The Game Losers Guide To Gambling Jargon

With the recent news having broken that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has discussed the legalization of sports betting with other professional sports commissioners, we appear to be inching closer to a reality in which sports betting is legalized and regulated. In most other countries, this is already the case; teams like Liverpool FC in England will use their official Twitter account to offer odds through a gambling entity affiliated with the team. The United States has resisted it for the most part, save for Las Vegas and numerous offshore gambling sites (which exist with dubious legality).

One of the most baffling things about the US’s resistance to sports betting is that the parlance is everywhere. Commentators, websites, and everyday people often talk about how well a team might be doing against the spread, what the money line for a given game is, and how well a team outperformed the over-under at the start of the season. You might be reading this piece and that last sentence might have seemed like it was in a different language. Never fear! Since you will no doubt be hearing this jargon more and more often as the conversation about sports betting increases (especially if you dive into the wide world of sports), here’s a little primer.

For ease of understanding, I will be using two teams as examples throughout this glossary of sorts. One team is the Harlem Globetrotters and the other team is the Washington Generals. You probably know the former as the team full of people who can do absurd tricks with a basketball. You might not know the latter; they’re the team the Globetrotters often play and they are destined to lose every game. A great gag from an episode of The Simpsons features the line, “You bet against the Harlem Globetrotters!?” 1)“Homie the Clown.” Anyway, let’s start with the basics.

Point spread: Commonly referred to as just the “spread,” it’s the predicted margin of victory/defeat for two teams in a game. A game between the Globetrotters and Generals may have the Globetrotters favored by 20 points. In gambling shorthand this may be represented by HGT -20. 2)I’m not sure what the official abbreviation for the Harlem Globetrotters is. The “minus 20” can be thought of this way: if you bet the Globetrotters minus 20, that means they have to win by 21 or more for the bet to be fulfilled. If the spread was even because the teams were so evenly matched, we can also call that a pick’em.

Say the final score is 100-81 and the Globetrotters win. They did not cover the spread, though—they only won by 19. In this case, the underdog Washington Generals are winning bet. If you had WSH +20, you cash out, because you took the points. If this were the first game of the season, the Generals would be 0-1 but 1-0 against the spread, or ATS. Though they lost 100-81, they win 100-101 when the spread is factored in. But what if the score had been exactly the spread? What if it had finished 100-80?

Push: If you’ve ever dabbled in blackjack, you may be familiar with this term. A push is when an outcome that is bet against is fulfilled on the dot. In this case you neither win money nor lose money, instead you simply are returned the money you used to make the bet in the first place. For this reason, many times you may see a spread like -4.5, or an over-under like 45.5. Half-points are used to lessen the likelihood of pushes.

Over-under: There are two main types of over-under bets. The total for a game might be 45.5, as stated above. Or a team may be projected to win 45.5 games in a season. That’s a futures bet. Either way, you are betting on one of two outcomes. The first outcome is that the end result is over the over-under. In a football game tied at 20, the total is 40. One team scores a touchdown with no time left on the clock to go up 27-20, putting the final total at 47. It went over.

Likewise, say you bet the under in that futures bet for, say, the Washington Generals. I’m not sure what gambling site would project them at 45.5 games, but hell, they overperform. Going into the last game of the season, they have won precisely 45 games. However, they lose in humiliating fashion, and their final total for the season is indeed 45. You cash out, but just barely.

Futures bets: These can be pretty nervewracking. They are bets on a team or player’s performance made before the season begins. As a real-world example, the Seattle Seahawks are currently the favorites to win next year’s Super Bowl, at 5-to-1 odds. That’s not necessarily saying there’s a twenty percent chance they win the Super Bowl. Anything can happen between now and then. But if you’re willing to bet one hundred dollars on them, and they do win, you will win $600. 3)The $100 you bet plus the $500 you won.

Hedging: But what if you get nervous the day before the big game? The Seahawks make their third straight Super Bowl but one of their star players got injured and it doesn’t look like they will win. You might hedge your bet here. Your profit should the Seahawks win would be $500. Your loss should they lose would be $100. The night before the game, you bet on the money line and get the other team -150, which is essentially 1-to-1.5 odds. You bet $150 on the other team, and it will pay out $250, thus you will make a profit of $100.

You have now put $250 total into these two bets, which now cover all possible outcomes. One outcome pays out $600, and the other pays out $250. You are now guaranteed not to lose money. If the Seahawks win, you will make a total profit of $350. If the other team wins, you break even. Many hedging scenarios allow a bettor to make money no matter what. The trade-off is that you guarantee yourself less money.

Money line: Betting on a team to win a given game isn’t a 50-50 proposition. That’s what the money line is for. The Harlem Globetrotters might be favorites at -140 whereas the Generals would be heavy underdogs at +200. The minus signifies that the money line is how much money you need to bet to win $100. The plus signifies that the money line is how much money you win if you bet $100. The respective profits are $100 and $200. Significantly, however, if you lose the amount of money you lose is $140 and $100 respectively. In odds these percentages are 1-to-1.4 and 2-to-1. If you like an underdog ATS to win outright, betting on the money line is a profitable endeavor.

Parlay: If you’re very confident in your ability to predict outcomes, try a parlay. A parlay is a combination of more than one bet. For instance, you might take the Generals +21 in one game and the Seahawks -7 in another. The benefit of doing this is that the payout is greater should you correctly predict both outcomes. You won’t often find anything more than a five-team parlay, but just know that if you do that, zero out of five is just as good as four out of five.

Teaser: Similar to a parlay is the teaser. In theory it is the same but you are “teasing” the outcomes to be more favorable to you. A two-team teaser might have spreads of -4 and -5 pushed up to -11 and -12. The trade-off here is that because the outcomes are more likely, the amount of money you will win by correctly teasing a setup is much lower.

So there you go! By now you are no doubt ready to go to Vegas and become the subject of the next great gambling movie based on a true story. Good luck!

Notes   [ + ]

1. “Homie the Clown.”
2. I’m not sure what the official abbreviation for the Harlem Globetrotters is.
3. The $100 you bet plus the $500 you won.

Transistor Review: We All Become One

There’s a thing I’ve been keenly paying attention to recently when I play video games. That thing is experiences that are wholly unique to the medium of video games. A video game can tell a good story, but if it fails to immerse you fully in its world then you are only watching a movie, where the controller becomes little more than a remote. The best video games immerse the player and do things that could never possibly be replicated in movies, television shows, or any other form of art. In other words, I look for things that make video games uniquely video games. Continue reading Transistor Review: We All Become One

Super Bowl XLIX: Madden NFL 2003 Edition

So, maybe the Official Game Losers 2014-15 NFL Playoffs Madden NFL 2001 Simulation didn’t exactly pan out. For one, the Super Bowl (one week from this Sunday) will be a contest between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots. Both were #1 seeds in this year’s playoffs—in other words, this was easily the most predictable outcome ever. Both were also left out of the 2014-15 playoffs in the Simulation. In fact, it would have been completely impossible for the Simulation to have predicted this outcome. If you’ll remember correctly, before the divisional realignment in 2002 the Seattle Seahawks were still in the AFC. In other words, one million Simulations could have been ran using the outdated Madden NFL 2001 and not a single one of them could possibly have had the AFC representative Patriots meeting the now-NFC representative Seahawks. Oops.

For what it’s worth (nothing), the Simulation did manage to hit a couple of things correctly. The Ravens went on the road and beat the Steelers both in the Simulation and in real life. The Colts made it to the AFC Championship both in the Simulation and in real life. 1)However, they hosted it in the Simulation and won. Otherwise, it was pretty much a wash. A simulation where the home team won every game would have been far more accurate and would have nailed the Super Bowl. This surprises no one but me. I would have thought the cosmic radiation of a plan so asinine would have come full circle, but nope. Turns out it’s a bad idea to try to use a video game that’s fifteen years old to predict today’s events.

Anyway, there’s still one game to be played this NFL season. 2)I do not count the Pro Bowl. Will the Seattle Seahawks ride the incredible momentum from their incredible comeback to incredibly win a second consecutive Super Bowl? Or will the New England Patriots deflate the egos of so many Seahawks fans? 3)I had to fit at least one reference in here. Personally, anything I predict myself will likely blow up in my face. So, instead, like the first Simulation, I will simply moderate a method taken completely out of my hands. What method will this be? Continue reading Super Bowl XLIX: Madden NFL 2003 Edition

Notes   [ + ]

1. However, they hosted it in the Simulation and won.
2. I do not count the Pro Bowl.
3. I had to fit at least one reference in here.

Behind the Music: Rhythm Games From Rock Band to Love Live

Earlier this week, something peculiar happened. Harmonix announced new downloadable content for Rock Band 3. 1)It was officially released Tuesday. Two years ago, this wouldn’t be that notable. For over five years, from November 20, 2007 to April 2, 2013, Harmonix released DLC every week for their Rock Band series. By the time the last planned song, Don McLean’s “American Pie,” was released, there had been over 1,600 songs added to the library, including twenty-five full albums. 2)Several songs have since been removed from the store due to licensing issues, but remain playable for those who have already purchased and downloaded them. It seemed that with “American Pie,” Harmonix was ending the Rock Band section of their history, having focused on their Dance Central series since then. Now, it suddenly seems like Rock Band is back. No Rock Band title is compatible with a next-gen system as of this writing. Is that going to change?

When it comes to video game series introduced during the previous generation of consoles (360, PS3, Wii), the Rock Band series is one of the best. Though the high costs associated with purchasing multiple peripherals for a single game admittedly made Rock Band sort of impenetrable, it was an investment worth making. Plus, Harmonix made sure that all previous peripherals would work with Rock Band and its future titles. And, of course, they supported their games for years on end with tons of DLC.

It’s probably necessary to clear up some misconceptions that hover around the Rock Band series. I’ve had many friends of mine assume that it’s a “rip-off” of Guitar Hero. Not quite. Harmonix developed the first two Guitar Hero games in tandem with RedOctane. Then things changed. Activision bought RedOctane and the rights to the Guitar Hero name in June of 2006, subsequently assigning development to Neversoft (Tony Hawk series) instead of Harmonix. Harmonix got bought by MTV Networks in October of that year. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and the first Rock Band game came out within a few weeks of each other in late 2007. GHIII was, of course, guitar-only and its selling point was the presence of “Legends of Rock” like Slash and Tom Morello. RB’s selling point was the ability to play as a full band.

In classic Robert Frost style, the two paths these games took are telling of the mindsets behind them. Rock Band 2 focused on fixing technical and stylistic problems from the first game while also working to expand the setlist and continuing the focus on consistent DLC. Guitar Hero: World Tour joined the full-band party and expanded the roster of celebrity likenesses to include Jimi Hendrix, Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde, and others. You see, of course, where this is going. If you don’t, all you need to know is that Johnny Cash and Kurt Cobain were in fucking Guitar Hero 5.

Activision closed the RedOctane division down in 2010 and the final entry in the GH series, Warriors of Rock, opted not to include any likenesses of actual musicians because of the fallout from putting Kurt Cobain and Johnny Cash in a video game. Meanwhile, Rock Band 3 let you play with real, actual instruments (“Pro” mode) so that you could learn music while playing the video game, as well as adding keyboards. Though I never shelled out for the Pro guitar or anything, I love the concept. I do have to admit we used the keyboard controller maybe like three times, though.

The simplest way to read into the different paths those game series took is in the band-specific side games that were released. Guitar Hero had three: Metallica, Aerosmith, and Van Halen. Rock Band had The Beatles, Green Day, and LEGO Rock Band. One scope is narrow while the other is broad. Activision and Neversoft really went all-in with the “metal” characterization of their game while Harmonix only managed to make a game about The Beatles, featuring The Beatles, and with music performed by The Beatles. Speaking as someone who’s not even really a Beatles fan, The Beatles: Rock Band is a great game.

It’s really heartening to see that Harmonix seems to be turning to Rock Band again, even after a successful Kickstarter campaign for a remaster of their old game Amplitude for PS3 and PS4. Some of my best memories from high school come from long, winding RB sessions. The band I played with kicked members out and added new ones. I started as a guitar player and then fell in love with drums. Our bass player got to experience lead guitar for a while before being shuffled back to bass. Our vocalist never showed up to a practice.

Rock Band even sort of influenced our “real” band. I’m using pretty massive scare quotes here because even though we had a band with a name and we had instruments and stuff, we never actually ever played a song. Our RB band at the peak of its powers had me on drums, Official Game Losers NBA Correspondent Whenever He Actually Writes An Article DeShawn Brown on bass, and a pair of our friends on lead guitar and vocals. Our vocalist had been an All-State school chorus singer since basically elementary school and our guitarist played real guitar and was pretty good at it, as well as the fake guitar. 3)Yes, he could play “Through the Fire and Flames.”

We liked playing together as a fake band and we were pretty good at it. We also had a penchant for shuffling through band names like no other. Massive Dish Rock, Wednesday No More, Pretty Tall For A Girl, Science Fair Rejects, and The Serious Thought. 4)I loved this last one but no one else did. Eventually we realized something. Maybe we should become an actual band? I had a drumset my dad bought on a whim a while back. Our guitarist had several guitars. And microphones are pretty easy to come by. Our bass player just needed … an actual bass.

So we pooled money together and bought him one for his birthday. Surprise!

That gift was intentioned to make us serious about actually working on our band. We had a few rehearsals and were on track to, get this, play a cover of “Lose Yourself” during the talent show during senior year of high school. But as so often happens, drama tore the band apart and Science Fair Rejects never played a single song.

Rock Band 3 is probably the pinnacle so far of rhythm games. In truth, the seventh generation probably saw peak rhythm game as Rock Band and Guitar Hero competed. The rhythm game genre has its roots in the late 1990s, as games like PaRappa the Rapper, Beatmania, and Dance Dance Revolution used music to expand what was possible in video games. Rhythm games took a while to catch on in North America, but titles like Harmonix’s Frequency and Amplitude as well as Vib-Ribbon for the PlayStation and Donkey Konga on Nintendo GameCube gave it a strong footing.

And though the “death” of both the Rock Band and Guitar Hero series in the past several years might lead some to believe that the rhythm game fad has passed, mobile phones and gaming devices have made it stronger than ever. One of the best rhythm games of the last decade, Elite Beat Agents, was released for Nintendo DS. And smartphones are basically where rhythm games live now.

Some of the most popular games in the early history of the iPhone came from the Tap Tap series. Tap Tap Revenge 3 hit #1 on the App Store overnight when it came out in late 2009. Combining simple, rhythm-based gameplay with tiered difficulties and Top 40 tracks proved to be a good formula, though one that for some reason didn’t last. Tapulous, the company behind Tap Tap, was bought by Disney in 2010 and folded in January of 2014, pulling all of their games from the App Store. It was fun while it lasted.

A game both similar to and different from Tap Tap has been making waves stateside recently. The game, developed by KLab, distributed by Bushiroad, and titled Love Live! School Idol Festival is one part of a much larger multimedia shenanigan. It’s similar in theory to Gorillaz; real people make the music but animated characters perform it. These characters have decided to become idols in order to save their high school from shutting down. It’s a cute concept, two seasons of the anime have already aired, and the songs released by the characters’ idol groups perform very well on the Japanese charts.

The game is similar in its skeleton to Tap Tap games. Music (in this case, the aforementioned songs released by the characters’ idol groups) plays and you’re tasked with using your two free fingers to tap and hold to the beat. The key difference is that while Tap Tap was played vertically and tasked you with taking care of three columns, LLSIF is played horizontally and there are nine columns to keep track of. Though it sounds daunting, the learning curve is about the same. It, like any other well-made rhythm game, is very fun and hard to stop playing.

Buoyed by its localization last summer, LLSIF is doing pretty good for itself in the US App Store—it’s the fourth-highest grossing music game. That said, it’s obviously doing much better in Japan: it’s currently the ninth-highest grossing app overall. Like countless other games on the App Store, it is free to download and free to play, but you’re just as free to use real money to purchase things within the game. Also like countless other games, you have a finite amount of energy (LP) to spend on playing songs; when you run out, you have to wait in real time for the meter to fill back up. The game’s premium currency is Love Gems and their most basic use is to refill the LP meter entirely, which costs one Love Gem. Continuing your progress in a song that is failed costs the same.

The real worth of Love Gems, and the real reason this game makes so much money, is the game’s heart and soul: the idols themselves. What makes this game so brilliant is that it is also, in a manner of speaking, a trading card game. The nine columns I mentioned earlier are filled by various characters, some created specifically for the game. Based on their rarity, level, and specialization, they serve to increase your scores, thereby increasing the rewards you earn for performing well.

The characters take the form of cards, for lack of a better term. They cover four tiers of rarity: N, R, SR, and UR. Rarer characters obviously have higher stats. 5)It’s important to note here that tiers R and above consist of different versions of the main nine characters. The N tier is comprised mostly of characters created specifically for this game. Two of the same character can be combined, or “idolized,” into a version of that character with another outfit, better stats, and higher level caps.

Here’s where yet another dimension enters the game. Once you have idolized a character, you can maximize your bond with that character by performing well on songs while that character is in your group. 6)You can build bonds with non-idolized characters, but the cap increases once they are idolized. Once that bond is maxed out, you unlock a side-story for that particular character. For the N-tier characters they’re rather short, but they do offer characterization unavailable elsewhere. The main nine, having different cards of themselves, offer deeper immersion. For each side-story that is completed, you earn a substantial amount of G (used for idolizing) and a Love Gem. Most of these side-stories read rather like dating sims. So yes, this is a combination rhythm game trading card game and dating sim lite.

If you’re wondering why I keep crossing out the word “trading” it’s because of my main criticism about this game: you are unable to trade the cards, which is a pretty important thing in a trading card game. Instead, the only ways to get new cards is through either playing the game (which offers only N-tiers), using Friendship Points (non-premium currency achieved through adding friends and performing well on songs; this method has a low chance of giving you an R-tier), or spending Love Gems. You can get Love Gems through standard gameplay, but they are scarce. But spending them is literally the only non-event way to get cards of SR and UR rarity. 7)The game is transparent about your odds of getting a given card. You have a 90% chance of getting an R, 10% chance of SR, and 1% chance of UR.

It costs five Love Gems per card purchase, or fifty for eleven. In real world money, Love Gems cost anywhere from ninety-nine cents for one to thirty bucks for fifty. The lack of a trading function is obviously calculated, in one sense to prevent fraud and in another sense to make it more of a necessity to fork cash over to buy the best cards. Those SR and UR cards have sky-high stats and very good art. But boy, they’re hard to come by. 8)I was lucky enough to pull a UR with Love Gems I had saved up through playing the game.

If you want a review of LLSIF, you’ve got nothing to lose by trying it. 9)It’s also available on Android. Even if you don’t know the first thing about any of the characters, have fun playing a rhythm game with some J-Pop songs! Maybe you’ll learn something about friendship along the way. I sure did.

Rhythm games have grown rapidly in the past fifteen years to cover quite the wide berth, from games with full-on instruments to smaller games featuring anime girls on your smartphone. That’s not to mention games which generate content on the fly based on music like AudioSurf or games like Rez which generate music on the fly based on your actions. It’s relatively a fledgling genre, but there aren’t many other genres out there that offer the possibilities of rhythm games.

Notes   [ + ]

1. It was officially released Tuesday.
2. Several songs have since been removed from the store due to licensing issues, but remain playable for those who have already purchased and downloaded them.
3. Yes, he could play “Through the Fire and Flames.”
4. I loved this last one but no one else did.
5. It’s important to note here that tiers R and above consist of different versions of the main nine characters. The N tier is comprised mostly of characters created specifically for this game.
6. You can build bonds with non-idolized characters, but the cap increases once they are idolized.
7. The game is transparent about your odds of getting a given card. You have a 90% chance of getting an R, 10% chance of SR, and 1% chance of UR.
8. I was lucky enough to pull a UR with Love Gems I had saved up through playing the game.
9. It’s also available on Android.

The Playoffs According to Madden NFL 2001

EA Sports traditionally simulates the Super Bowl using the latest Madden game. They’ve done it the past 11 years and will do it again this year. Madden has a pretty good record: 8 correct predictions and 3 incorrect ones. 1)Madden failed to predict the Giants upsetting the Patriots in 2008, the Packers beating the Steelers in 2011, and last year’s Seahawks beating the Broncos. That’s pretty good. Gives me an idea. Why not use an older Madden game and simulate up until the present time, including the entire playoffs? Surely that will be most accurate of all! Continue reading The Playoffs According to Madden NFL 2001

Notes   [ + ]

1. Madden failed to predict the Giants upsetting the Patriots in 2008, the Packers beating the Steelers in 2011, and last year’s Seahawks beating the Broncos.

Ten Underrated 2014 Sports Moments

Let me go ahead and get this out of the way: this is not a top ten, nor is it in any order other than chronological. These are just ten moments in 2014’s sports history that I feel are worth reliving as we cross over into 2015. So let’s relive them, because lord knows not much else from 2014 is worth reliving!

These are what I feel to be underrated moments from 2014. Yes, the World Cup happened this year. Yes, Derek Jeter retired this year. Yes, a bunch of other stuff happened. But you can go look at that other stuff elsewhere. Here is where you look if you want to relive some moments that may have been glossed over.

February 2, 2014 – A Super Safety

I’ve always felt like this moment didn’t get enough credit. Rarely, if ever, does the first play of a football game (kickoff notwithstanding) so accurately foreshadow how the rest of that game will go. Indeed, from the very beginning, it did not look like the the Denver Broncos’ day, nor did it look like Peyton Manning’s day. It was all Seahawks, and what started with a botched snap and a safety ended up in a 43-8 shock victory for Seattle. It was the city’s first title in the four professional leagues (NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL) since the Seattle SuperSonics (who relocated to Oklahoma City several years ago in the shadiest of circumstances) won the NBA Finals in 1979. 1)The Seattle Storm won the WNBA championship in 2004 and 2010.

For many people, the Super Bowl is the only football game they watch all year. For some, it might be the only sporting event period! Safeties happen so rarely in the NFL that many of them might not have even known what one was. And one was the result of the first play from scrimmage! In the Super Bowl! And it happened to Peyton frickin’ Manning, no less! Maybe he will get his revenge in the coming weeks. But until then, always remember that it’s not always a good idea to do the Safety Dance.

March 21, 2014 - The Mercer #NaeNae

There’s some bias involved in this selection. One, as a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I am rightfully obligated to hate Duke and revel in their misery. Two, I absolutely adore everything to do with March Madness. The vast majority of college basketball players will never play a minute of professional basketball. March Madness affords all of them an opportunity to earn fifteen seconds of fame playing the sport they love.

Kevin Canevari killed his fifteen seconds. After the #14 seed Mercer Bears upset the #3 seed Duke Blue Devils in the first round of the tournament earlier this calendar year, they had every reason to celebrate, knowing their joyous ride could end at any moment. 2)They lost to #11 seed Tennessee in their very next game. Canevari showed off his dance moves, dropping the #NaeNae with aplomb. Here’s to you, Kevin Canevari. Hopefully whatever non-basketball career you end up pursuing treats you right.

April 16, 2014 – The $127,000,000 Goal

Gareth Bale did a lot with fifteen seconds, too. In the summer of 2013, Real Madrid of Spain paid an exorbitant but impossible to precisely determine amount of money for the rights to sign Bale from English club Tottenham Hotspur. That’s a lot to live up to, and nagging injuries helped to prevent Bale from reaching his full potential at Real Madrid. But in the final of the Copa del Rey, Spain’s domestic soccer tournament, against hated rivals Barcelona, he showed why Real thought he was worth that much money.

In a 1-1 tie with less than ten minutes in regulation, Bale had his first touch of the ball at midfield, was fouled and pushed out of bounds, but recovered with almost-impossible speed (remember: he had played 85 minutes by this point) and even managed to finish off the run himself, slotting past Barcelona goalkeeper José Manuel Pinto. It was the winning goal; the match finished 2-1 to Madrid. Watch the Barcelona player fall to the ground in the bottom right of the screen. What else can you do when someone does that to you singlehandedly?

April 30, 2014 – A Wild OT Finish

I’ll freely admit that, though I respect the hell out of hockey, I don’t know enough nor do I follow it enough to be able to honestly call myself a hockey fan. But man, overtime hockey in the playoffs is incredible. Especially if that overtime is coming in Game 7 of a 7-game series after three previous games in the series went to overtime. Knowing that the game and series can end at any second is a feeling like no other. And that’s just watching it! I can’t possibly imagine what it must be like to play in one of these games.

Nino Niederreiter (what a name!) scored the game-winner here. More notable than this being the fourth overtime game of the series is that the Wild won in Colorado, when every previous game of the series had been won by the home team. Power like that is incredible; silencing an entire arena full of fans with one shot, one flick of the wrist. The Wild’s playoff journey ended in the next round, but Niederreiter made it a journey to remember. After all, only one team can win any championship but that never means the other stories aren’t worth telling.

May 2, 2014 – Damian Lilliard Shoots and Scores

Though this isn’t a ranking, I can confirm that this moment would far and away rank at #1 were it indeed a ranking, either of underrated sports moments of 2014 or sports moments of 2014 period. It is impossible to overrate this moment. A buzzer-beating three … to win the playoff series … with 0.9 seconds left … for Portland … by a player drafted by Portland … in Portland. Watch that crowd fucking explode when the shot drops. Fact: this was Portland’s first playoff series win since 2000. What a way to win it.

Fuller context is necessary. Just a few days prior, Dr. Jack Ramsay died at 89. Ramsay was the coach who led the Portland Trail Blazers to their only NBA Championship in 1977. This was the first game played in Portland since Ramsay’s death. And they won it in the most exciting and exhilarating way possible. Lilliard became the first man to hit a buzzer beater to win a playoff series since John Stockton in 1997. I don’t remember Stockton, but I remember exactly where I was watching Lilliard hit that shot. I haven’t been able to pick my jaw up since.

June 26, 2014 – The NBA Selects Isaiah Austin

Not every great sports moment has to happen on the field of play. Like I said earlier, the vast majority of college basketball players will never play a minute of professional basketball. Neither will Isaiah Austin, though it’s not for a lack of talent. The seven foot one center from Baylor University was projected as a surefire first round pick before a diagnosis of Marfan syndrome ended his professional career before it could even start. For it to happen so shortly before the NBA Draft was cruel. He would never get to hear his name called on draft night, a dream for so many players

But NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, working his first full draft after taking over for David Stern earlier in the year, helped that dream come true. Between the 15th and 16th picks of the draft, Silver paused it to recognize Austin. Tearfully, Austin walked up to the stage and shook hands with Silver, like every other player drafted that night. Austin’s opportunities for success have continued: Silver offered him a job with the NBA once he finishes his degree at Baylor and, earlier this month, he was added to NBA 2K15 as a free agent.

August 27, 2014 – Cosmin Moți Becomes Immortal

This is the moment that this list is all about. Some background for you as the commentary of the above clip is not in English (English commentary here): Cosmin Moți is a centre-back for Bulgarian club Ludogorets Razgrad. After a lengthy qualifying process, all that stood between them and their first-ever berth in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League was a penalty shootout. 3)Qualifying for the group stage of the Champions League also comes with a very sizable amount of money due to TV deals. One problem: their goalkeeper had been shown a red card and sent off right before the shootout and Ludogorets had already used all three of their substitutions. They could not bring in an actual goalkeeper.

Enter Cosmin Moți. On the grandest stage of his entire life, with what I am assuming is no professional experience as a goalkeeper, he put on someone else’s goalkeeper jersey for the shootout and not only scored a penalty but saved two, including a save that clinched the berth in the Champions League. As the ESPN video above noted, that save was worth over ten million dollars for Ludogorets Razgrad. He’s not even a keeper! Ludogorets went on to win one, draw one, and lose four in their Champions League debut, failing to advance past the group stage. But that TV money will help them for a long, long time.

September 30, 2014 – Royal Walk-Off

Again, we have a moment for a team whose quest for the championship ended in heartbreak. The Royals were making their first playoff berth since 1985, ending the longest playoff drought in all of professional sports. They still had to win this game to make it to the ALDS, and when the score was 7-3 in the bottom of the eighth, the fans at Kauffman Stadium had a right to wonder if their journey would be over after just one game. But three runs in the eighth and a tying run in the ninth forced the game to extra innings.

When Oakland took a one-run lead in the top of the twelfth, the magic might have ran out. But Kansas City tied it and then walked off in dramatic fashion, starting a playoff run that would not end until Madison Bumgarner had an out-of-body experience in Game 7 of the World Series. That was the moment that defined the MLB season, and as someone who watched it play out in real time, it was truly transcendent. But hearing that roar of the stadium as three decades of pain was washed away by one swing of the bat…that’s the good stuff right there.

December 21, 2014 – Beast Mode Sequel

(Required viewing. Content warnings for casual use of a couple of slurs but nothing hateful.)

The Beast Quake, linked between the above parentheses with commentary from Demetry James, is a wonderful moment in NFL history. It’s a shame that the FCC prevents us from having commentators say things such as “Darren Sharper Hold My Dick!” when Marshawn Lynch jumps into the endzone while doing the aforementioned action. That he did it again after breaking off a similar touchdown run against the Arizona Cardinals raises a very important question. Has Lynch seen James’s video? Does he know that he put the team on his back doe?

This run admittedly had less actual impact than the first in the series. The former sealed a playoff victory for the Seahawks in the 2010-11 season, while this one came in the fourth quarter of a 35-6 victory in the regular season. But man, when he leaps into the end zone performing the same action Demetry James narrated several years ago, it’s great. 4)He was fined for the “gesture.” No Fun League, y’all!

December 24, 2014 – The One-Second Hail Mary

This type of thing just doesn’t happen. One second left on the clock, down by a touchdown, on your own 25-yard-line. 99 times out of 100 this ends with a short pass, a few laterals, and eventually the ball is fumbled or rolls out of bounds and the game ends. But this time, the ball made it all the way to the endzone after a long pass and a few laterals. It was unbelievable. That’s not to mention the fact that Central Michigan was down 49-14 to start the fourth quarter. CMU scored an incredible 34 unanswered points in fifteen minutes of play.

They could have tied the game and sent it to overtime with the extra point. Instead, the coach took the momentum and said, “Let’s win the game.” Whether or not that was the right call is a huge matter of debate. 5)I personally feel he should have just kicked the dang old extra point. But he went for two, and the team failed to convert. It would have been an incredible comeback marked by an impossible play, but instead we are left to play What If. That doesn’t mean the play itself is any less awesome.

Notes   [ + ]

1. The Seattle Storm won the WNBA championship in 2004 and 2010.
2. They lost to #11 seed Tennessee in their very next game.
3. Qualifying for the group stage of the Champions League also comes with a very sizable amount of money due to TV deals.
4. He was fined for the “gesture.” No Fun League, y’all!
5. I personally feel he should have just kicked the dang old extra point.

Animal Crossing and the Season of Giving

This article goes live Christmas Eve, so it’s only fitting to tie it into that season of giving. I’ve been getting back into Animal Crossing: New Leaf recently after taking about a year off from it from last October to this October. Those of you who play AC games know the vicious cycle that happens when you’re unable to check in for a couple of days: you get nervous about how different things are going to be when you finally turn the game on again. The slogan for the original Animal Crossing on GCN was, of course, “the real life game that’s playing, even when you’re not.”

When I finally turned it on after about a year, the results weren’t as bad as I was expecting. One of my villagers, Dotty, had moved away, but she moved to GL Head Editor Christie’s town so I can still visit her. There was a new villager, Bree, and she moved away a couple of days after I started playing daily again. The town was, of course, covered in weeds. I had a bad case of bedhead. There were cockroaches all over my house. The villagers wondered what had happened to their mayor. Some of them thought I clandestinely moved away. Cranston thought I had just overslept. But they welcomed me back with open arms.

I think you look just fine.
I think you look just fine.

And now, what the world of AC playfully dubs “Toy Day” is fast approaching. In ACNL, this event revolves around the player playing the role of Santa Claus. Throughout December the villagers will drop hints about what they asked for. Your job is to make sure they get what they wanted. It’s a fun little diversion and a nice way for ACNL to reflect the holiday season. It got me thinking about my personal history with the Animal Crossing series and what it means to be able to go back to New Leaf after a year. Continue reading Animal Crossing and the Season of Giving

The Ups and Downs of Being a Carolina Panthers Fan

Update 12/22/14: The Panthers control their own destiny yet again after the results of the previous weekend. They play at the Atlanta Falcons for the NFC South title.

As of now, thanks to a humiliatingly bad performance on Monday Night Football from the immortal Jay Cutler, the Carolina Panthers do not control their own destiny even though, for just over 24 hours, they held the lead in the abysmal NFC South. 1)The NFL has eight regional divisions of four teams each. No team in the NFC South can possibly finish with more than 8 wins. The New Orleans Saints, courtesy of Mr. Cutler, currently stand at 6-8. The Panthers stand at 5-8-1. 2)The Panthers tied the Cincinnati Bengals 37-37 earlier in the season. The Atlanta Falcons stand at 5-9. Out of those three teams, the Panthers are the only team that does not control their own destiny.

It’s been a weird season. That tie, which occurred in Week 6 and preceded a six-game losing skid from the Panthers, was the first in the 20-year history of the Carolina Panthers. It ended in a tie only because at the end of overtime, Mike Nugent, the kicker for the Bengals, missed a field goal that would have given them the win. That six-game losing skid was marked by two types of games: ones where we gave it away at the very end (against Seattle and Atlanta) and ones where we didn’t look like we deserved to be on the same field as the other team (against Green Bay and Philadelphia). 3)Yes, I do use “we” when talking about my sports teams.

But the mental gymnastics necessary to make a playoff berth for the Panthers a realistic scenario aren’t too difficult! Seeing as every division winner makes the playoffs and gets at least one home playoff game, the odds aren’t that long. There are two things that need to happen: Carolina needs to beat Cleveland and Atlanta in the final two games of the regular season and New Orleans needs to lose one of their last two games against either Atlanta or Tampa Bay. There are other permutations but this one is the simplest. Once New Orleans loses even once, destiny falls back into the hands of the Panthers.

Why do I care so much? I’ve often found it hard to explain to outsiders why this team has had such an effect on me for my whole life. In January of 2004, Super Bowl XXXVIII, notable in the public eye as the one where a single nipple was a huge deal for some reason, also had a football game going on: the New England Patriots versus the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers were making their first Super Bowl appearance ever. 4)As of right now, it is their only appearance. Long story short, the Panthers lost one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever in heartbreaking fashion on a last-second field goal. 11-year-old me was curled up in a ball on the floor, crying his eyes out. Why? Continue reading The Ups and Downs of Being a Carolina Panthers Fan

Notes   [ + ]

1. The NFL has eight regional divisions of four teams each. No team in the NFC South can possibly finish with more than 8 wins.
2. The Panthers tied the Cincinnati Bengals 37-37 earlier in the season.
3. Yes, I do use “we” when talking about my sports teams.
4. As of right now, it is their only appearance.

Skyward Sword, Downward Spiral

WARNING: This article contains unmarked spoilers for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

Let me preface this half-review/half-some other thing with the qualification that I cannot and will not call The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword a “bad game.” Too much work and effort was put in by too many people for me to feel at all comfortable with dismissing it like that. I made a similar qualification before when discussing Grand Theft Auto V; some consideration has to be made for effort and personal taste when reviewing a game.

All that said, Skyward Sword deeply disappointed me to the point where I had to stop and think super hard about whether my problems were with SS in specific or with modern 3D Zelda games as a whole. Continue reading Skyward Sword, Downward Spiral

Ace Attorney: How To Wright A Story

Here is an excerpt from the February 2004 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly:

“In real life, Japanese courts are so slow that it can take several years to complete a typical lawsuit. In the world of Gyakuten Saiban (available now in Japan for GBA), which translates to ‘Courtroom Reversal,’ it’s a different story—there’s no jury, no insanity pleas, and only three days to convince the judge that your client’s innocent. How do you, defense attorney Ryuichi Naruhodo, manage this? Simple: Visit the crime scene, gather evidence, and use it to rip the prosecutor’s case to shreds during cross-examination. It sounds boring, but the high-energy anime sequences and nutty characters have made Gyakuten Saiban one of Japan’s most popular adventure series—this third installment is coming to Japan in January 2004.”

Haha! What a weird game that has no chance of ever making it to America, right? Continue reading Ace Attorney: How To Wright A Story