Both of us have at one point, and for long enough to be influenced heavily by it in our adult lives, called the Battle Born state home. It’s how we met, it’s how we share this interest in sports betting, it’s why this site and this column exists and persists.
What I tell people who’ve never lived in Nevada about Nevada (besides, of course, how to pronounce it: Ne-Vah-Duh, not Ne-Vaah-Duh) is that it truly is different, more feral, a gritty hangover from the frontier days full of shady characters dressed in rental clothes with stapled-on grins who make their livings trying to dupe you into the believing that the worst version of you is only meant to come out temporarily and can be stuffed back in the bottle once you board at McCarran.
Nevada, in real life, everyday life, is a state of unparalleled physical beauty, pulpy characters a fiction writer wouldn’t dare commit to paper for fear of being called a fraud, and a fierce and abiding streak of independence.
The state is also the country’s and maybe the world’s biggest porch for old dogs on their last gimpy leg to crawl under and die. I used to work the weekend cop scanner at the Nevada Appeal and if I had had a Jr. Western Bacon Cheeseburger from the nearby Carl’s for every time a body was pulled out of a Carson City- or Reno-area motel on a Saturday or Sunday, I’d still be fat and happy today. Politicians are crooked, but they aren’t crooked about it, fortunes are made and lost and the folks soldier on, lit cigarette in hand, not waiting for the signal to change to start walking—surrendering their fate as readily as they did their pension, rent money, life savings or inheritance.
A gambler I once spoke to, when I used to hang out in the 3 a.m. shadows with gamblers, told me he could always tell the Nevadan at the poker table, “It was the guy or gal,” he said, “not with nothing to lose, but not giving a fuck whether they won or lost.”
I have interviewed, distanced myself from and gotten drunk next to one thousand Stephen Paddocks. I had a good five-to-seven-year run (it’s a blur) where by day I would work and go out and get what I could on the trail and slopes and at night I would morph into a creature that craved the scent of cigarette smoke and well whiskey on his collar.
Perhaps I knew then I would someday not be so unencumbered, or perhaps I just prefer seeing people’s faces lit from below by the video poker machines in the half-light of the almost empty bar no respectable folks would find themselves at the end of at such an hour. The music lowers, the chit-chat fades and all that’s left is you getting down to your last dollar hoping morning never comes.
Stephen Paddock is an amalgam of these aging, lamenting white drunkards. First and second marriages a farce in memory, families long since grown and on to troubles of their own, or never materialized at all. No work for them, nobody to go home to but the TV.
Society didn’t just turn its back, it refused—from their vantage point—to have ever recognized them at all. They weren’t especially political creatures, didn’t care much for what any politician ever said, all lies anyway, but something about the way they moved through this life, this nation, as the end draws near for them, made them grow ever angrier; radicalized by the corporations that took over their favorite spots, took their money and pretended to not need it, left them with no resources and nothing to recoup. Many of these men served their country, maybe went to Vietnam or Desert Storm, perhaps they had a county job, taught or hauled garbage, only to find that the future holds no future and definitely no fanfare.
So they let the anger creep in, let the racism take hold, listened to talk radio, tuned into the only network that still employed people of their demographic and acted out in small but notable ways… yelling at their current partner in abusive shorthand, spent ridiculous sums of money getting drunk and poor, screaming out into the night in the back of the cab or in the squad car on the way to the drunk tank, burying caches of weapons and gold in the backyard, waiting for the certain end—either their own or that of the world, to come.
Mental illness creeps in or bubbles up. A society that has moved on doesn’t do anything but cast its eyes away, let them continue, unwatched, to distance themselves further and further from human interaction—attached only to an echo chamber of hatred and misinformation. Suddenly, to them, everyone else is to blame for this condition, this rejection. And the arms pile up as they wait eagerly for zombie apocalypse, the race wars, the battle against corporate America, the militia takeover of federal lands… come and get me. Make my day.
But that day doesn’t come, they’re a joke to the opposite sex now, a stumbling, stammering old ghost in spite of how many rounds they buy. Tossed aside. They gave long ago and didn’t get shit in return for the effort. They tried to contribute once more and were rebuffed or ignored. Didn’t much succeed as husbands, fathers or workers, even fell short as sons, and so, in the end, there is only one solution.
Most of these men don’t act out. They check into that roadside motel in a town called Mound House or Minden or Pahrump, smoke one last Camel, take one last sip of Black Velvet and end up gagging on the business end of a shotgun, just like Hemingway, just like Hunter. The crime scene cleaners scrub up the bathtub (their preferred locale to end it, they’re usually not dicks enough to spray brains all over the bedsheets), sometimes the relatives find the gold buried under their homes, sometimes it’s just a dusty old uniform and some World War II memorabilia. Doesn’t matter, they called their last shot and took it.
But here comes Paddock, delusions of grandeur, of mattering, of making a statement, premeditated and carried out, taking the world with him and making it sit up listen, spraying down upon the innocent with his wrath. Motivation? A giant fuck you farewell for being tossed aside like the garbage he was made to feel like, like the garbage, it turns out, he was.
It is the libertarian streak in Nevada and a combination of an IV drip of hatred and violence porn from media that creates this type of creature, one that most of that same media can’t seem to fathom when the shit goes down. I’ve talked with these men, heard their stories, felt empathy and fear for what they’re bound to do next. I am, as ever, an advocate for getting these men help, for taking weapons out of their hands, for listening to them—just so they felt like someone, at some point, listened.
But I fear for them. I fear their numbers will continue to grow, become legion. I fear their anxiousness is being stoked from the highest office in the land and their worst tendencies, instead of being sublimated through literature or film, are being acted out in real life in the most harmful and permanent of ways. I fear for us. Unless we first challenge and then change our culture and the way we discard people and THEN make killing machines readily available to them so they can exact their revenge, this multi-generational problem, years, maybe decades in the making, will continue to manifest and take out the best, the brightest and the most innocent of who we are.
Some of my very best friends live in Nevada, and some of my very best memories belong there Kyle, and they will continue on. The weekend, the window will remain open, the craps table will fill up with whiskey sours and bad cologne, the roulette wheel will continue to spin, but somewhere, they all know, this was at once the most unimaginable yet avoidable outcome.
Only this time, it happened to them. And Nevadans, as pragmatists foremost, know thoughts and prayers can’t fix it, only a cultural shift with laws to back it will. Nevada has always been a state of free and independent thinkers and it is time for them to strike out boldly and change the narrative once more.
Thank you for laying out, so eloquently, the importance of Nevada to both of us, and this site. I think we both, immediately, reached out to friends in Vegas just to check up on Monday morning.
One of the reasons the murders hurt so acutely this week is because the Silver State is such a cohesive organism. I rarely met a Nevadan I didn’t have a friend or acquaintance in common with. I knew blackjack dealers who spoke to the governor and lieutenant governor on a first-name basis, because they knew Brian when he played at Manogue. About 2.94 million interconnected souls call the state home, most of whom you’ve shared an RNO>LAS Southwest flight with, or they worship at your boss’ ward house, or you’ve seen them at one of those community fun runs or holiday high school basketball tournaments. Someone is always the niece of a guy you know, or the many-times descended namesake of a giant ranch-cum-real estate development on the north side of town. If you hear a familiar last name, they’re probably related to the other person you know.
My point is, so many of the murders and injuries really, really touched home. Not that they don’t in any community where they happen, but in Nevada they feel amplified. Being the essentially rural place that it is, Nevadans all go to the same places for prom, for Basque food when they’re in Elko, for wedding venues, for funerals, for Christmas trees, for hikes, for Western wear (Shepler’s, obviously), and for college (there are only three four-year institutions in the whole state.) There’s this immense collective memory and experience that comes with being a Nevadan. When 59 people are torn out of that experience and community, it doubles you over. I cried Monday morning when I read the news. I texted a few friends in Vegas who were thankfully locked inside and safely working at nearby casinos at the time of the attack. I petted my Spanish Springs, Nevada-bred dog, and shared my horror via text with the same two friends I see in Vegas each year over the same drink at the same bar served by the same bartender.
But I also knew, almost immediately, that Nevadans would come through this supported. The same circumstances that led the pain to be felt so acutely would also lead to long lines at blood donation centers, rapidly-filled GoFundMes for the wounded, and a re-strengthening of bonds a monster with access to bullets and an astounding line of credit couldn’t possibly un-make.
AJ, I don’t have much more to say on this. On the flip, I’ll have my prediction in Michigan State-Michigan, West Virginia-TCU, and tonight’s wild card matchups.
Alright Kyle, somehow my keyboard got all wet (um that sounded creepy but I think you get what I’m saying.) *Deep breath* it’s time to get back to the window to for me too.
This week’s college football matchups are mostly disappointing, an early/mid-season lull before conferences really shape up. There are, however, two beacons of hope in the Pacific Northwest in the form of a pair of programs that are the best in the land—that you hardly ever hear about.
In spite of being 5-0 and ranked no. 6, the Washington Huskies have yet to appear on any type of ESPN countdown show, or even get an undercard early game ticket punch on ABC. Most of what we know of the Chris Peterson-coached Huskies we knew last year: promising young quarterback, effective offense and staggering defense, especially the secondary. The Huskies have improved year over year in nearly every aspect; they’re faster, stronger, more effective executors and have yet to not win by double-digits. They are an anathema in a hermetically controlled and homogeneous media landscape, a team not to be taken seriously because of their time zone.
Washington -26 vs. Cal
This week, the Huskies host Cal, a program with the West Coast’s most promising coaching staff that has managed to cobble together wins vs. the ACC and SEC, and yet gets none of the credit that would seem to go along with it. They hung with USC for three quarters and stuck with Oregon for a half before that tilt turned into three-on-three halfcourt basketball last week. A team that had so much early success defrocking programs from outside the conference has stumbled to 0-2 in division play.
U-Dub hasn’t lost ATS yet this season and Cal has been a spread buster. Betting early on Cal on the moneyline yielded me some pretty big payouts, but I can easily see the Huskies winning this one 42-14 or some such similar score. If you want a hedge on this, do take Cal and the moneyline for a quarter of what you put on U-Dub covering, because the Bears have the talent and the staff to pull that sneaky Pac-12 spoiler out of their mascot’s bushy tail—the kind of game the FBS selection committee salivates at so they don’t have to stay up late to watch highlights from the West Coast for the next eight weeks.
Washington State +2 @ Oregon
This line has danced around a bit this week (I have seen as of Friday a.m. everything from Wazzu at +3 to Oregon at -2.) Either way, take Washington State and the points or Washington State and the moneyline. Take Was-hing-ton-Sta-tuh.
Mike Leach, because he’s not coaching in Texas anymore, has also fallen off the face of the earth. Maybe he prefers it that way. Quietly, he has recruited half of So Cal’s most promising and put them through their paces in Pullman. Think of it as football’s version of Klay Thompson crushing it up there in anonymity on the hardcourt. The Cougs are, like their in-state rival, also 5-0 and ready to crack the top 10 and all ESPN can say is, “Sick logo bros.”
Oregon lost true sophomore QB Justin Herbert for a month (maybe more) with a broken collarbone vs. Cal. Oregon running back Royce Freeman also left last Saturday’s game with a shoulder injury. The Ducks’ top receiver Charles Nelson (ankle) was out of a walking boot and wearing pads into practice on Wednesday, but he may not play.
See a pattern here? With its offensive weapons sidelined and Washington State averaging two sacks and five tackles for loss per game with a secondary that has allowed only four completions of 25 yards or longer (including against SC and Sam Darnold), The Ducks look to be easy prey at home. Though the Cougs thus far rank 52nd in points allowed (27.0) that’s mostly a product of their offense moving so fast and scoring so often.
The scoring orgy is led by Cougar QB Luke Falk who leads the FBS with 164 completions, ranks second with 16 touchdowns and has a 74.5 completion percentage that puts him fourth in the land. He doesn’t make mistakes either with just two interceptions on 220 attempts. He may not just be the best QB you haven’t heard of, but the best period.
If this were a Mark Helfrich-coached Oregon, I’d say the Wazzu would come into Autzen and have their way to the tune of a 20-30-point win, but Oregon’s new HC Willie Taggart and his mostly no-nonsense/run-heavy play calling keeps games down tempo and close for the most part. It’s going to be a lesson in conditioning and the school that tires first will likely see two or three scores pile up on them later in the second half. Look for Washington State to prevail and make it a surprising three in a row vs. Oregon.
Finally, because it’s October:
LAD vs. ARI Over 7.5
Few folks know, even with the stellar arms on the mound (starters, middle relief and closers) for both the Dodgers and D-Backs, that these teams are made for one thing: scoring. Take the over on any line this series under 10 and watch a conservative line like this (7!!!!) creep up as the teams roll deeper into their rotations over the weekend.
K, Kyle, you ready to bring us home?
Here we go AJ, short and sweet:
Chicago Cubs @ Washington Nationals -145
The Nats aren’t the best team in baseball, but tonight they’ve got its hottest starting pitcher going. Stephen Strasburg has pitched two straight months of sub- 1 ERA baseball (.86 in August, .83 in September.) He’s averaging 10 strikeouts a game over his last four starts and looks every bit the untouchable wunderkind we were promised when they started celebrating Stras-mas inside the beltway. It may take divine intervention to put bat on ball tonight for the Cubbies. I like the Nationals to get the W behind the hottest hand on the planet.
WVU @ TCU -13
TCU is the more battle-tested squad here. I expect them to handle the Mountaineers on a hot fall day in Texas.
Michigan State +10 @ Michigan
Kyle: 1 for 4
AJ: 2 and 2
Kyle: 14 for 19
AJ: 11 for 21
Washington -26 vs. Cal
Washington State +2 @ Oregon
LAD vs. ARI Over 7.5
Chicago Cubs @ Washington Nationals -145
WVU @ TCU -13
Michigan State +10 @ Michigan