7.11.2016

Family

     I started writing this on June 8, 2016 and am now completing it on July11, 2016.
     Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live most of your life never knowing your biological father?  Maybe you have wondered what it would be like to have your mother abandon your family weeks before your seventeenth birthday.  If you have ever wondered about any of this, I am here to tell my story.   Some of it has been told before and some of it this will probably be the only time I will ever mention it.
     On August 31, 1986 I was less than a week away from beginning Kindergarten.  My family had been living in Houston for the last few years.   As my father took us to the airport, I couldn't really understand why my sisters were crying so hysterically.   You don't really understand the gravity of the situation when at five years old you are forced to move 1500 miles away from your home.  The way it was told to me was that my mother had written a bunch of bad checks and had to go to jail for a year.  Whether or not this is actually the reason I have never personally looked into.  We were going to get sent into foster care, but fortunately my Aunt Ruthie paid for us to fly up to Rochester and stay with my Grandmother for a year until my mother was released.  My father didn't keep us in Texas.  I am not sure if he had anything legal going on or not, but he did drop us off at the airport so I know he wasn't in jail at the time at least.
     I don't remember too much about my father.   My two sisters and I all have different Fathers.  I personally can only think of three memories that I have of my father.  The first one is my earliest memory.  I thought it was cool to be sitting in there in a bar during the day watching my father drink and play those sketchy bar tabletop video games.  I later learned that this is the behavior of an alcoholic.  My second memory is when I made the mistake of taking a nap and leaving a glass of milk on the kitchen table.   I was woken up to being spanked very hard.   That will certainly teach a four year old that you don't take a nap when there is a full glass of milk on the kitchen table.   The third memory is of that day on the way to the airport.  I don't remember if he hugged me goodbye, but I doubt that he did.   My sister told me plenty of other bad things about him over the years that I won't go into detail about here.  From August 31, 1986 on I never heard from my father again.   My mother said he never sent any child support over the years.
     My mother never really abused any of us physically or anything, but she was never really there to begin with.  That's not to say that she wasn't there physically, either.  She came back to Rochester and I lived under the same roof as her from the summer of 1987 until March of 1998 when she left us.  My mother definitely has her share of mental issues, but that is no excuse for walking out on your family and never once telling your son "I LOVE YOU" for that matter.  Her mental issues became poor enough that within three or four years she was on welfare and under heavy medication.  There were a few incidents that older neighborhood kids became aware of that they would ridicule me for years after.   I have no explanation as to why my mother went out of the house at 6 in the morning and walked to Cobbs Hill still wearing her nightgown.  Nor do I have an explanation for why she slammed my Grandmother's hand in the door, severing parts of three of her fingers.  My mother ended up in the hospital for a few weeks after that and for year's after as long as she took her medication everything seemed to be fine.
     As I have mentioned a couple times here, I have two sisters.  One of them is what you might refer to as estranged, or at least she was fifteen years ago when I last saw her.  She had her first child two months before her fifteenth birthday.  She had some mental episodes when we were young as well that I would really rather not go into here.   I do hope that she got everything worked out though.   I will say in 1988 we were both hit by a car on the corner of Monroe and Goodman Street when she was riding us both on her bicycle.  Just typing that down for the first time, it really never occurred to me that my mother would let us both go a half mile away from home at such a young age (7 and 9), let alone be on Monroe Avenue by ourselves at that age.  This should at least paint some kind of a picture of what kind of supervision we had.  I have a scar on my left leg from getting stitches from that accident and I think it really ended up causing some problems with my sister mentally.  It's possible that those issues were always there too though.  Even though there were a lot of bad things said on both sides, I have always regretted losing contact with my other sister and not getting to watch her children grow.  I did try to reconnect with her in 2006 when I ran into some of her friends at a local bar.  They came up to me and knew I was her sister just because of the way it look.  It's gotta be the eyebrows.  I gave her my phone number and told her I was traveling cross country soon and didn't know when I would return.  She never called me.
     My oldest sister was basically my main form of supervision after my mother had all of her mental issues.   My sister did have to move out of her house after what happened between my mother and grandmother, but she ended up moving back in with us in the mid 90s.   Most of my best memories from my childhood I can thank her for.   I remember when I was in fourth grade and my mother was on public assistance.   The chances of us having any sort of Christmas that year seemed extremely remote.  On Christmas day my sister showed up with a ton of Christmas presents.  This was one of many times when she did things like this for me when she did not have to.  She took me to many of my first concerts, bought me my first guitar, and she was always there when my bad punk rock bands would play out when I was in high school.  She reconnected with her father in 1998 and to be honest I have always been a little jealous of her over that.  At the same time, I am not the least bit jealous that she is the oldest of us all and therefore has the most memories of the bad times.  If I hadn't had her support over the years, there's really no telling how my life would have ended up.
     My grandmother let us live in her house from 1986 until 2000.   She was already 74 years old when we moved in.  I am guessing that raising three kids during her twilight years wasn't something she had planned.  She did her best and as I got older I learned to appreciate her a lot more.   She had a stroke while in Midtown Plaza when I was just about to finish ninth grade.  My mother, my sister, and I helped take care of her for a year and a half until my mother moved in next door with her boyfriend (now husband as far as I know).  My mother had already done plenty of damage as my grandmother's power of attorney.   My mother maxed out my grandmother's credit to the point where we couldn't pay all of the bills anymore.  In the summer of 2000 with my grandmother's health declining, we moved her into the Independent Living for Seniors and sold the house.    100% of the money from the house went towards the debt that my mother had built up in less than 18 months.  My grandmother passed away less than nine months later.
     After we moved out of the old neighborhood, I only saw my mother three times.  Two of those times were at family funerals.  Then in the Summer of 2009 I walked by her downtown on Main Street.  She did not even recognize me.  I can't imagine having a child and walking right by them without recognizing them.  According to my sister, my mother is now a born again Christian.  It only makes sense after years of screwing over blood relatives that you turn to the Lord for forgiveness.
     There were probably four or five instances from the years 2000 until just recently that I tried seeking out my father.   Each time I would get a little closer, but I never found an address or a reliable phone number.   I called a number that I thought was his once and the man that answered said he didn't know who I was.  It could have been him lying and I will never know.  A little less than two months ago, I was searching for him on google when I came across THIS OBITUARY.  I didn't know how I was supposed to feel emotionally upon reading that and I still don't really.  I wrote a letter to his widow the day I found the obituary.  I included a self addressed stamped envelope, but I don't really expect her to write back.  What would she really have to say?
     There has only been one other person in my life who has treated me the way that my biological parents did.  Oddly enough, it was my girlfriend Sarah's father.  Long story short, I dealt with a lot of severe stomach pain for about three years from 2009-2012.   I didn't have health insurance at the time so I just took whatever antacids I could afford.  There was a few months before I saw a doctor where I thought I might have an ulcer or possibly even Cancer.  Luckily my diagnosis was only gastritis.  I thought that within a few months the meds would cure this with ease.   It is July 2016 and I am still experiencing many of these same issues.   Thanks to the gap in my employment in 2012, Sarah and I fell a little bit behind on bills (we were renting her mother's house at the time.)   One day her father decided to burst into the house and explode on me for everything.   Of course I was the only one home.  When I tried mentioning my stomach issues, he basically implied that I was lazy for ever taking any time off from work in the first place and he then told me that I was not the right person for his daughter.   A few months later, he was trying to give me employment advice.  As this was our first time speaking since he belittled me, I told him in a very strong tone that I had no interest in receiving any advice from him.  He then yelled up the stairs to me that they would be selling the house and that I was a "fucking loser."   This was July of 2013.  The next time I heard from him was the day before Sarah and I went to Las Vegas in December of 2013 (days before Christmas obviously).  He sent SARAH a half assed apology for ME to read.   Mind you, we were renting his wife's house (Sarah bought the house in 2014) so he could have easily written me a letter or even be a man and spoken to me face to face.   Apparently, both of them were "nervous" that I might do something.   But you weren't nervous when you came in here to belittle me and tell me I am not the right person for your daughter?
     I don't really know why I am writing all of this now.   I guess I never really got the closure I wanted to from my father and now I probably never will.  I really don't know where to go from here.  I have always wanted a "real family" for as long as I can remember.   It sucks that I will probably never have one.

1.06.2016

An Open Letter To the New York Times and The DFS Community

To Whom It May Concern:
This letter is meant to be a response not only to the ARTICLE WRITTEN BY THE NEW YORK TIMES TODAY, but as a response in general to the recent media criticism of Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS).  First I will give you a small bit of background on myself.

My name in the real world is Joshua James Lyons.  My name in the daily fantasy sports world is xfrankboothx.   A few people probably know me from playing in contests with me over the last four years.   I have never written for a DFS website, nor have I ever been a DFS video analyst.   I first found DFS in February of 2012.   I had been playing Fantasy Sports season long leagues with friends for around fifteen years and I have kept track of sports statistics in general for as long as I can remember.  I first began thinking of trying to make Fantasy Sports a career in 2003.  I hadn't even played for money but I was always either winning my league or finishing second.  Five or six years later, I first started seeing DFS sites.  The sites were a little to small at the time for me to dip my feet in, but I always kept an ear to the ground for DFS to get a little bigger.   Then in the Winter of 2012 I had to stop working for a few months due to some health issues.  It wasn't anything serious, just some stomach issues brought on by alcohol and spicy foods.   In this time, I was at home a lot looking at NBA twitter (a collection of nerds like myself who tweet about NBA constantly) all day.  One day I noticed, Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops was hosting a freeroll on the now defunct Draftstreet for NBA.   The timing couldn't have been more perfect.   I didn't cash in that freeroll but I ended up depositing $20 the next day and over the next few weeks I found about four more sites.   One of them was Fanduel, Draftkings wasn't around for another few months as I recall.

I had some success playing the games and I realized quickly that I could make a profit playing DFS.  That June I went back to work after realizing my stomach problems weren't all that serious.   It wasn't too long before I realized my time could be better spent playing DFS full time.   I worked for that month and haven't worked a "real job" since.

I would always hesitate to refer to myself as a "Pro" despite the fact that this was my primary source of income.   I think there's a misconception when people hear the word "Pro" involved.  I think they automatically assume that you have an unlimited bankroll and that you have many advanced computer models that do all of the work for you.    While this may be true for many pros, neither statement refers to me.  I have not gotten rich playing DFS but I have certainly made enough to make a living on for three years.  I am rarely at the top of any leaderboards in any tournaments, but I almost always cash in them.   In fact, this year week 4 of College Football was my first time winning a big contest.  Coincidentally, almost immediately after I won that contest was when all of the problems started popping up in the media for DFS.

I am not trying to say that DFS is some perfect utopia for sports fans by any means.  In fact, there are quite a few cons involved in DFS.  In my opinion though, the pros definitely far outweigh the cons.   The two primary issues that bother me go hand in hand, scripting and "Bumhunting."   If you are not familiar, in short scripts help you enter thousands of contests with a computer program rather than entering them manually.  I have personally never used a script to enter a contest.  I only started using spreadsheets last year when I realized the information would be easier to read.  I am turning 35 soon and it's safe to say I'm pretty set in my ways.  Bumhunting is fairly self explanatory.   I think it comes from online poker, something I never got into.  It is basically when a seasoned veteran will seek out new players so they can have a bigger advantage.  When I first noticed people were doing this and people with really large bankrolls were entering the super low stakes games, like a lot of other people I took to ROTOGRINDERS message boards to complain.   A few people sided with the pros and said that you need to: "Build better lineups."   One of these people was Crazy Gabey.  I would like to point out at this point that I am not here to bash Gabey, I have never even met him.  I am not here to bash the New York Times or Jay Caspian Kang either.   I just think that if you are going to write a piece about DFS that you should get all of the facts from more than just one or two sources.   People are entitled to change their opinions too of course, but I just found Gabey pulling that 180 in an interview interesting to say the least.   I realize that people declined comment for this interview, but many notable DFS personalities weren't contacted for this interview at all.

The positive aspects of DFS are fairly obvious, but I will point them out anyway.   You can turn your sports knowledge into money.   I know they say that the pros suck most of the money up, but there are many different sites and contests for you to enter.  No one is forcing you to chase the top heavy tournament, this is America after all. DFS has taken me to Las Vegas and to sporting events, all free of charge (not even a buyin, I won these all in free entry contests). DFS strengthens communities, and it most certainly helps the economy.   Notice how New York State has no problem accepting tax money from Fanduel and Draftkings despite the AG's view of these sites.   Fanduel and Draftkings both have large offices in NYC and the first ever DFS Player's conference was just held in NYC.  I think from the sporting leagues side of things, DFS has to have been fairly beneficial for them.  The MLB And NBA wouldn't have partnered up with DFS sites if they didn't feel that way.   I have always wondered how much DFS has helped Pro sports revenues, if at all.  It would be interesting to one day see some sort of graph showing these stats.    I'm sure they are out there.

I have sat on the sides for the most part during all of the media mayhem that has surrounded DFS in the last four months.  Maybe Fanduel and Draftkings did get a little overzealous with their commercials at the beginning of the NFL season.   I completely understand that people would rather watch Cialis commercials every thirty seconds than find out about DFS.   To each their own.   Even with all of the people complaining about the advertisements, I never would have expected the NY AG to go on the tirade against DFS that he has.  Now again, I'm not here to bash anyone, especially people that I have never met or spoken to.   I can only speculate like every other DFS Pro though that the AG is operating for the Casinos here.  Mr. Kang claims to have lost $1950 in 17 weeks since NFL started playing DFS.  I don't doubt that, but there are many "regular guys" like myself still out there who will filing tax returns once again this year for DFS income.   This is not meant to be a humble brag or anything of the sort, I am merely trying to point out that there are still Average Joes that can play everyday and not use all of this sophisticated software to provide your success.

I don't know where we should go from here, I wish I did.   I don't think anyone outside of the NY AG really wants to see DFS shut down.  Ideally I would like to see a group of DFS pros form some sort of governing body that helps solve issues like scripting, bumhunting, etc.  I know that the FANTASY SPORTS TRADE ASSOCIATION exists, but I don't think an organization like that has come about for DFS yet.  It is great that we have well known pros like STLCARDINALS84, DB730, SOCRDAVE, ALSMIZZLE, and many more that have platforms to have their voices heard.   I'm not here to call them out either, as many of these people have already done a great job of conveying our voice.   I used to always refer to "DFS Ambassadors" as an extremely sarcastic term, but there has never been a larger need for all of our Ambassadors to step up and help keep DFS legal.    While I have never considered myself an Ambassador, I am ready to help and do whatever is needed to make sure we keep our community.
If anyone would like to speak to me further about DFS you can reach me via e mail at
Joshuajlyons@gmail.com and on Twitter at FrankBooth_DFS
Sincerely,
Joshua Lyons


8.13.2012

6.13.2012

RIP Henry Hill, master fixer....

Henry Hill passed away yesterday, one day after his 69th birthday.  He is most commonly associated with having been a major part of the Lucchese Crime Family between the 60s and 80s, before he famously turned informant in the early 80s.  While Hills was notorious for many crimes which were detailed in Wiseguy and the movie Good Fellas, one thing I didn't know about until recently was Hill's involvement in the Boston College point shaving scandal of the 1978-79 season.  This year, I got back into sports betting (mostly unsuccessfully, so far) and I was curious as to what the major point shaving scandals had been in college over the years.  I was happy to find that there have been very few in recent years, but more than a little surprised to find Hill's name attached to the Boston College scandal.  I have watched Good Fellas several times in my life and the only mention I remember of this is Hill going to visit "his Pittsburgh guys" a lot before he turned rat.  That was around the time that he (along with the help of Rocco and Tony Perla and Paul Mazzei) helped convince Rick Kuhn to recruit a couple of his teammates to get in on the scheme.  Kuhn in turn got teammate Jim Sweeney to join in on the fix.  Sweeney was a good, straight shooter so nobody would ever expect him to be involved with the fix.  From the get go, Sweeney claims to never have wanted to be involved and he claims throughout the book that he didn't do anything to "fix" these games.  Remember, many times in point shaving a team doesn't have to lose the game they simply have to not cover the spread.  There was approximately 9 games involved in the point shaving scandal and with as many people involved of course things weren't going to go as planned.  In fact, after the test game failed the gangsters also recruited Boston College's leading score Ernie Cobb.  Cobb also claims his innocence quite a bit, although he did accept a large sum of money at one point or another.  I don't know if it was because of the scouts knowledge of the point shaving or him being only 5'10", but Cobb didn't get drafted until 109th overall in the 1979 draft.  The league still had ten rounds back then.  Nobody else from this team ever sniffed the league.  This was the last major college basketball point shaving scandal, although there were a few others.  I don't want to give every detail of the book out because it is a good read if you're into sports betting or the mafia, but I will mention one extremely funny part to visualize.  During one of the fixed games, Rick Kuhn's girlfriend got tickets for a bunch of the mafia people that were involved with the fix.  The problem was that these seats were in the student section, you know the one you always see on TV where the students are all fired up.  Now, this wasn't a game Boston College won and every time the other team was scoring here these guys were celebrating and high fiving each other.  I can only imagine what a scene that would be now.  If you don't have the time to read a whole book that is basically a blow by blow account of a whole season, you can check out the article ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL .  Of course, Hill did tell three different stories to SI, the FBI, and a Grand Jury, but the Fix was definitely in during the 1978-79 season. 

6.08.2012

Backtrack, Death Camp, more at the Bug Jar next Wednesday....

 

Criticize this!

When LeBron James and Chris Bosh teamed up with Dwyane Wade for the 2010-11 season, they immediately set the bar REALLY HIGH for themselves.  After their over the top, extremely premature celebration, they left their fans (and many others) thinking the rest of the league was going to fall over in their presence and let them win those titles.  For a large portion of the playoffs last season, that appeared to be the case.  Eventually, the Mavericks prevailed and LeBron James became a running punchline for (mostly casual) NBA fans throughout the offseason and for much of this season.  This season, it was clear it would be championship or bust for this Miami Heat organization.  Though they had their shares of ups and downs in this shortened season, the Heat once again found themselves on the cusp of returning to the NBA Finals with another chance to prove their critics wrong.  The Heat even jumped out to a 2-0 lead in this series, including a game two that the Celtics easily could have won.  It is the playoffs though and things can change in a hurry if you're not careful.  The Spurs hadn't lost a single playoff game (or ANY of their previous 20) before last Thursday.  In the blink of an eye, the young Thunder rolled all over them and took the next four to put themselves into their first NBA Finals since the Supersonics era (sorry Seattle).  Much like the Spurs, the Heat looked like they were on the way to running the Celtics right out of this series before it even became one.  Suddenly though, everything started to fall into place for the Big Four and the Celtics took a 3-2 lead thanks to some inspirational play from Kevin Garnett.

Here we were again, for this Heat team.  Granted, Chris Bosh hasn't been around for much of these playoffs, most people still aren't letting LeBron and these Heat off easy if they don't win the championship.  Honestly though, even if they do win the title this year, a lot of critics will still have a lot of negative things to say about this Heat team.  I understand making a few cracks here and there, but what I don't get is why so many people use the word "hate" when they describe LeBron James.  I watch a lot of basketball and I make my opinion known constantly.  But I don't think I would use a word like hate when describing any player that I watch play a child's game for a living.  If I had those kind of negative feelings, I probably just wouldn't watch basketball (see: NFL 2012 season).  That said, if the Heat don't win the title this year, it will still be looked at as a disappointment as it should.   Having dug themselves a 3-2 hole, the Heat needed to win a game in Boston before they could move this series back to Miami for a closeout game.  That would be no easy feat for Miami, as they had lost all six games in Boston in the LeBron era heading into last night. 

For the first few minutes, this game was close as a few players each from Boston and Miami were scoring.  The score was tied at 12 early on, until LeBron started to warm up.  LeBron only scored 2 points in the first five minutes of this game, before he completely took over in yet another performance for the ages.  This was akin to the Pacers series, when the Heat found themselves down 2-1 and they turned to their megastar to bring them back into that series.   Last night was a very similar performance to that game four and you have to kind of wonder why LeBron doesn't play like this every time he steps out onto the floor.  He is clearly capable of putting this team on his back and carrying them back to the Finals.  Once LeBron got going last night, there was pretty much no stopping him and you were almost better off getting out of his way, as he started to get a couple of and one baskets.  By the 2:30 mark of the first quarter, LeBron had 12 points and the Heat found themselves up 22-12 all of a sudden.  Rajon Rondo and company would do all they could to try and stay in this game, but it was pretty clear early on who this game was going to belong to.  As LeBron started to effortlessly sink shots, you got the sense that he wasn't going to disappear in the second half of this game.  The Heat were up by ten at the end of the first quarter, led by Lebron's early 14 points.  Dwyane Wade was 0-4 at this point. 

Again, I don't always like hearing Jeff Van Gundy talk, but I will agree with him when he is correct.  He echoed my statements during the second quarter about LeBron James being unfairly judged like no other player in NBA history.  It is what it is I guess, but as I said before it doesn't make sense to me how he can't do anything right in some "fans" eyes.  The lead continued to grow in the second quarter, as LeBron continued to hit tough shot after tough shot.  There was a constant swarm of white jerseys in his neighborhood as he continued to make difficult shots look all too easy.  Rajon Rondo and Brandon Bass were doing their best to try to keep this game close, while LeBron was just running rampant and scoring at will from pretty much any part of the floor. Led by LeBron's ridiculous 30 points, the Heat found themselves ahead by 13 at the half.  Dwyane Wade was practically non-existent on offense in the first half, making just one lone field goal.  Still, the Heat had to feel somewhat comfortable about the possibility of forcing a game seven on their own court.

The Heat cooled off considerably to start the third quarter and briefly it looked like the Celtics might make this a game.  Every time they would get the game within striking distance, there was LeBron hitting shots or finding Mario Chalmers open in the corner for three.  The Celtics were down by double digits for much of this contest.  Just as it appeared as though the Celtics were going to close the lead, LeBron James hit a three pointer to silence the rally.  The Heat were up 74-61 at the end of the third quarter and LeBron had 41 points.  Dwyane Wade had still been fairly quiet up until this point.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Wade finally awoke from his scoring slumber hitting consecutive shots that gave the Heat a 17 point lead.   If The Celtics were going to make a run and try to end this series at home, it was now or never for them.  After a Paul Pierce jumper, Shane Battier hit a three to give the Heat an 18 point lead.  This was quite a transition from the last game, where the Heat were now hitting many of their outside shots (7-16) and the Celtics seemed to be settling more (1-14) from three.  That and the fact that LeBron James was simply unstoppable from every angle.  He did cool off considerably in the fourth quarter but it was no matter as Dwyane Wade was finally hitting shots for Miami.  All of a sudden, the Heat had blown this game wide open with a 25 point cushion at the 7:00 mark of the final quarter.  It was pretty clear at this point that we were headed for a game 7 in Miami on Saturday.  It was a stunning turn of event for Celtics fans, as many of them were left rushing for the exits before the fourth quarter was even half over with.  A lot of people expected Miami to come out with a lot of energy in this game, but I don't think anyone was expecting a blowout.  I said on Wednesday that if Miami stood a chance in this game, they would need a complete game from LeBron James.  They got just that (45/15/5 in 45 minutes- he was taken out with the game well in their hands) and they now need only one more win for a return trip to the finals.  Win or lose, I am sure they will have many critics along the way.