Two-Team Parlays and Two-Party Systems


After winning a 4-team parlay during the Conference Semifinals of the NBA Playoffs, I couldn’t just not bet on the Conference Finals. That would go against the spirit of gambling. After all, how many things are better than literally playing with house money? I can think of one that’s obvious, but a second might require some actual deliberation. Anyway, it’s in that spirit that I bet on another parlay, this time of the 2-team variety, to see if I’m as sharp on these NBA Playoffs as I think I am.

The hard work has already been done. My original $100 bet netted $1,096.80 when the parlay hit, leaving a grand total of $1,196.80 in the piggy bank. Since I like even numbers and all, I figured it would be best to parlay the $96.80 on the Warriors (-200) to win their series against the Rockets, and the Cavaliers (-280) to win their series against the Celtics. (Currently the Warriors are tied up 1-1 and the Cavs are down 2-0.) The 2-team parlay pays ridiculously close to even money — something like +103 — because the $96 and change returns just $99.81.

I don’t know which hip-hop artist said it first, but when it comes to LeBron James I think it’s accurate: First they love you then they hate you then they love you again. Myself personally, I’ve come full circle. It was easy to hate on LeBron when he played for the Miami Heat. It’s hard to hate on him now that he plays for an underdog every year.

No, it’s not like the Cavs are underdogs right now in the Eastern Conference Finals. Before the series against Boston they were -280 — almost a 3-to-1 favorite. And even after a thorough 25-point beatdown in Game One, they remained favorites (-120) to represent the East in the Finals. (Now that they are down by two games, the odds are still only slightly against them.)

What I mean to say is LeBron plays for a team that’s an underdog in general. Regardless which team triumphs out of the West, they would be a massive favorite (likely in the range of -500) in a hypothetical contest against the Cavs in the Finals. You could probably make the argument that even the Utah Jazz or New Orleans Pelicans — the two teams eliminated by the Rockets and Warriors, respectively — would have been favored against Cleveland.

After I put in the bet on the Warriors/Cavs, I was asked if I would be upset to see the Celtics win. The answer to that is absolutely not. I love the Celtics, mainly because I love their coach, Brad Stevens. Five years ago I wished for him to become Mike Krzyzewski’s successor at Duke when he inevitably steps down. Unfortunately, Stevens has turned into one of the best basketball coaches on the planet, a guy who will have an elite NBA coaching job for as long as he wants. He’s basically priced himself out of Duke consideration even though it’s one of the 10-best head coaching positions in the sport.

At the same time, I do have money on the line. And further, I have ego on the line. Would I rather have Stevens and the Celtics win, or would I rather be proven right and win money in the process?


As stupid as it is to admit, my dad is a right-wing truther. He gets bent out of shape over issues that largely don’t exist (outside of his bubble). He attacks me for positions I don’t take, that my “side” doesn’t take, that oftentimes don’t matter to anyone (and are only perpetuated on loud, conservative media outlets). He is against virtually every policy idea that would benefit his life (like free healthcare, or expanded Social Security, for instance). He actively imbibes the Fox News Kool-Aid, and is all in on the conservative agenda. And lastly, perhaps richest of all, he says I ought to give credit to Donald Trump for “turning things around,” or whatever.

My dad is the classic Republican that intellectuals like to make fun of. Things such as “facts,” and “data,” don’t go very far, or mean very much, in conversations with him. He, like many other 70-plus year-olds who treat what is said on Fox News like it’s religious gospel, much prefers to side with what feels right rather than what necessarily is right, or otherwise can be substantiated by evidence.

He’s a useful idiot, that’s all. And I don’t say that lightly, because it is my dad I’m talking about. I just don’t know what else to call someone who believes climate change is a bunch of nonsense, who earnestly believes the Democratic Party is actually moving left, who believes America was going down the drain under Barack Obama but somehow got pumped with a shot of B-12 once Trump took office. He has nothing at his disposal to support any of these claims, but he feels like they are all true. Therefore, it has to be.

I have an absurd amount of patience with my dad, but a large part of it comes from a place of guilt. I think I just feel sorry for the guy, he whose wife left him after 34 years of marriage, and whose oldest and youngest sons won’t speak to him. If he wants to be wrong about all this stuff, then goddamn it that’s exactly what he’s going to be. At this point in his life, I don’t think there is any other way. He is dug in too deep.

My dad is not a stupid person. He’s simply bought in to propaganda on Fox News, you know, the one place that is “fair and balanced,” or the one place that “tells you both sides.” Over many years this right-wing rhetoric has poisoned his brain so much that he is gladly willing to vote away the shriveling benefits he has left, all because he is told it is better than what all those disgusting liberals want to do. (At the moment the Democratic Party doesn’t actually stand for anything, but even if they did my dad would be against it.)

Author Thomas Frank, who in his 2004 book titled What’s The Matter With Kansas?, wrote about people like my dad:

For decades Americans have experienced a populist uprising that only benefits the people it is supposed to be targeting. In Kansas we merely see an extreme version of this mysterious situation. The angry workers, mighty in their numbers, are marching irresistibly against the arrogant. They are shaking their fists at the sons of privilege. They are laughing at the dainty affectations of the Leawood toffs. They are massing at the gates of Mission Hills, hoisting the black flag, and while the millionaires tremble in their mansions, they are bellowing out their terrifying demands. “We are here,” they scream, “to cut your taxes.”

My dad isn’t mad at Democrats, or liberals, for their economic policies. He is upset that he is an old man, that his best years are well behind him, and that the hero culture of Post-WW2 — the Mad Men-style worldview, the lack of political correctness — has largely gone away and been replaced by homosexuals getting married and black people having a marginally better shake in life. My dad isn’t racist or homophobic, he would tell you, but if he supports a White House boasting a President that very clearly is a racist, and a Vice President that very clearly is bigoted against gay people, what difference does it make?

In many ways my dad is America. He represents a lot of old people, especially old white men, in not being prepared for the speed of tolerance in the United States. I mean, I would definitely say as a country we haven’t come nearly far enough — at least in terms of equality for women and minorities — but if you look through the prism of someone born in the 1940’s, the world is a severely different place.

The Republican Party has fought for, and conquered, the soul of the mature white man. As Thomas Frank writes, it has used culture war to achieve its economic ambitions:

This derangement is the signature expression of The Great Backlash, a style of conservatism that first came snarling onto the national stage in response to the partying and protests of the late sixties. While earlier forms of conservatism emphasized fiscal sobriety, the backlash mobilizes voters with explosive social issues — summoning public outrage over everything from busing to un-Christian art — which it then marries to pro-business economic policies. Cultural anger is marshaled to achieve economic ends. And it is these economic achievements — not the forgettable skirmishes of the never-ending culture wars — that are the movements greatest monuments. [Emphasis mine.]

My dad got fooled by these politicians, those that cater to the smallest fraction of the top one percent, and nothing I say can convince him otherwise. The only common ground we seem to share is a contempt for the leadership of the Democratic Party, and a disdain of the talking heads on CNN and MSNBC. The difference between us is simply that I am willing to take it one step further and say the Republicans are bad for the same reason, and that Fox News is bad for the same reason. He, on the other hand, is tragically incapable of committing to such a leap.

The reason, from the paragraph above, is money. The corporations own the politicians, and the corporations own the media. Is this difficult to understand? So you can’t call the Democrats corrupt (which they are) without also admitting that the Republicans are corrupt. You can’t say MSNBC and CNN have a liberal bias (because they don’t, they have a corporate bias), without also admitting that Fox News is funded by the same interests (like Wall St., the fossil fuel industry, and Big Pharma). They all do the same corrupt thing, just with slightly different interests.

My dad fails to see the connection between money and politics, or money and news coverage. He considers Google and Facebook “liberal” entities, despite them being billion dollar companies and wanting the same thing all billion-dollar companies want: lower taxes and more money. He calls the richest man on the planet, Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, a “liberal,” despite the fact that he wants what every other billionaire wants: lower taxes and more money.

The only real “liberal” in mainstream American politics is Bernie Sanders, and he’s not even a Democrat. Further, the Democrats can’t fucking stand him. And I am supposed to believe that that same party is moving left?

I honestly think you could give my dad free healthcare and he wouldn’t want it. I think you could expand his Social Security from $2,000 a month to $5,000 a month and he wouldn’t want it. He would be upset about the price of gas going up by 10 cents, or the price of bread going up a quarter, or whatever else. In the meantime, while his health insurance premiums continue to rise, and while his Social Security basically leaves him broke at the end of every month, he will somehow find a way to blame it on the Democrats. He will never honestly look his own party in the mirror, presumably in fear that he already knows the answer.

I know nothing will change, but I’ll still fight the good fight. I care about this man. Even if he believes me to be some commie bastard for wanting him to live more comfortably, I have to do my part. I have to try to get through to him.

Or, you know, we could just talk about baseball or something.