The SPORTS PHILOSOPHER asks LVO Nation: should ‘Ol Harv come out of retirement???

January 17, 2011
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      I’ve been really hot at picking football games lately.

      It started out as kind of a lark.   Back in October I started picking one “best bet” each week from the entire week’s slate of NFL games.   I wasn’t actually betting, you understand.   That epoch of my life is long behind me.   Just picking.   Making one imaginary bet per week, as it were.

Who could have predicted the Patriots’ collapse?

Who could have predicted the Patriots’ collapse?






      I started winning.   Every week.   I started telling a few close friends about it.   My hot streak soon reached five weeks in a row, then six weeks, seven, then eight.   That’s right—Eight weeks in a row, my best bet of the week won.   Then I finally lost one.   Then I won two more.   So going into this week I had nailed 10 best bets in an 11-week stretch.   It was kind of frightening.   I did a little quick mathematics as to how much money I would have made if I had gone to Vegas and actually made those bets, betting, say, $1,000 dollars on the first game, and then letting it all ride during those first eight weeks where I didn’t lose.   You do the math yourself.   It’s too depressing to write the exact figure down where everyone can see it.

      My best bet last weekend was the Chicago Bears.   I don’t normally tout a game where my favorite team is involved.   It’s not that I have trouble being objective (one of my nicknames is “Mr. Objectivity”), no, rather it just feels unclean for some reason.   Bad karma.

      But I knew the Bears were going to destroy the Seattle Seahawks.   It didn’t matter that they were 10-point favorites, meaning that if you bet the Bears you’d have to “give” 10 points right off the bat.   Everything pointed to an explosive, winning performance by the Windy City Ursas.   And that’s just what happened.   They marched up and down the field at will, rolled up 450 yards of offense, their defense forced Seattle to punt the ball on their 1st seven possessions, it was ugly.   With five minutes to go they led 35-10.  

      Jim S. was happy.   He’s a young guy, a good friend of mine.   At my urging, he bet quite a chunk of money on the Bears.   I won’t say how much, in case his mother or girlfriend is reading this.   But he had become seduced by the apparent handicapping brilliance of the Sports Philosopher of late, and was only all-too-happy to plunk down some coin on Chicago.   Ergo, with five minutes to go he was happy.

      Here’s the thing, though.   A football is a very funny-shaped object.   It bounces funny.   Strange things happen when grown men kick it and chase it and try to throw it and try to catch it and especially when they try to referee the aerial peregrinations of it.   A couple bad calls by the refs, a long bomb, a stupid personal foul penalty on a Chicago player who probably would be in prison by now if not for his having football every week as an outlet for his felonious assault-prone temper, a sure interception that bounced off a Chicago player’s hands and up into a Seattle player’s hands for a gift touchdown, and another couple of garbage touchdowns later and suddenly Seattle had closed to within 35-to-24.   Still a royal beat-down, but not nearly so pretty a score.   More importantly, the Bears—remember, a 10-point favorite—were now only up by one point on the spread.   I’m sure young Jim thought I’d lost my touch (as if I had anything to do with all that craziness), or that the football gods were mad at me, or him, or something.   The Bears had to recover a late onside kick to seal his wagering victory.    All is well.   The Sports Philosopher is now 11 for 12.   But you bet on football games at your own peril….  

      Jim S.’s father called me after the game.   He’s a very old friend of mine too.   Naturally he congratulated me on another bold, confident isolation of a “live” team, another imaginary wagering victory blah blah blah.   Then he said, “Maybe next year you should publish a newsletter with your picks, make some extra money.  

      If only he knew.

      Or maybe he forgot.

      Because about twenty years ago, I actually ran an ad in a newspaper and picked football games for a living.

      Well, “for a living” might be an exaggeration.   Hell, I didn’t make enough to earn a living at it any more than I make enough to earn a living writing this column.   But it did pay a bill or two.

      Here’s the poop.   About twenty years ago me and another friend of mine, a Mr. David Lucky James (yes, his middle name really is Lucky), were working together over in the Wilshire district as corporate headhunters, and he became enamored of my peculiar skill at picking football games.   So he got an idea.   What if he bought space in some newspaper where people could call in and—for a couple bucks, of course— listen to a recorded message of me making football picks every week?   Would I do it?   Sure, I said.   So we worked out an arrangement where he would pay me a little something (I think it was a few hundred clams a week, not bad) to record just such a weekly message.

      Moreover, he found the perfect publication to run the ad in.   Anyone out there remember “The National”?   About twenty years ago it was the perfect sports-loving man’s newspaper.   Because it was only sports.   Nothing else.   A weekly newspaper that dealt EXCLUSIVELY with sports!   That’s the dream, right guys?   A newspaper where you don’t have to pretend to read or care about all the other boring sections, where you don’t have to feel guilty about killing forests as you toss those boring sections rudely to the street.   In “The National”, the sports pages were the only pages.

      So every week I recorded my pics.   And the most amusing aspect of this strange enterprise of David’s is that, for theatrical purposes, I changed my name and adopted a low gravelly voice halfway between Walter Brennan in “The Real McCoys” and Lurch the 8-foot-tall butler from “The Addams Family”.   I also made it sound a little like I had emphysema or whooping couch, just for character.   Occasionally I would wheeze.

      Oh, and the name I chose was Harv Edwards.   David still calls me Harv.

      So anyway, as the ad began to run week after week, and I began to get hot with my pics, people began calling in.   In droves.   It was so cool.   If you’d call in you’d hear me begin my recorded message with something like, “Hello all you hopeless football derelicts out there this is yer ol’ pal Harv Edwards, how are yeh….”, and then I’d wheeze and cough ( swear to god), and then go right into my selections.   If I liked a big favorite in a game, my recorded Lurch voice might say, “Take the Cowboys, children, lay the points, and laugh aaaalllllllll the waaaaaayyyyy to the bank!”    Conversely, if I liked the underdog in a potentially close game, I might growl something town-drunkish like, “In a game like this one, cherubs, ol’ Harv says it’s better to be gittin’ than givin’….     (In other words, take the points don’t give the points.   Get it?)

      Funny….I was jut thinking….if David was able to pay me a few hundred bucks every week just to do that little recorded ad, no matter if my picks won or not, as the owner of this delightful cabal I wonder how much dough HE was making every week on the deal….I guess I’ll have to ask him that some day.

      This little slice of Utopia went on for about four months, almost an entire football season, but then the inevitable happened.   The National” went belly-up.   Yeah.   Too good to be true.   It was fun while it lasted.   Literally a once-in-a-lifetime lark, to be sure.

      So no, I don’t think there will be a new gambling newsletter from this tired old Sage.   That epoch of my life is history as well.   Plus I have a kid now.   Role-model violation.  

      Besides, you never know when the whole world, which is to say the whole football world, will go irretrievably crazy.   Take last weekend.   Who could have predicted that the Ravens, up by 14 points, would make turnovers on three straight possessions, drop two easy passes you could have caught, and then let the Steelers throw a 60-yard bomb on 3rd-and-19?   Who would have believed that the mighty Patriots, down by ten points and playing horribly, would spend half the 4th quarter literally running out the clock on themselves, doing running play after running play, as if they had all the time in the world, squandering almost eight minutes of the 4th quarter on one drive alone, while walking nonchalantly up to the ball between these time-consuming running plays as if the whole team had been stricken with mononucleosis?   And I’ve already described to you how the Bears played the game of their lives and still almost blew the spread.   Anything can happen.   And lately I’m in search of a more peaceful existence anyway.  

      No.   I can’t do it again.   Too much pressure.   What if ol’ Harv has lost his touch?   


PS—For the record—and this is in no way a recommendation for you to bet accordingly—this week I’m picking the “over” in the Steelers/Jets game as my best bet.   The number is 38.5, so that means I’m saying there’ll be more than 38 and a half points scored in the game.   That’s the play.   Just for the record….


meet….The Sports Philosopher!image0023


Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, undiscovered fictioneer, and also sometimes answers to the name of Harv Edwards—really.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written 4 novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of his best fiction work can be discovered by clicking the delightful yet unappreciated links below:










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