Legal Sports Gambling Daze

Many years ago, when the annual boys golf trip used to take me to Vegas, our trip coincided with The Preakness Stakes. On the day of the race, we’d usually leave for the golf course around 7 AM Pacific Time/10 AM Eastern Time, and the sports book would already be starting to fill up. By the time we got back to the hotel, usually just in time for the race, it was standing room only and you could feel the excitement in the air. It’s not just horse racing. Name a sport and you can bet on it Las Vegas.

With 4 of the casinos in Atlantic City having closed or soon to be closed, and with the competition from casinos in neighboring states continuing to put pressure on the remaining NJ casinos, the Garden State has decided to allow legal gambling in their casinos. So what do the NFL, MLB, NBA,  NHL and NCAA do?  They sue to stop legalized gambling in NJ for fear that it will hurt the “integrity of the game.” Oh give me a break.

Forgetting the other 3 professional sports, let’s focus on the NFL. The NFL –  home of Fantasy Football – thinks letting casinos in NJ take bets on their games is going to have an effect on the integrity of their sport? This is from a league that openly sponsors Fantasy Football, actually has entire shows devoted to Fantasy Leagues on their own TV network and the other networks that carry their sport to millions of viewers. What do they think all these people who play Fantasy Football are doing with all this information? Playing for for or points or peanuts? No, Fantasy Football is organized gambling encouraged by the NFL as a way to boost it’s popularity, drive-up TV ratings and keep fans interested. During some TV courage, they even run the fantasy points in the scroll at the bottom of the TV. You can smell the hypocrisy from here all the way to NFL headquarters.

And don’t get me started on the NCAA and their objections. The NCAA is an organization that can’t get out of it’s own way right now and could be headed to the sports organization graveyard in the next few years if they are not careful. I read somewhere the NCAA Basketball Tournament is the number one sports gambling event in the United States. Ask anyone who has been to Vegas for the first weekend of the tournament and they will tell how insane things are. The sports books routinely fill up when the first games tip-off and don’t clear out until the last game ends some 12 hours later.

Personally, I don’t gamble on sports, don’t play fantasy, haven’t participated in NCAA tournament pool in years and have only been to the race track once or twice in post 5 or 6 years. But I know lots of people who are big fantasy players, have more than one team, have elaborate draft day events at home or the local sports bar, and who spend their entire Sunday watching NFL RedZone so they can keep track of their fantasy points. If you took the fantasy out of football, I wonder how many of these diehard fans would still watch? What effect this would have the ratings? Subsequently the effect on the pocketbooks of the league, the owners, and the players.

My opinion is that the popularity of the NFL is driven in no way by the illegal gambling that goes on through Fantasy Football. For the NFL to deny this is the height of hypocrisy and for them to sue the State of New Jersey to keep gambling on their sport illegal because it calls into question “the integrity of the game” is just beyond crazy and a waste of money for the state of NJ to defend itself. Makes me think that it’s not only the players who have been getting their bells rung all these years, but it’s really the owners and league officials who should have their heads examined.

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A Questioning of Faith

A couple of weeks ago was Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. A time when we members of the tribe ask for forgiveness for our sins – sins against family, sins against friends, sins against God.

I believe in friends, I believe in family, as for God….not so much. I believe that something is out there, I’m just not sure what or who or where it is. The funny thing about it is despite my lack of belief in the ultimate being, I spend the entire day of  Yom Kippur in temple, arriving before 10 when the morning services start and leaving after the final blow of the shofar about 8 hours later.  Yom Kippur should actually end at sunset (or about 6:45 on that particular day) but as a reform Jew, Yom Kippur ends early to build in travel time for break fast.  And yes, I have now sinned for saying that.

Most people leave temple after the morning service and return later that afternoon for Yizkhor, the memorial service where you honor those immediate relatives who have passed. This is only my 2nd year that I have attended Yizkhor as a mourner. I went in years past but mostly to support Linda and her mom.

My day in temple is spent learning, reflecting, listening to the sounds of the day, checking out the fall fashions and laughing at folks trying to hide the fact that they are on their cell phones (including a member our clergy’s wife playing Tetris – OY!).  Most of the time, I don’t even participate in the responsive readings that go on. I have found that my faith and my spirituality does not come from a prayer book.

When I go to temple, a time when my most people reaffirm their belief in God, is the time that I actually find myself questioning God’s existence. Mostly because I don’t really think about religion or God all that much but when you’re in temple, that’s what you think about. I have often stated that “religion is the root of all evil” and, in today’s world, I think that is more true than ever.

Don’t get me wrong. I consider myself 100% Jewish, raised my kids that way, go to temple more than 2 times a year (which is more than I can say for about 90% of our temple members…and I’ve sinned again). For me, I don’t equate my Jewishness with a belief in God. Sounds a bit crazy but I think faith and spirituality are what you make of it, not necessarily an organized belief system in a higher power.

During the Jewish High Holidays which just ended, most Jews are supposed to reaffirm their belief in “Adonai,” the one true God. As for me, I reaffirmed my belief that if there is one true God, he put me here to question everything about him or her, about religion, about everything that is going on the world, and to try and make one other person question it as well. And I believe that if there really was a God, he’d answer my prayers that my blog would have thousands (let’s make that millions) of readers and I’d get rich just from telling folks my opinions.

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The Congress Is In Recess…Again

Recess used to be such a happy word. Memories of my childhood, on the playground at Baker Hill Elementary School, playing ball or on the jungle gym, running around with my friends.  Ah sweet youth.

Now, recess is a dirty word. A word that only makes me think my tax dollars are being wasted on a bunch of political nincompoops who have nothing better to do than take an extended break from their jobs, just so they can try and keep their jobs, when they really don’t do anything at their jobs.

Forget about a complete lack of any new domestic policies that this bunch of senators and congressman has failed to discuss or debabe, let alone enact. Now, as the world seems on the brink of exploding in so many places, what’s our Congress decide to do? Extend their pre-election recess by an additional week.  Ladies and gentleman, Congress is now closed until November. Holy shit.

Did I mention that they just got back from their 6 week summer recess? Oh yes, Congress came back to work for a whole 8 daze and is now getting ready to walk away again. All this while the middle east is at war on multiple fronts, there are mass murders, very public beheadings, while our country is trying to build a coalition to fight this latest group of terrorists, and when big decisions need to be made on how to handle this latest crisis. Our elected officials do what they do best – put their heads up their asses and run away to hide in the comfort of their own districts all in the name of re-election.

And what do we do? We re-elect the same spineless, useless, recess mongers year after year. You and I should have it as good as these folks.

Back in 1980, when I voted in my first presidential election, I voted for a 3rd party candidate, John Anderson. I remember my mother telling me that was a wasted vote. If mom were alive today I would tell her that voting for one of the 2 major party candidates is actually the wasted vote.

So vote but don’t vote for the same old same old. Vote for a 3rd party candidate, pick a cause, pick an ideal, pick something other than what we’ve got right now. Pro life, pro choice, green party, legalize pot party, libertarian, communist, socialist, hell….start your own party. I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I’m all about common sense and would love to start that party.

And now I’m done. Time for recess.

 

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I Feel Bad That I Don’t Feel Bad

In the hit Broadway show A Chorus Line, the character Morales recalls the story of her drama instructor Mr. Karp,  who tormented her, calling her “nothing.”  Years later, Morales learn that Karp had died and sings “and I reached on down to the bottom of my soul and cried….cause I felt ‘nothing’.”

Tuesday in Arizona, a 9 year girl old shot and killed her fire arms instructor with an Uzi. My first reaction was that I felt nothing. Now as I think about this, I realize I’m feeling many things. I am sad that a man who had served our country had been shot and killed. I am amazed that parents thought it was OK for their 9 year old daughter to be shooting an Uzi. I find it incredible that a man who was trained to use an Uzi did not know enough to realize that this young girl would be unable to handle the recoil from that submachine gun when he set it to automatic mode.

Most of all I’m angry. Angry that the entire conversation of common sense gun control regulations in our country is dominated by one side and its fanatical leadership group. A group that refuses to budge one inch on any new regulations, despite the growing outcry from the public, despite the epidemic of gun violence and gun related deaths.

Let me say, I’m not a fanatic in favor of the total ban of all fire arms. Common sense tells me that this is unrealistic in a country where people cling to the “right to bear arms” even when that right was granted in an age of muskets and one shot pistols. You want to own a pistol or two, OK. A rifle for hunting, fine. But explain to me why a 9 year old, or anyone else for that matter, needs to have the right to own, or needs to know how to shoot an Uzi. Makes absolutely no sense no matter how much the NRA spins it.

I guess in the end I really felt a lot of things, but being sad about this unfortunate death is not on the top of my list. Although I am sad. Sad that it wasn’t Wayne LaPierre (President of the NRA) or one his gun toting disciples on the receiving end of that Uzis bullet. If that were to happen, then I’d feel something.

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Almonds Make Me Nuts

The other day I was reading some interesting info about almonds. Before I get to that, I need to be something off my chest about almond “milk.”  It’s not friggin’ milk! It’s juice or water or something entirely different but it’s not milk. Milk is lactated not squeezed out of a nut. Cows, humans and other living, breathing animals make milk. Almonds that grow on trees do not. To call it milk is udderly ridiculous.  Glad I got that off my chest.

Almonds are now the number 1 consumed nut in America, having replaced peanuts. In reality, the #1 nuts in America are the folks running our country, but that’s a completely different type of nut. Almonds are also very unfriendly to the environment in which they grow, which is mostly in California. I’m sure you are wondering how a nut can be anti-environment.  Let me ‘splain.

If you’ve been reading the news at all, you know the climate has been pretty weird lately. California is now in one the worst droughts that region has ever seen. Water is at such a premium they now drill for groundwater they way they drill for oil. Where there was once surface water, there is none. Where there was once ground water pretty close to the surface, that is vanishing rapidly.  So it’s drill baby drill. Let’s forget about the consequences of how much that destabilizes the ground above those ever deeper water wells…at least until parts of California become one big sinkhole.

80% of all the water in California goes to agriculture. Of that, 10% goes to grow almonds. Many of these almond groves used to grow cotton, vegetables and other annual crops. Cotton was not as lucrative but used 40% less water than almonds. In a bad water year, you let cotton or vegetable plants die, take the hit and replant the next year. Almond trees need constant care and constant watering. So just remember, every time you eat an almond, you are helping suck California dry (which some people might think is not such a bad thing).

This scenario reminds me of the 1st Superman movie back in 1978. In that film, the villan Lex Luthor was going to set off a nuclear bomb in the San Andreas fault and sink part of California into the Pacific Ocean. He had purchased all the land on the other side of the fault which would become beach front property with names like Lutherville and Costa del Lex (and Otisburg for you Superman aficionados). In reality, you really don’t need a bomb or the world’s #1 criminal mind to completely screw up California…just a bunch of nuts.

 

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Another Ma Nature IRAnt

We all know the world is a scary place right now. My morning ritual these daze is to wake-up, turn on my computer, go to CNN.com and Google News and pray the world hasn’t completely blown itself while I tried to get a good night sleeps.

Not completely lost in the multitude of wars, skirmishes, terrorism, etc., is the punishment that Mother Nature continues to inflict on our little planet. Let’s start in California, America’s fruit and veggie basket. Where there once was surface water, now there’s none. Where there was once well water near the surface, now there’s not so much…if any. So they drill, just like for oil, in some spots up to 2000 feet below the surface. Of course the one little side effect is that when you suck all that water out of the ground, you suck out the support system for the land above it. California may not float off into the Pacific but don’t be surprised if parts of it sink into the ground.

A little further up the coast, we have wildfires. Again, a little water would go a long way towards alleviating that situation. Unfortunately, when the rains do come, that will only lead to mudslides and more devastation. Without the trees to hold things in place, things have a tendency to slide down hill, often with catastrophic results as we saw this spring and in the last few daze.

Heading all the way up the coast, the problem is too much water and not enough ice. Where there once was the Arctic Ice Cap, we now have waves…big waves. Do you know what those waves do? They help break up the remaining ice so there is even less ice and more open water. According to more than a few folks who are a lot smarter than me, the day is rapidly approaching when the Arctic Ice Cap will be free of ice during the summer months. According to these experts, that would be bad. I guess during the summer we’d have to call it “the unfrozen water formerly known as The Arctic Ice Cap.”

On top of all these disasters, we have disease outbreaks. Ebola in Africa, which seems to be spreading much faster than anticipated; a tick epidemic on longisland (one which makes you allergic to red meat), rhodeisland and otherislands and inland areas on the east coast, which means lyme disease. In southern environs of the USA, there are reports of Chikungunya, which is carried by mosquitoes. Bad enough the little bastards are giving us West Nile Virus, now we have something I can’t even pronounce. Sounds like chewing gum or some long lost Indian tribe about to open a casino.

Maybe Ma Nature is taking a look at the state of things and realizes that humanity is on the verge of imploding her planet. Maybe she thinks it time she taught us another lesson on who is really control of things here on planet Earth. Let’s just hope she doesn’t have one big ass asteroid in her arsenal. If she does, we may be the next dodo to gogo.

 

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The Accidental SU Alumni Club President

Today is July 1, 2014.  An ordinary day for most but slightly less ordinary for me. Today is the day that I start my 10th year as President of the Syracuse University Northern New Jersey Alumni Club. What started out as a 3 year term is evolving into what my board refers to as a “President for life” sentence. I often wonder if  I’m a victim of my own success or guilty of not following the first rule of presiding over this type of organization – make sure the first thing you do is find the next person to be President.

I never set out to be “Mr. Syracuse” to my friends, neighbors and fellow SU alums. All I really wanted were good seats for SU basketball games. On my way to front row seats at The Garden, my alma mater took over a big chunk of my life.

If anyone doesn’t know, I graduated from SU in 1982, Linda in 1983, Allie graduated in 2011 and Zach graduated this past May.

SU '82, proud grandma, SU '11, SU 83, SU '14.

SU ’82, proud grandma, SU ’11, SU 83, SU ’14.

My life as an active alum started 11 or 12 years ago when I joined the SUNNJAC board.  In the fall of 2004, in the middle of his 3rd year as President, Brian Spector asked Linda and me to have lunch with him. It was there that he sprang his master plan upon us. He was moving up to the national alumni board and wanted me to take over as club president. Despite my pleas that I wanted no part of it, I was voted in by a 2 to 1 vote, with Linda and Brian voting in favor, and….well you can figure out how I voted. So, on July 1, 2005, the benign dictator assumed his role.

A few months before taking office, I attended my first meeting as President elect at Lubin House in NYC and met with other NY/NJ area alumni leaders. My first question was “how do I get really good seats for basketball games?” It didn’t take long for me to realize that being an SU alumni club president was not that high up on the Orange food chain and that I was pretty much on my own for basketball tickets.  Eventually I realized I was pretty much on my own period so I (along with Brian and the rest of the SUNNJAC board) decided to go our own merry way. Part of the reason why I’m now in my 10th year as president is by-laws, or lack thereof.  Here in North Jersey, we don’t need no stinking by-laws.

A year or two into the reign of terror, I became close with a few other club presidents who thought much like I did, and so was born the “axis of evil” (SU alumni style).  The NY to Philly alumni corridor and the 4 of us that ran the show – with major shout outs to Karen Auuuuuuu, Pam Mulligan and Andy Laver – became a model of cooperation (not to mention rearranging the seating at president weekend meetings).

3rd year in and I was not only an alum, I was an SU dad as Allie started her 4 years in OrangeLand. One of my all time favorite dad moments was Thursday night of club presidents weekend. Making my way to Faegens, I walked past all the scantily dressed young (and underage) coeds standing in line to get into Maggie’s when I recognized a few of Allie’s friends. Than came those magic words, “Hi daddy!” Allie, I know you will read this and you know that I love you but why oh why have you always been so in love with your cleavage? Oh well, my mother would be proud.

3 years later, I’m still president and now I have 2 at SU as Zach joins the Orange Clan. Now I start thinking, I’ll stay president until 2014 when Zach graduates. That would be a good time to hand over the reins.  But have I done that? Nooooooo, I’m still here.

But who am I kidding.  It’s been a fun ride. In my role as an alumni club leader, I have met so many great people and made so many friends.  If you had told me 10 years ago that a young couple from SU would invite us to their wedding, I would have laughed at you. But last Memorial Day Weekend, there we were at Holiday Valley Resort in Western NY attending the nuptials of Julie Walas and Binh Hunh, who have also joined us for graduation dinners in ’11 and ’14, and whom we make sure to spend time with whenever we are at SU.

And there are so many more people who have become a part of our extended Orange family. JoGo, Ste. Colleen, everyone at alumni relations, the wonderful folks at Falk and Engineering who helped us so much in our moment of need, Bridget who danced when she heard Allie got a job in LA and put her picture from the Hollywood Reporter on the door of her office, my friends in the Dome Box Office (love you guys!) and in the athletic department, all my fellow alumni leaders who put up with my ranting and raving once a year in person and more often via emails, and the list goes on and on and on.

Of course there’s the SUNNJAC board and our members. Thank you for the notes of support and becoming part of the North Jersey OrangeNation. And my little Orange family – Linda, Allie, Zach, Cosmo (so sad about your name sake) and Shay, the only Syracuse native in our crew.

Now someone get Jim Boeheim on the line so we can can figure out how we are going to win our next national championship with me sitting courtside!

 

 

 

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