad Jack” himself, for taking a chance on me, and letting me go for a helluva’ ride.
This one’s for you, Jack.
Now, let’s talk some football.
Note 1: Be sure to visit POINTSPREADS.CA where I post lots of sports betting articles, including picks. We also do weekly videos on the NFL, which will sometimes include guests.
Note 2: Each season, I begin with a $10,000 bankroll. This season will be no different. All results will be tracked, including posts made on Thursday Night games (since I can’t always do the full write-ups each week on Thursday, instead, I post picks on that game over on Facebook. See: NOLAN DALLA FACEBOOK PAGE
Note 3: NFL weekly plays will be posted here on my page, and at POINTSPREADS.CA. I will try to have the plays posted by midnight on Saturday night.
Comments: Big changes in NWE…none bigger than Cam Newton replacing GOAT Tom Brady at QB. NWE still won without Brady in sporadic moments when he wasn’t playing, but this will be Belichick’s biggest test in 20 seasons. NWE also lost a league-high 8 players to COVID. That could be huge. For MIA, the Dolphins are hoping to continue the momentum from second half of last season when they not only covered a majority of games but went from a hopeless 0-8 to winning outright in 5 of their last 8 games — including a massive upset at NWE in the finale here last season which knocked the Patriots out of the home field spot for the playoffs. Dolphins, a joke early and a serious threat late, closed fast in 2019 covering in 9 of last 12 — all as an underdog. That’s enough for me to bite on them once more, in a game that should be close. Hoping this stays within a touchdown, so the play here is MIAMI +7.
CLE / BAL
TOTAL — 47.5
Comments: Cleveland entering a new season with its 9th head coach in the last 13 years. Head coach Kevin Stefanski debut for Browns. Can he turn things around? We’ll see. History hasn’t been kind to Cleveland. Since 2013, Cleveland is 10-17-1 ATS as a road underdog and here they are again in that spot versus a team many think is the 2nd or 3rd best team in the NFL. Here’s a stat: Baltimore won its last four Week 1 games by combined final score of 139-20. This includes the Ravens winning 13 of last 15 home openers (10-5 ATS). Ravens also closed the 2019 regular season winning its last 12 outright and covering 8 of their last 9. QB Lamar Jackson’s leg injury in camp is an issue perhaps, and maybe the mobile MVP candidate isn’t at 100 percent. I’d play the Ravens at -7, but not -7.5. Pass.
NYJ / BUF
TOTAL — 39
Comments: Bills have trouble in these spots, with teams they should beat. Last two years, Bills are just 3-5 ATS as a home favorite. In fact, the Jets won 27-23 and 13-6 respectively in their last two trips to BUF. Under might be tempting, but this is the lowest total on the board. Jets are healthy, have a defense that can leep this close, a healthy QB for a change, and optimism. BUF isn’t the type of team that blows out its opponents. Taking the +6.5 is the right side with the divisional underdog. Playing the NYJ plus the points.
LV / CAR
TOTAL — 47.5
Comments: Major changes all over the roster and sidelines for CAR, including Teddy Bridgwater at QB which could be an upgrade in terms of stability. Head coach Matt Rhule makes his debut for Panthers. No one expects much from them this season, which might play favorably early on. Meanwhile, the franchise move from Oakland to Las Vegas was most unusual, especially in the age of COVID with no open practices or public events. Raiders were a mess on the road the last few seasons, so I’m not confident laying points with a team that seems uncharacteristically laying points as a visitor. I see the better wager as the UNDER on a very high total, especially given how Bridgwater tends to be a short-yardage passer and may slow down the pace of scoring. Raiders defense was terrible in 2020, but they may not need that much to stop a revamped CAR offense that will be playing its first game together as a starting unit. Play UNDER 47.5
SEA / ATL
TOTAL — 47.5
Comments: Many cappers are betting on Seattle here, which seems like the far better team. Perhaps they are, but I like ATL to keep this close and cover, if not win outright. Consider the Seahawks woeful road record in openers, losing 11 of its last 13 as a visitor in September. Meanwhile, ATL won its last three home openers, by margins of 11, 7, and 4 points. Yeah, SEA is a Super Bowl contender, and ATL is likely to hover around the .500 mark. But the Falcons are also a veteran team, making a fresh start, with experienced coaches, playing at home in a game they desperately want to begin to avoid the disaster that was the 2020 season. The pick is ATL +2.5.
PHIL / WASH
TOTAL — 42.5
Comments: New coach Ron Rivera is probably a good fit for WAS, but this team is a mess — from inept ownership, to revolving door of coaches, to one of the worst offenses in recent years, to lackluster public interest (unheard of for Washington, historically). It will take time to make the WAS team relevant again, but I’m not convinced PHI is the play laying points on the road given how little time this unit has played together. Some OL injuries and a forecast for rain lead me to believe the UNDER will be a better wager, especially since we get a fairly high number given the woeful WAS offense. WAS lost five in row and seven of last eight home openers. The world will be on the road dog, but I’ll move another direction and take UNDER 42.5.
CHI / DET
TOTAL — 43
Comments: DET was riddled with injuries last season, including to QB Matt Stafford who missed several games. I know this seems like an overreaction, but I’m tossing out their 4-12 record. I see this as a different team now, and so does the public, since the Lions are a nearly FG favorite. DET is historically strong in this spot, winner of six of its last nine home openers in the Stafford era. Yet, oddly enough, for all his problems, CHI QB Trubisky owns a passer rating of 132.56 in three career meetings against Matt Patricia’s Lions, totaling 866 yards (on 68-for-91 passing) with nine touchdowns and just one INT. I like both the OVER 43 in this game and DET -2.5.
INDY / JAX
TOTAL — 45
Comments: Since when is INDY deserving of laying -8 on the road in a division game? Explain that. Okay, the Colts face JAX, forecasted to be the NFL’s worst team in ’20. But that’s still a big number to cover with little preparation, lots of intangibles, and a major turnover at the most important skill position. Phillip Rivers hasn’t resembled a top-10 QB in at least three seasons, lacking leadership and desire, it seems, in critical crunch-time situations. He’ll have a better supporting cast in INDY, but it should take a few games for Rivers to get cozy in new surroundings. It’s hard to make much of a case for JAX, but a few surprises:
— JAX did cover 9 of last 14 AFC South home games.
— Home side has won 9 of last 10 in this series.
— JAX won 6 of last 9 games with IINDY, including wins in last 4 games played here — three by 20+ points!
Hold your nose and take a home division dog. JAX +8.
GB / MIN
TOTAL — 45
Comments: Under head coach Mike Zimmer, MIN is 26-10-1 ATS as a home favorite. That’s a staggering number. Home advantage will be neutralized in most games this weekend, but I still favor the home favorites here, against a team that’s probably overrated. The Vikings are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 NFC North home games. Vikings also won/covered their last five home openers. Some concern that MIN is on its 5th offensive coordinator in six years. UNDER had hit in 9-2 last 11 in this series. I’ll take both MIN -2.5 and UNDER 45, looking for the Packers to struggle as they did in last season’s opener at CHI.
Now, on to the later games, plus Sunday night and Monday night…..
AZ / SFO
TOTAL — 48
Comments: Defending NFC Champs, stacked on defense but some questions about range of the offense, especially with the passing game. Of course, SFO deserves to be laying points, perhaps even a number close to a TD, but the game line might not have adjusted for how ARZ might have improved, given so many weapons on offense and a healthy team entering 2020. ARZ stole star WR Hopkins in off-season trade, which now figures to be even more of a pass-threat. Cardinals are also an impressive 9-5-2 ATS in their last 16 games as a road underdog, not bad for a team that hasn’t gotten much respect from bettors since Ariens’ departure. Meanwhile, the publically popular 49ers are just 7-15-2 ATS in the last 24 games as a home favorite. In fact, 4 of the last in this series were decided by 3 points. There’s also a compelling “bet against the Super Bowl loser angle — as the runners up often struggle the following season. I love ARZ getting +7.
TB / NOR
TOTAL — 48.5
Comments: Game of the week for most fans. Powerhouse and proverbial NFC favorite Saints versus rejuvenated Bucs with GOAT at QB. Brees-Brady. Wow, doesn’t get much better than this. Tom Brady suits up in first game with TB. Bucs’ coach Arians had been doing a good job rebuilding, but pressure to win is suddenly now with 43 year old under center. Some concern that Arians is 5-11 ATS in last 16 games as a road underdog. I’d normally fade the high expectations in TB, but NOR is a notoriously slow-starting team, even at the Superdome. They simply don’t cover in Sept. games. NOR might bulldoze most of the opposition, but I can’t back them with real money here, given some concerns about their history in addition to the home field crowd noise in New Orleans all but gone. Pass.
SNF: DAL / LAR
Comments: Much-anticipated home opener for Rams, but lots of question marks after a mediocre season and widespread perception this is a “soft” team. The LAR did get pushed around last season, taking a huge step back from the Super Bowl season in 2018. They could be the last-place team in this division. Or, they might contend, if things come together. I have major concerns about the LAR, but few on DAL, which on paper is one of NFL’s best teams (but always underachieves). New coach in DAL, but same offensive coordinator. In an underrated personnel move, money kicker Zeurlein came to Dallas from the Rams and makes DAL even stronger. Since 2014, Dallas is 15-9-1 ATS as a road favorite. DAL also covered 10 of its last 13 road openers. In last year’s massacre between these two, DAL destroyed LAR with 260 rushing yards in their 44-21 win. Home opener excitement will be nonexistent for the Rams which could use a boost, so I’ll take DAL -2.5 which seems to have better personnel.
MNF: PIT / NYG
TOTAL — 46
Comments: Head coach Joe Judge debut for New York. Ex-Dallas bust-out Jason Garrett is the new OC. Tempting to play road favorite here given NYG question marks, but better play is likely the total. Steelers went UNDER in 12 of 16 games last season (almost all of it minus Roethlisberger) and are now UNDER 17-6 their last 23 since late 2018. Should be a run-based attack with NYG, plus fewer weapons on offense than usual for Steelers. Total looks too high. Playing UNDER 46 here.
MNF: TEN / DEN
TOTAL — 41.5
Comments: DEN LB Von Miller may be out for season, and that news moved the line a few points. That’s the worst possible news for a team that will need every healthy body to stop a potent TEN attack. QB Tannehill was the NFL’s top-rated last 10 games pf 2019 after knocking Mariota to the sidelines and captaining his team into the playoffs. Titans also have one of the best running games in the league. That should be too much for DEN, which won’t have the tools to keep up, if TEN scores their usual number (average 30 pts last season). Look for TEN to dominate the time of possession and wear down DEN, which is traditionally a very good early season home team. But this isn’t the opponent they want to face. Home fans also neutralized, which helps the visitor. TENN gets my money at -2.5.
MY BEST BET OF THE WEEK
LAC / CIN
TOTAL — 42
Comments: Rookie QB Burow gets the nod at QB, without having played in a preseason game. Never taken a snap. That’s usually a good fade. Last two years, Bengals are woeful 5-10-1 ATS at home. CIN is also 2-7 ATS in last nine games as a home underdog. LAC might be the play, but they have some concerns, as well — especially on offense with Rivers’ departure and Tyrod Taylor getting the start. I don’t see where the points will come from that justifies a 42 in this game, especially since LAC defense is pretty good and could very well shut down CIN, which is virtually an expansion level team at this point. UNDER 42 is my recommendation.
Final Official Plays (15 Wagers):
Miami +7 vs. New England — $330 to win $300
Las Vegas/Carolina UNDER 47.5 — $440 to win $400
NY Jets +6.5 vs. Buffalo — $330 to win $300
Atlanta +2.5 vs. Seattle — $275 to win $250
Philadelphia/Washington UNDER 42.5 — $385 to win $350
Detroit -2.5 vs. Chicago — $165 to win $150
Detroit/ Chicago OVER 43 — $330 to win $300
Jacksonville +8 vs. Indianapolis — $440 to win $400
Minnesota -2.5 vs. Green Bay — $275 to win $250
Minnesota/Green Bay UNDER 45 — $220 to win $200
Arizona +7 vs. San Francisco — $330 to win $300
Dallas -2.5 vs. LA Rams — $330 to win $300
Pittsburgh/NY Giants UNDER 46 — $220 to win $200
Tennesee -2.5 vs. Denver — $440 to win $400
LA Chargers/Cincinnati UNDER 42 — $550 to win $500
Introduction: It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly two decades. Today marks the 19th anniversary of 9/11, a fitting time to look back and remember the World Trade Center before they collapsed on that terrible day. Marieta and I visited the World Trade Center a few times. We even went to the top of one of the towers about a year before the tragedy. Today’s essay includes some photos which were taken during those visits. These photos are all that remains.
The twin towers. So utterly unremarkable in design, yet so grandiose by sheer size and scope, weren’t just windows to the world. They were extensions of our national character and pillars of America’s unequivocal stature as a global superpower.
Within sight of those two towers, the Statue of Liberty is often said to symbolize our national identity. But the unruffled lady bearing a flaming torch is more of an idea, really. Perhaps even a myth, given where we are and what we’ve become. Rooted squarely within the planet’s financial epicenter, the World Trade Center arose as the true manifestation of a nation, an economy, and a people — imposing, bold, excessive, and unapologetic for it all.
Which is precisely why they were such inviting targets on that fateful day no one saw coming.
I took this photo about a year before it happened.
The view from the top of the towers looking east towards Brooklyn was breathtaking.
Visitors rode express elevators from the ground floor to the observation decks. One was inside. Another was on the rooftop, outside.
That’s Marieta off to the right of the frame.
Here’s another angle, of the view looking east, but angled more towards the south. If you look carefully, you can see the tip of Manhattan Island starting to curve around, there off to the right side. The World Trade Center was only a block or so away from the shore. In fact, a landfill was added to part of the outer perimeter which allowed traffic to move more easily. A park was also added near the waterfront. Of course, that’s all gone now, or at least it’s been transformed.
When we stepped inside Windows on the World, the famous restaurant perched on the 106th and 107th floor of the North Tower, this was the view looking out towards Hudson Bay. There in the center of the photo where the golden sunset radiates off the water is Liberty Island, which provides the base of the Statue of Liberty. You can barely see her proudly standing there in the glow of the sunshine.
The twin towers standing so close side by side meant you could sometimes see people over in the other building. Those working in offices were on display, but if you fear heights, like me, the view was dizzying. Company executives with corner offices who by the very definition of where they worked had “made it.” All strangers. But in a very real sense, they were our friends and our family, too.
Watching someone over in the other tower, catching their eye, and waving was pretty amazing. Seeing them wave back was a real joy.
I wonder what happened to some of those nice people who waved. I wonder how many survived, and how many did not.
The first thing that hits you when you step outside onto the observation deck at the World Trade Center is — the wind.
Not like a breeze. Not even gusts. It just blows…..hard….all the time.
We went outside on a perfect day. I can’t even imagine the difficulty of what it must have been like to do construction or maintenance work on the roof of these buildings. The wind was brutal.
Here’s the view from the outer observation deck looking directly north, uptown on Manhattan Island. Oddly enough, when being up this high it’s so far up one might lose any fear of heights. It’s almost like flying.
Just about everyone connected in any way to the events of 9/11 had an opinion on what to do with the now-sacred site. In the end, rich and powerful financiers do what they always do, which is to tear it all down, haul it away, and rebuild again. The land beneath the bodies and rubble was far too valuable to be left simply, as is, which would have been the most appropriate tribute.
At the very least, part of the iconic outer skeleton of the World Trade Center should have been left intact, and then other buildings could have been built around it. Something, at least, should have remained of those fallen towers, to remind us. Something tangible. Something people can see, and touch, and remember.
Now that those two platforms of such wonderfully unique perception are gone, we can no longer gaze out, reflect, and enjoy. The purgatory between earth and sky stands no more.
Remembering Mike isn’t a sad occasion. When I think of him, I smile. So many dinners, conversations, and fond memories. This photo was taken in 1997 at Puggy Pearson’s house, with Mike and Stu Ungar.
As I looked through my own archive of photos, I realized just how important Mike was at various junctions of my life. I’m sure many others feel the same and, like me, credit Mike for making a difference and always providing just the right inspiration or motivation to do the right thing.
Here’s one more photo worth sharing, taken sometime in the 1990s. Mike and I are at Stu Ungar’s house.
Wish I’d taken more photos, but back then we didn’t have camera phones.
I appreciate being quoted in this article on Mike’s passing by one of Las Vegas’ top journalists, Howard Stutz.
Bill Ordine, a longtime sportswriter for the Baltimore Sun and Philadephia Inquirer, wrote this nice tribute to Mike, and asked for my thoughts. It was tough to list all of Mike’s contributions in a simple statement. In fact, Mike’s legacy would require volumes, especially if written and spoken by all the thousands of people whose lives he touched.
What a beautiful tribute to Mike on this podcast, thanks to Chad Hollaway, Sarah Herring, and Jeff Platt at Poker News:
01:30 First news that came as such a shock
09:25 Maria shares her thoughts
26:30 Linda Johnson joins the show to give deep insights into Mike Sexton
34:30 Mike Sexton was a dancer!!
39:15 Jan Fisher shares Mike Sexton hustle story
42:50 Nolan Dalla explains how Mike was essential in his book about Stu Unger
52:48 Remko Rinkema reveals his experience and understanding of Mike Sexton
01:06:00 Adam Pliska & Vince Van Patten from Mike Sexton’s WPT family
01:28:00 Some unknown elements of Mike Sexton through the eyes of Tony Dunst
01:33:45 Why every poker player should be more like Mike Sexton according to Antonio Esfandiari
01:36:20 Mike’s brother Jeff Sexton shares thoughts on Mike Sexton from outside of poker
America’s political crevasse has wrecked families and ruined friendships.
It’s tested our patience, made us question our values, caused us to rethink priorities, and utterly dominated every sector of our lives nearly to the breaking point of exhaustion.
This comes as a non-partisan observation. As you read on, I think people on the Left and the Right will be somewhat in agreement.
In recent years, I’ve witnessed friends and colleagues, who never expressed their political opinions before, becoming both outspoken and active. It’s as though fuses were lit. Passions exploded. This is true for Trump’s defenders and his critics.
I never thought before this ordeal that I’d ponder, let alone scribe, the statement which I’m about to make: I AM SICK OF POLITICS.
Now, to understand the gravity of that comment, you must understand that I have lived and breathed and inhaled and expectorated politics for all of my adult life. 36 years ago, I earned a degree in political science and later, worked in government for more than a decade. No matter which party ruled, or who was elected, my enthusiasm for the American political process, even with its many shortcomings, was heartfelt and genuine. And even after leaving politics in pursuit of other interests, in my spare time, I continued to read about current events and explore ideas. That was my hobby, but even that description doesn’t do the devotion justice.
Hence, I never thought I’d finally reach the stage of fatigue where I dreaded turning on the television each morning, for fear of the next and newest shock and scandal and the inevitability of another galactic battle between alternative universes of an opposite reality. I never thought I’d come to the point of reading books on political and social philosophy as nauseating. I never thought I’d reach the end of the path of what had been a roadway of insatiable curiosity to slamming into a cul-de-sac.
But now, here I am.
Over the next eight weeks, I am determined to work as hard as I possibly can and put everything within my soul into electing the people and party who I believe can best deliver something that’s vanished in recent years.
And that is — normalcy.
What I miss most is — normalcy.
Yeah, I want a revolution. I want big changes. I want the ideas I believe in to win. But this election isn’t about ideas or issues or ideology so much as it’s about normalcy versus pandamonium. Sanity versus chaos. Normal daily activities for ourselves versus fighting in the streets and ceaseless wars on social media.
If my preferred candidates win, does that mean the nation’s deep fissure of division will heal? Of course not. Division and arguments and debate and pain, perhaps lots of pain given the hole we’re in, will continue.
But for a few years, we might also get a break. A breather. A little normalcy. A bit more kindness. Fewer scandals. Less cruelty. More civility. I’m voting for that.
On or before Nov. 3rd, I’m voting for the thing I miss most — normalcy.
Once upon a time, Dallas had 19 drive-in movie theaters scattered throughout the city. This is the story of the one that created traffic jams on the freeway, ignited court battles, and quite likely was the ground zero of conception for many.
November 3rd, 1951 was opening night at the Lone Star Drive-In, which would become a thriving business that lasted 37 years, the longest of any outdoor movie theater in the city’s history. The film which premiered that night was Broken Arrow, a western starring Jimmy Stewart. Reportedly, the grand opening was accompanied by the explosion of fireworks.
Oh, if irony could foretell of the surreptitious sleaze to come.
Camped in a swampy industrial section of East Dallas engulfed in oak trees on Military Parkway, the Lone Star Drive-In was just another family-friendly hangout for a decade and a half,. But then the owners cooked up a wacky way to increase profits by carving out a niche customer base that was certain to be controversial, even scandalous, but would also attract even more cars and customers — if only they could get away with it.
Their new business model was to start showing smut.
In 1966, the happy families loaded into station wagons must have slammed on the breaks in full panic mode when they pulled into the Lone Star Drive-In and been shocked to discover it was now showing X-rated movies. Quick daddy, hit the reverse! I’m not sure exactly what an X-rated movie looked like in 1966 since the MPA rating system wasn’t instituted until two years later, in 1968. I presume those early films must have been hysterically awful and even tame by today’s tawdry standards. But back then, with strict decency codes the norm in most American cities, it’s almost unimaginable that Dallas had an open-air, outdoor movie venue that featured hard-core pornography, what were then called “skin flicks.”
Welcome to the Lone Star Drive-In!
Note from the banner ad, that when the theater first opened, they advertised a “playground for the children.”
Presumably, that attraction later hit the skids once the porn began to flow.
Dallas has no natural reason to be a hub for drive-ins.
Except for lots of cars. Hot summer nights. And nothing much else to do.
Okay, so maybe Dallas — at least back then — was the ideal town for drive-in movies.
History doesn’t lie on this question. Years later, well into the 1980s, Dallas featured the only nationally-syndicated drive-in movie critic. Joe Bob Briggs (real name — John Bloom) wrote a hysterical weekly column, movie reviews actually, of the worst films ever made. They were published in the Weekend section of the now-defunct Dallas Times Herald, which also spawned the careers of many — including sportswriter Dan Jenkins, PBS’ Jim Lehrer, the late politically brilliant Molly Ivins and Skip Bayless, the motormouth on ESPN. Briggs himself became semi-famous for playing the role of the incompetent hick slot manager who was fired in Martin Scorsese’s film, Casino.
However, for all his ambition and talent, Briggs never once reviewed any of the movies playing at the Lone Star Drive-In between 1966 and 1987, not even Debbie Does Dallas. That’s when the giant screen finally went dark….after one last money shot.
The most unusual thing about the Lone Star Drive-In was its location, adjacent to a busy expressway that was named after a former member of the Ku Klux Klan. [Note 1]
You can look it up.
Movies couldn’t be shown until after dark. But when skin flicks hit the screen nightly between 8 pm and midnight, graphic sex scenes were easily visible from the road. Envision driving down the expressway one moment, and then the next — penises the size of Chevrolets. And the acting skills of a jackhammer.
Many rubbernecking witnesses recall “traffic jams” building up along the expressway, particularly during the winter months when the surrounding trees shed their leaves and made for a dangerous driving distraction. Others who remember the Lone Star Drive-In said accidents were common along the section of the roadway where voyeurs could capture a quick peek behind the wheel of the car. Truckers sometimes parked on the median, feigning a “flat tire.”
The stretch of road on the other side of the drive-in complex, known as Lawnview, reportedly had “much clearer views.” It also wasn’t subject to the dangers of distracted drivers barrelling down the expressway going 70 mph. There, on a dark and quiet city street, dedicated aficionados of the cinema arts unwilling to pay the cover charge could watch the screen, though without the sound. The Dallas Police regularly patrolled the area, frequently running off lots of teenagers and cheapskates.
The owners operated several drive-in theaters across Texas, but their decision to show X-rated movies in the middle of Dallas got to be way too much for local authorities to ignore. That’s when the legal battles began.
Somehow, reasons unknown, land exemptions had been grandfathered in. The Lone Star Drive-In’s owners escaped the normal zoning restrictions for decades, to say nothing of the mystery of how they managed to evade local laws on decency. Bribes? How much profit could a porno movie earn to be used to bribe cops and politicians? Who knows?
One story goes that they were able to avoid the deadly classification as an “adult-oriented business” by occasionally running mainstream movies, those rated G and PG, suitable for the whole family. Hence, on some nights the neon marquis in front might advertise a showing of 101 Dalmations, and the next night promote the feature attraction — Sorority Sluts. No word on how they avoided confusion when Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs was shown. Presumably, moviegoers didn’t know if they’d be watching a kiddie cartoon or a gangbang.
I remember the Lone Star Drive-In. Very well. I even went there a few times.
The legal age for entry was 17 and during high school, it was just another rite of passage to the eventual boredom of adulthood. Just like the first time you saw the centerfold in Playboy or kissed a girl. Once a group of us guys went together, which was way far more awkward than it was exciting. Another time, I went on a double date. Some helpful advice: Don’t ever take a girl to an X-rated drive-in movie on a first date.
Whatever the cover charge was ($5 for a carload, I think — no matter if it was 1 person or a dozen), you got to watch three sleazy movies. What a joy! They also had those giant metal speakers attached to an industrial cable that would be hung inside the car window, which was always screechy. I don’t recall much about the concession stand, other than the hot buttered popcorn was certainly something not to be touched.
According to a few drive-in nostalgia sites, the Lone Star Drive-In finally closed down with utterly no fanfare. This time, there were no fireworks. No porno parage. No gooey goodbyes. It wasn’t the Internet and free porn that killed all the big-screen fun. It wasn’t free porn. Rather, it was a new city law and an updated ordinance. The owner’s exemption to restrictions on adult businesses ran out, and the movie went dark on December 18, 1987. One week before Christmas Day.
Ho, ho, ho.
Sometime later, many months or it might have been a few years, with weeds sprouting in the parking lot and the white-plastered screen dingy with dirt and faded by the searing Texas heat, the drive-in suffered a sad and mysterious end. The television news later reported the abandoned drive-in, including the giant screen, had somehow caught on fire. Never mind how suspicious it sounds that a vacant property matted in gravel and surrounded by sheet metal miraculously burst into flames. The punch lines to the story wrote themselves: Wow, the X-rated drive-in caught on fire! That must have been one hot movie!
I guess, looking back now many years later, the Lone Star Drive-In was equal parts of quirky reminiscence and shameful disgust. All the drive-ins are gone now, perishable by evolution, erased by time.
Note 1: That busy freeway is named after R.L Thorton, a former Dallas Mayor and member of the Ku Klux Klan. Many Dallas residents are trying to change the name of the freeway.