Humor

The Night I Bankrupted Half of Baltimore

 

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The beautiful scene of the crime

 

I have been watching UFC fights religiously since I saw Conor McGregor fight Nate Diaz in 2016. That fight was during UFC 196. The Pay-per-view event on January 18, 2020 was UFC 246. I may have missed a few events here or there, but I have watched most of the UFC fights in the three years since 196. This by no means makes me a MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) expert. Far too many corpulent MMA fans believe they know what they are talking about because they buy Pay-per-views. I am just a fan. That is it. I can’t explain how to perform a D’arce choke or a heel hook. I wouldn’t be able to pass guard or mount a successful ground defense. And the only part of a rear naked choke I could demonstrate is when the victim slumps haplessly to the ground after being strangled unconscious. 

Because of second hand knowledge gained from MMA podcasts and basic fight IQ, my overall fight picking record is pretty good. If I had a stronger appetite for sports gambling, I think I would do ok betting on fights. I’m not claiming that I could be a professional. As you will see in this post, I would be better off trying to make it as a fighter. But I do like to bet on fantasy MMA because it allows me to have a little action on the fights without causing too much damage. 

I have lots of friends who are degenerate sports bettors and I am comfortable saying that I  know more about MMA than they do. Many of them have won money based on my advice. I do, however, include the warning with my picks that if they chose to make bets based on what I say, they are doing so with the knowledge that I really don’t know what the hell I am talking about. I may know more than them, but that isn’t saying much. If they lose, it is their fault.

The UFC likes to make the first Pay-per-view event of the year a big one to generate lots of coverage and to get people excited for the coming year. UFC 246 saw the return of Conor McGregor; by far the most popular UFC fighter in the world.

I was torn picking the matchup because McGregor was fighting Cowboy Cerrone, my favorite fighter. Cowboy holds the UFC record for wins and finishes. While I thought McGregor would be able to out-point Cerrone and win by decision, I wouldn’t have bet on that outcome because McGregor was a -330 favorite. That means that you would have had to risk $330 to win $100 and I thought Cowboy had enough of a chance to win to make that risk too expensive. I did believe that Cowboy would be able to survive in the fight long enough to justify betting on the “over,” which was set at a round and a half. I told everyone to take that bet instead of betting on the outcome. Conor was able to finish Cowboy in the first minute of the first round, making that horrible advice.

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The best night I have ever had picking fights was during UFC 235, where I picked eleven out of twelve fights correctly; the one I got wrong was a split decision. If that was my top then UFC 246 was my bottom. I picked one fight correctly that night and it was a fight on the undercard that nobody asked me about. 

If life were fair, then your odds of winning would get better after you lose. If that were true, then Las Vegas would still be a dusty old truck stop. I should have known that I was doomed when, on the undercard, Maycee Barber, a -1000 favorite, tore her ACL and lost. Even though that was a pretty specific bad omen, I kept throwing out betting advice to anyone who asked like I was TC the Greek. 

The main card began with Anthony Pettis taking on Carlos Diego Ferreira. I knew that Diego Ferreira relied on this masterful Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to win his fights. He isn’t a strong striker but he doesn’t have to be because his submission game is so solid. Anthony Pettis is one of my favorite fighters. He recently moved up a weight class and found some extra strength by eliminating a brutal weight cut. He has looked unbeatable in his last few fights and I thought he would be able to avoid submission and beat Carlos with strikes by either knockout or a decision. I was correct and Pettis defended brilliantly until the middle of the second round where he got caught in something he couldn’t escape from. That happens in fighting sometimes. 0-1.

The next fight was Brian Kelleher versus Ode Osbourne. This fight mirrored the first fight in that a wrestler (Kelleher) was fighting a striker (Osbourne). I picked Osbourne because he has a seven-inch reach advantage over Kelleher. Reach is my favorite stat to exploit when picking fights, but I am not a professional. One way to neutralize a reach advantage is with wrestling. Kelleher submitted Osbourne in the first round. 0-2, but we have three more fights to go. There is still hope!

Maurice Greene is a heavyweight fighter with a devastating punch and a relentless pursuit. He is known as the “Crochet Boss” because that is what he does in his off time, crochets. How can you not pull for a guy like that? His opponent was this old Russian fossil, Aleksi Oleinik. I do not mean to be disrespectful; Aleksi is an MMA legend with 72 professional fights. His nickname is the “Boa Constrictor” because he gets hold of you and doesn’t let go. But I thought that Maurice’s youth and quickness could avoid the Constrictor’s death grip and win the fight with a knockout. I was proven incorrect when this Russian bear grabbed hold of my guy and proceeded to choke the life out of him for two rounds, causing him to tap out at the end of the second. 0-3 and now we are only hoping to owe the juice.

If my heart didn’t belong to the beautiful and deadly “Thug” Rose Namajunas, it would belong to Holly Holm. Nicknamed “The Preacher’s Daughter,” Holly was the first fighter to knockout Ronda Rousey, which shocked the world. Unfortunately Holly is 2-5 since beating Rousey and she really needed to win this fight. But because of her past performances, I couldn’t in good conscious advise people to bet on her. Too bad for them because she won a decision. 0-4, but Hawaii always kicks off at 10:30, so bet the house and save the day.  

Before the final fight of the night, McGregor v. Cowboy, my buddy from Baltimore called me. He’s a pretty good fight picker himself and we collaborate on fight night. He was watching the fight at his buddy’s house in Mount Pleasant with about a dozen other people from Baltimore, who, he informed me, wanted my head on a platter. Even though my buddy and I were agreeing on the picks, he was telling his buddies it was my advice that kept losing. I would have done the same if I was in a house surrounded by my friends who were currently thousands of dollars lighter, so I understood why he did it. 

“Tell them about my picking in UFC 235!,” I pleaded, but they did not want to hear it. 

I was certain my final pick of “over” for the McGregor fight would come in and my buddy agreed that there was no way I could get everything wrong. 0-5, and now I can’t visit to Baltimore. 

 

To give you a better idea of how bad I was at handicapping that night, here is the result of one of the Draft Kings contests I entered: Out of 3921 entries, my team finished in 3788th place. If it wasn’t for the one winner I picked on the undercard, I would have finished dead last. 

So let me apologize to those fine folks from Baltimore who lost money because of my advice. I am not a professional. I had a bad betting night that you only hope to ready about.    

Charleston

I Thought I saw Darius

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I thought I saw Darius Rucker driving a silver Volvo last week. He was turning left onto the crosstown headed towards Mount Pleasant. A rockstar shouldn’t be driving a Volvo and one wasn’t because it wasn’t him. 

There are two celebrity sightings here that feel distinctly Charleston: Bill Murray and Darius Rucker. Bill Murray shows up sometimes when you don’t want him to, like in your wedding photos. Darius can be seen like any other Charlestonian doing Charleston things. I like the man, I love his voice, I like some Hootie songs, and I don’t much care for his country material. Not because it is bad but because I don’t much care for any country songs that aren’t from Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, or Patsy Cline. 

I do love Darius’s voice. If we ever develop artificial intelligence where we can download ourselves into carbon-robot clones, I’d like to buy the “sound like Darius Rucker when you sing” patch. That way when I am singing in the car and the satellite radio cuts out for a second, my horrible voice won’t be left hanging there like a stink-cloud wafting from PePe Le Pew’s behind. 

Darius Rucker’s voice sounds like a bowl of grits. Good grits too, not that hominy shit; his voice slowly slides off a spoon.

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I didn’t see Darius driving a Volvo the other day and yet I still thought that moment was special and I can’t figure out why. I like Hootie and the Blowfish. Well, I like Hootie. You can have the Blowfish. I’m sure they are fine fellows and I don’t mean to disparage them. But every time I hear my favorite Hootie song, I Go Blind, I go blind when one of the Blowfish sings the background vocals. I wish Darius performed both parts.

I should be annoyed with Darius instead of fawning over the time I thought I saw him. He breathed terrible, gut-wrenching new life into the song Wagon Wheel by covering it. I heard his version and I was so angry that I wanted to amass a flotilla and sail it over to his new house in the Bahamas, which he bought with the Wagon Wheel residuals, and demand an answer to why he would ever record that song. He would then hold his arms open to his new island paradise and say, “this is why, asshole. Now beat it!” (The music video he did for it has 218 million views on Youtube.) 

After some thought I realized that Darius didn’t resuscitate that song, he killed it. He wore it out, thank the lordt. Even in Charleston, home of the “Wagon Wheel every night ‘till I die” fan club, I have noticed some eye-rolls when that song comes on. I bet I have heard Wagon Wheel (either the Old Crow, cover bands, or Darius’s version) 580,000 times since I moved to Charleston fifteen years ago. People here insist the song is about Charleston even though it is really about Raleigh, North Carolina. Still, drunkards and sweaty college girls belt that song out at Charleston bars like it is their personal anthem. At least they did before Darius sang the Wagon Wheel eulogy.

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Rock Me Mama is a track on a Bob Dylan bootleg that someone peeled off a reel to reel in the garbage outside a music studio. The song wasn’t finished and has been described as not even a song at all “but more like Dylan mumbling into a hot microphone while he stomped his foot and strummed a guitar.” I’m not sure how they could distinguish that from one of his finished songs. Then a man named Ketch Secor, whose name makes him sound like the inventor of a Wild West cure-all elixir, heard the Dylan demo and “finished” the song; turning it into what is known as Wagon Wheel. Then Darius heard his daughter’s school band play the song and he decided that he had to record it. Never has a middle school band recital done more damage. It did however lead to the song’s passage into music purgatory right next to the place God has reserved for ABBA’s Dancing Queen, if he can ever figure out how to get the damn thing off Broadway. 

The essence of Charleston is hard to capture in a work of art. Nowhere is this more evident than in the various television shows and magazine articles produced about Charleston in the past few years as a result of the tourist boom. Al Roker comes here and he eats some shrimp and he trips over a cobblestone street and he thinks he has shown you Charleston. I’m not saying that they are wrong or misguided, and I am glad people like The Today Show and Travel and Leisure take an interest in my home, but I think the only way to really understand Charleston is to live here. And the only people qualified to show the rest of the world this place are the artists who live here like Darius Rucker. 

Darius Rucker personifies Charleston. He made a bunch of money early in his life, retired to the marsh and the golf course for a decade or so, and then came back as something completely different and churned out even more hits. He’s part old school and part new. Not all of his songs are about Charleston but he puts a little Charleston into each one. In the Hootie and the Blowfish song I Will Wait, Darius sings the line, “Another night alone in Charleston.” I have heard that line in a train station in Denver, a casino in Vegas, an airport in Chicago, the gift shop on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, and many other places. We celebrate our artists because they package up little pieces of Charleston and send them out to the world. Every time I hear that line from I Will Wait, it is like someone popped open a vial containing a dollop of stinky pluff mud and stuck it under my nose to remind me of home.

I didn’t meet Darius Rucker or take a picture with him or even see him turning onto the crosstown. All I did was see a guy in a Volvo. But what I figured out in that moment is why we connect certain famous people to certain places. Charleston artists like Darius represent with their art this place we call home and they highlight the things that we love about it. Their art reminds us of home over and over again. I smiled when I saw a guy who I thought for a moment was Darius Rucker because art is powerful.

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone. I would like to sincerely thank those who have patronized this blog. 2019 has been an incredible year for me and I couldn’t have grown or improved like I did without your support. Thank you and I hope to see you in 2020.