Game Time: A Hand Of Blackjack At The "Atrocious Football Game Management" Convention

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The sun is setting behind the main casino building and the marquee at the front of the parking-lot entrance reads "2009 ATROCIOUS FOOTBALL GAME MANAGEMENT CONVENTION." This is the annual gathering where football coaches at the college and pro level who have proven through stupidity, stubbornness, or mere genetics that they have no idea how to manage end-of-game situations all gather to exchange a free flow of ideas that will ultimately get them all fired.


University of Arizona football coach Mike Stoops (wearing a white visor, Arizona sweatshirt and khakis) sits at a blackjack table by himself, in the "first base" seat, with a healthy stack of chips in front of him while the dealer shuffles the six decks of cards that will soon be placed in the shoe for the next round.

DEALER: (casually shuffling) So, you're in town for this Atrocious Football Game Manager thing, huh?

STOOPS: (stirring his drink somewhat nervously) Yeah, I've been comin' for the last five years.

DEALER: Well, I know it says "ATROCIOUS" on the marquee, but whatever you lack in game management at football, you make up for at blackjack. You're makin' all the right moves today, Coach.

STOOPS: Yeah, actually most of the time I make pretty good moves, but the problem is I'll make one stupid decision and then it kind of rolls downhill on me. People say I don't handle adversity real well, but whatever. Like the Oregon game this season...we had it in the bag, and then I got a little conservative, and then our students started to rush the field early, and then....do we have to talk about this???

DEALER: No, no...it's cool.  

At this moment, LSU head football coach Les Miles, dressed in a purple sweat jacket and a two-foot-tall LSU baseball cap, sits down next to Stoops.

MILES: (slapping Stoops on the back in a "hey buddy" manner)  What's happenin' Bob?

STOOPS: (looking sheepishly at Miles) I'm Mike, Bob's my brother....you know this...

MILES: OH RIGHT! MARK!  How ya doin', Mark?

STOOPS: (shaking head) Fine.

MILES: (rubbing hands together)  All right, let's play some POKER, FELLAS!!

DEALER: Sir, this is blackjack...

MILES: (pointing at Stoops) Uh, he just said his name is Mark, and even I know he's not black.


MILES: Oh right! Cool, I'm in. Look out, because I'm a DAMN STRONG BLACKJACK PLAYER!

At this moment, Yale head football coach Tom Williams (dressed in a dark blue Yale windbreaker) sits down next to Miles.

DEALER: (to Williams) How we doing, sir?

WILLIAMS: All right, I guess.  I'm in town for this "Atrocious Game Management" thing.  I don't even know why I'm here....

STOOPS: Where do you coach?

WILLIAMS: My name is Tom Williams, I'm the head coach at Yale.

Stoops and Miles stare at Williams blankly.

WILLIAMS: Yale...you know...like the Ivy League?

Stoops and Miles shrug their shoulders, and shake their heads....

WILLIAMS: Anyway, it's a college up in the northeast, in Connecticut to be exact. Our big rival is a school you may have heard of....Harvard?

Stoops and Miles stare blankly at him.  Miles actually picks his nose and begins to stare at the booger on his finger.

WILLIAMS: ...um...anyway...I was told by my school's administration that I should attend this thing. Apparently, they didn't think that it was an (makes air quotes with his fingers) "Ivy League type decision" to run a fake punt on 4th and 22 inside my own territory, leading by three in the fourth quarter.

MILES: Damn, I don't know what this Ivy League thing is, but do you mind if I write that play down?  

Miles scrawls "FAEK PUNTT ON FORTH AND 22. REEEELYY GOOD PLAEY!!!!!!!" onto a cocktail napkin.

DEALER: All right, almost done shuffling...ready for BLACKJACK?

MILES: (pointing at Williams) He said his name is TIM, not Jack...


MILES: Right.

DEALER: No, Coach Miles, we're getting ready to play cards...


At this moment, Texans coach Gary Kubiak (dressed in nylon Texans sweatpants and a longsleeve Texans rugby shirt) and Patriots coach Bill Belichick (dressed in a Patriots hoodie and khakis) sit down at the table -- Kubiak next to Williams and Belichick to Kubiak's left in the "third base" seat.  So from "first base" to "third base" the table goes Stoops, Miles, Williams, Kubiak, Belichick.

STOOPS: (to Kubiak and Belichick)  What's up guys?

Kubiak acknowledges the other three coaches with a nod. Belichick completely ignores them.

The dealer completes the shuffle and looks around to see who needs chips. Stoops, as mentioned earlier, has a good stack. Miles and Williams each cash in for $1,000 in chips.  

DEALER: (to Kubiak) Sir, do you need chips?

KUBIAK: (fidgeting and making no eye contact) I guess so. What's the minimum bet at this table?

DEALER: Fifty-dollar table, sir.

Kubiak thinks about it for a minute and then puts a fifty-dollar bill on the table.

DEALER: Sir, this is enough for one hand.

KUBIAK: Yeah, I'm gonna play one hand at a time. A lot can go wrong in blackjack.

DEALER: (rolling his eyes) CHANGE FIFTY! (Slides two green chips to Kubiak.)

Belichick actually reaches into the dealer's tray of chips and grabs a stack of black $100 chips for himself.

DEALER: ...um, sir....you, you...can't grab those ch--

BELICHICK: (calmly) Fuck off. Deal the cards.

DEALER: Yes sir. Everyone's bets down?

Kubiak nervously places his $50 bet, Belichick calmly bets $1,000, Miles and Williams each bet $200, and Stoops, after thinking for a minute, puts his entire stack in.

DEALER: (looking incredulously at Stoops) Sir, you want to bet your whole stack? That's $10,000...

STOOPS: (beginning to hyperventilate) YEAH! I'm feelin' it all of a sudden!! LET'S GO!!

DEALER: But, but sir...you've been playing so smart and so well, are you su--

STOOPS: (with a maniacal, cold sweaty stare) DEAL THE GODDAMNED CARDS!!!!!!! (smacks the table and begins to shake it like the Ultimate Warrior shaking the ring ropes)

DEALER: OK, OK...just stop shaking the table....

Stoops calms down slightly as snot bubbles form in both nostrils and drool drips down his face.

Dealer deals the table its hand and it looks like this:
STOOPS: KING and 3 (13 total)
MILES: QUEEN and 7 (17 total)
WILLIAMS: JACK and KING (20 total)
KUBIAK: 8 and 5 (13 total)
BELICHICK: 9 and 8 (17 total)

DEALER: 8 showing (and second card face down, obviously)

DEALER: Ok, first base...Coach Stoops...you've got 13...

STOOPS: (face turning beat red, sweat pouring off his brow)  HIT ME!!

Dealer gives him a three.

DEALER: You've got 16.

STOOPS: (face now turning purple) FUCKING HIT ME!!!!!

Dealer gives him another three.

DEALER: Nineteen!


At this very moment, dozens of Arizona students begin to gather around Stoops to high-five him and celebrate what they think will be a sure win.

DEALER: Sir, you haven't won yet...

Stoops pays no attention and begins doing the electric slide and Ickey Shuffle with random Arizona students.

Dealer turns to Miles, whose attention has been drawn away by a fly buzzing around the table.

DEALER: Coach Miles, you have seventeen...

MILES: Look at that fly, look at him go...that's a DAMN STRONG FLY!!! I wonder if he's pooping while he flies around....

DEALER: Coach Miles! SIR!! You have seventeen....do you want to hit or stay?

MILES: (oblivious to the dealer) I want to kill that fly....I'm gonna pretend that fly is AUBURN...or the MICHIGAN JOB...I'm gonna squash it....come to papa, FLY!!!

DEALER: Sir, you have three seconds...1....2.....

Just as the dealer counts three, the fly lands on the table next to Miles' cards, and Miles squashes it with his right hand...a motion which also happens to mean "HIT ME" in blackjack.

DEALER: Hitting on seventeen....

Dealer gives Miles a four, giving him a 21.

DEALER: (incredulously shaking his head)....twenty one.

The rest of the coaches just stare at Miles in disbelief. Miles, completely unaware he even hit on 17, let alone pulled a four to get 21, is drawing his initials on the table using fly guts and giggling like an eight-year-old.

WILLIAMS: (to himself, staring at Miles) Luckiest fucker I've ever seen....

DEALER: (to Williams) Sir, you have twenty...stay?


DEALER: But sir, that's a winning hand, the safe play--


DEALER: (splitting the cards) All right...first hand...ten...


DEALER: (flipping over an 8) Eighteen...staying on--

WILLIAMS: (interrupting) HIT ME!!! PEDAL TO THE METAL!!!! GO!! HIT ME!!

DEALER: Hitting on 18...(deals a 9)....too many...

WILLIAMS: (hyped up as if he's on speed) THAT'S OK!!! GOT ANOTHER HAND!!!  HIT ME!!!!

DEALER: (flipping over an ace) Twenty one!! Well, or eleven...ha, ha...


DEALER: But sir, I was only kidding about the eleven...you have twenty one, that's the best--


DEALER: Um ok..hitting on...uh, eleven....(deals a 9)...TWENTY!! Sir, I recomm--


DEALER: I figured...(deals a 5)...too many....

Williams remains in his seat, rocking back and forth like a prisoner in solitary, slowly muttering "pedal to the metal....pedal to the metal..." to himself.

The dealer turns his attention to Kubiak and his 13.

DEALER: Sir, you have thirteen....

KUBIAK: Stay...definitely, STAY

DEALER: Sir, if I may...you have a 13, chances are I have an 18.  The odds say you should hit this here.

KUBIAK: Yeah, I know, but think of everything that could go wrong here if I hit on the 13. I mean, what if I get a 9...or a ten...or a face card. Then I would bust. Plus, I've seen people win with 13 before. If I just sit here with this 13, then you're gonna have to beat me. It's a little like having a 49-yard field goal attempt; sure, I could try and move it closer and make it easier on my kicker, but then what if something goes wrong, like an interception or a fumble or a sack? No thank you, kind sir. Thirteen is what I've been dealt, I shall stay on my 13.


DEALER: (noticeably shaking as he turns his attention to Belichick) Um, wh-wh-what would you like to do, sir? You have seventeen.

BELICHICK: I know what I have, I'm not blind. Hit me.

DEALER: Are you sure--

BELICHICK: Don't start giving me percentages. You have an eight showing, which means 18 is the most likely hand you have. I have 17, which last I checked does not beat 18. HIT ME!!

DEALER: But the percentages hitting on 17 are...

BELICHICK: LISTEN, you little worm...I have 17, which is less than 18. (Points at Miles) You gave Coach Gump down there a four on his 17...(the entire table looks over at Miles who is now rubbing fly guts on his teeth with his index finger)...now, give me a fucking four or I'm gonna steal your wife and make sweet love to her right in front of you.....

DEALER: (slowly turning the card over) .... oh God....eight....sorry, Coach...too many....

Belichick immediately gets up from the table, slugs a cocktail waitress carrying a tray of drinks, and storms off to the men's room.

Kubiak sits there staring at the eight Belichick just pulled and hopes no one notices that he would have had 21 if he had just played the percentages and taken a hit.

At this point, the hand still has Stoops (with a 19), Miles (with his fly-killing-induced 21), and Kubiak (staying on 13). Dealer turns his face down card over....it's a 7...

DEALER: Dealer has 15...

The Arizona students behind Mike Stoops are going crazy, high-fiving the coach and congratulating him on a win that has not yet happened.  Dealer flips over next card....it's a 5....

DEALER: Dealer has 20.

Dealer looks at Stoops' 19 and takes his chips, leaving him with nothing. The Arizona students previously surrounding Stoops immediately retreat to wherever they came from. Stoops flips over his chair and starts ripping mirrors off the wall, kicking civilians in the nuts, and screaming "I'M SUCH AN IDIOT, I'M AN IDIOT, I'M A FUCKING IDIOT!!!" like Scottie in Boogie Nights.

Dealer looks at Miles' 21, shakes his head, and pays him his $200. At this point, Miles is faced backwards in chair and sticking $25 chips in his eye sockets and saying "TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER!"

Dealer takes Kubiak's $50 and points at the cards...

DEALER: See, if you had just hit on 13, you'd have had 21. It was the smart play.

KUBIAK: Yeah, it was my fault for sure. I wasn't ready to go today. (Kubiak looks at the dealer) Definitely, not your fault, kid.

DEALER: Kid?? Sir, I'm 68 years old....

At this point, a voice comes over the public address system.

P.A. VOICE: Attention all coaches in town for the Atrocious Game Management Convention...Andy Reid's session on "Why It Makes Perfect Sense to Kick a Field Goal, Down 7, With Less than Two Minutes to Go" will begin in the Kotite Room in approximately two minutes....

KUBIAK: Well, guess I better going...two minutes isn't a lot of time...

DEALER: (joking) It is if you have a couple timeouts left, it's plenty of time.

MILES: What is a "time out"?

Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game on the "Sean & John Show", weekdays 3-7 PM, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.

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