Last week, while working on a column about the NFL Network and its greed war with Time Warner Cable, five hours before deadline, I was run over by a freight train of something resembling a summer flu mixed with Nigerian street food. Over and out. Slept through the next 21 hours. No column.
Back in the ring Sunday night, dusting off the mostly finished NFL Network column. I've set base camp on the big brown coach, have recovery artifacts (Tylenol, Sunday paper, telephone, oranges, yogurt, beef jerky, two-day-old pizza slices, big bottle of apple juice) on adjacent ottoman. A 20th-century iBook warms my manly thighs.
Now, by way of telephone intrusion, comes a fellow I'll call Michael Brewer. Mike was a small-time San Diego bookie until he figured out he was better at betting sports than he was at bookmaking. He closed his practice six years ago and moved to Reno. No gambler will ever tell you the truth about his winnings, or about his life for that much, but the man does appear to be holding his own as unindicted citizen and gentleman sports gambler. Brewer asks, "Are you watching this?"
Well, actually, I am. At least, I could be since the TV is on...muted, but on. The NFL Sunday-night preseason game has ended, so this has to be John Mark Karr's plane ride. I click over to FOX news, see a Thai jetliner taxiing on a darkened tarmac. "Yeah."
Brewer says, "The perp is landing at LAX."
"I'll lay 2 to 1 the perp gets off the plane first."
I groan, "You are a sick, degenerate freak." A kinder person would take into account that it's August and career NFL bettors are climbing their kitchen walls waiting for the regular season to start up. "Go be nice to your wife while you still have one. Take her some place. Go for a walk."
"I'll take care of my wife. Do you want the bet?"
I glance over to the TV, wonder, for the 500th time, why FOX makes their women anchors do something weird to their eye sockets. All their female anchors seem to have this bulging, rodent-head-squashed-in-a-vice quality to their orbs...
"DO YOU WANT THE BET?"
Michael pouts. "Okay, how many glasses of champagne did the perp have during the flight?"
"Standard bet?" Our standard bet is $25.
Hmm. Karr has been photographed with one glass of champagne. Would cops let him have two? If he wasn't technically under arrest, would they stop him if he ordered another glass? Would they want to? And, does the perp like booze well enough to demand another round? "What odds?"
"Over one drink pays 4 to 1."
He wants me to bet the over. "I'll think about it." I make myself turn away from the bulging eye sockets and say, "I'll offer a bet. How many different cop agencies will be present during the first post-arrest podium press conference? Before you ask, agency means any instrumentality that has the power of arrest."
Readers who have cops as friends or family members know law enforcement is a neighborhood sport. City cops hate other city cops if those cops work in a different division, although all city cops hate state cops, who hate county cops, and everybody loathes the FBI. But, at least the FBI is worthy of hatred, unlike the ATF, DEA, or anything connected to Homeland Security -- particularly the TSA (think airport screeners), which is considered two cuts below the Baghdad municipal police.
So, when a sensational crime story blows in and you see a dozen mannequins standing on a podium, dressed in dark suits, listening to a pasty-faced regional director of an agency you've never heard of tell the world how hard every agency and every darned employee in every agency have worked, and how well every agency and every darn employee in every agency have worked together -- indeed, how they've become one big happy oyster oozing mutual respect -- then you know you've come across a big bullshit crime story.
Michael is still thinking. Silence. More silence. Now comes the obligatory query: "What's the over/under?"
I turn the channel to MSNBC, on to CNN, back to FOX and around the horn again. I count two panels of "experts." I note that the odious O.J. people are back. I spy media whore and forensic expert Dr. Henry Lee on somebody's panel. There's a clip of another Simpson lawyer, Barry Scheck. Yes, they'll all be coming back. Plus a swarm of new lawyers who have crawled out of the sinkhole and infested cable news since O.J. walked. Amber Frey's attorney will be back. The grotesque Mark Geragos will be back. Team Rita Cosby will be there. Geraldo, Monica Crowley, Tucker Carlson, Wolf Blitzer, Joe Scarborough, Bill O'Reilly...
Michael says, "I'll take the over."