The hurricane was coming. I could feel it all week.
For me it began two Sundays ago, seven days before actual landfall. That was the day I moved my wife and two boys from New Jersey, where we've lived for six years, to Connecticut, which is the place my 8-year-old describes as being "hard to spell because of that C in the middle." We loved Jersey. We made the kind of friends there whose kids we could yell at as easily as ours if they annoyed us. And the kids listened. That's when you've crossed the Rubicon in a relationship from being polite and friendly to truly being close.
Plus, Jersey has that attitude. Just before skipping town we had a going-away party with friends and Snooki was at the bar. Really. And this was an upscale joint that we didn't know anyone under 35 even knew existed. When a buddy of mine went to the bar to grab a drink, one of Snooki's posse said to him, "What the [expletive] are you doing?" My buddy answered, "Umm, it's the bar, I'm getting a drink." To which posse guy answered, "OK, just don't get too close to Snooki."
Will we get Snookied in the middle of Connecticut? I don't know. But I do know that our trip north began disastrously. While my 4-year-old was putting on his shoes to get in the car to leave for the last time he leaned on a closet door, which snapped shut with his finger inside. There was bleeding and crying for the first 35 minutes of the car ride. When he finally passed out -- unclear whether it was from pain or sleepiness -- the 8-year-old announced that he was carsick. He rode the next 10 miles with his face in an empty Honey Nut Cheerios box.
When that storm passed we hit another, a rain so biblical it forced us to join a long line of cars that had had pulled over because visibility was down to zero. No doubt Snooki's guys would have found a way to keep the rain from falling on her car. Finally back on the road we were caught in an hour-long rain-induced traffic delay. That's when the 4-year-old woke up.
Screaming. We were all saved by the golden arches and the extra special and delicious Rolo McFlurrys. But when I pulled out of my spot in the Mickey D's parking lot I was backed into by someone who wasn't paying attention. No joke, this all happened in one trip.
And all I kept thinking was "At the end of the week I am skipping town for Vegas."
Then on Tuesday I was sitting in my plush corner office of Building 0 on ESPN's campus -- probably on an important call because I am, after all, editor-in-chief of the magazine -- and the building began to shake. It literally shook. Actually, it felt like it was trying to do a shimmy all the way to the ground. I thought maybe it was a truck rumbling by on Ronzo Road. But then the shimmy lasted so long I got out of my executive chair and screamed "What the heck?" The first person who passed by my office said "I think we just had an earthquake."
I'll be honest, one of the reasons I was excited to leave Northern New Jersey was because of its proximity to New York and the myriad industrial plants lining its highways. Those hard targets are the reasons billionaire hedge-funders have helicopters to swoop them away to undisclosed locations. But in case of an attack, all I had was a Subaru. Central Connecticut seemed safe and secure, from everything -- natural and unnatural disasters alike, like the Midwest I grew up in. It was not supposed to be ground zero for an earthquake.
Or a hurricane. Because as soon as the news about the quake had subsided, reports of Hurricane Irene became front and center (interrupted by a few reports on CNN that I was either a race-baiting editor for allowing a doctored picture of Michael Vick as a white guy in the Mag or just a guy trying to start a conversation.) This, my friends, was trouble. As I mentioned above, I had a trip to Vegas planned to speak at a conference and to sign up for the Las Vegas Hilton Super Contest, in which I performed miserably last season, while Mr. Sports Guy did so well he actually finished in the top 20 and won some money. I am anxious to prove I am not as much of a square as my Twitter followers claim.
My plan was to leave Friday afternoon, sign up for the conference at the Hilton as soon as I landed, speak at the conference Saturday morning and then zoom back to Connecticut on Saturday night, just in time to save my wife and kids from disaster. On Thursday night I was talking to my new neighbor, Al, who is a doctor and has four sons. I had never met him before but our kids were all chasing each other on their bicycles. My wife was standing next to me and I asked him, "What do you think? Can I make it?" He answered, "Of course you can, we'll barely be in the rain band. And that won't start until Sunday morning. Do it!"
The next morning I canceled my flight. What kind of allegedly racist (or just curious) magazine editor ditches his family their first weekend in Connecticut in the middle of a hurricane just to do some gambling? Well, it would have been this one, if my wife hadn't started packing boxes back into the Subaru to head to New Jersey.
So instead of Vegas, I got a hurricane, a power outage and a flooded basement. On The Strip they call that a bad beat. In Connecticut they call it Sunday. The good news is that this week college football started. And with that, actual gambling that people care about. And with that I present to you this season's first line moves column, courtesy of Vegas veteran Bryan Leonard, who helped me break down five of the biggest movers of the week.
One point he made that I thought was most interesting: If there ever is a week to lay big favorites, this is it. Lots of patsies playing lots of schools that have been hearing they're really good and would like to prove it after a summer of playing themselves. Just look at Wisconsin beating up on UNLV last night. If you got in early at a couple of places, you could have that for the low, low price of Badgers minus-32.5.
Anyway, on to the games.
Leonard says: "It was 17 a couple days ago, and here's a mistake a pro will almost never admit. I liked Mizzou but I didn't bet it because I thought there had to be a 16.5 somewhere. I went to a lunch and while I am there I heard from a friend it had jumped to 18.5. I got greedy, and that was a mistake. The reason this line moved so late and so quickly is because people wanted to see how Mizzou's QB situation was going to play out without Gabbert. When James Franklin played well in practice, and people started thinking he might be better than Gabbert, they jumped on the Tigers. Plus, MAC teams have a tendency to regress after good years. So that's another reason for the move. And, as we've gotten closer, the public has gotten involved and pushed it higher."