Week of July 6, 2018

Phil enjoying the 4th.

On “In the Jackpot”

A few weeks back, we were briefly treated to a terrific video, with the umpire’s audio of a 2016 argument between Mets manager Terry Collins and umpire Tom Hallion. It’s not clear why it surfaced recently, but MLB did its best to take it down wherever it could find it.

If you did/do not have the chance to see it, Hallion memorably tells Collins, “If I do that, I’m gonna put my ass in the jackpot.” Viewers were amused and confused. What exactly does this peculiar phrase mean, and where did it come from? Deadspin’s Timothy Burke did some top-notch sleuthing, and this week presented his findings.

Burke notes that it was used in the movie Homicide, based on the TV series and book of the same name:

Tim Bayliss: DID I TAKE A BULLET FOR YOU? I take a bullet for you, and you take a bullet for me – now THAT is square business, Frank!

Frank Pembleton: This is not taking a bullet for you, this is you wanting me to toss your ass in the jackpot! You’re confessing to a murder, Tim, do you understand that?

Tim Bayliss: So you want someone else should take me in? Someone else should bust me…

It also appears in an episode of The Wire.

Burrel: Lieutenant. A moment, please. What happened out there? Did you know they were in the high-rises without backup?

Daniels:  If I tell you yes I screwed up. If I tell you no I’m putting my men in the jackpot. Do you still want me to answer? I screwed up, sir.

Homicide (both the book and the show) and The Wire are, of course, all written/created by David Simon, who wrote them after reporting on the crime beat for years in Baltimore. Burke also found the phrase in blog posts and books by a sociologist, Peter Moskos, who wrote his doctoral dissertation after serving for two years as a Baltimore police officer. Moskos told Burke he’d only heard it within Baltimore police circles, though Burke found it published in a handful of publications not having to do with the Baltimore P.D. As it turns out, Hallion’s father was a police officer in Saugerties, NY. So it would appear to be some sort of passed down cop lingo.

But this doesn’t really explain the origin of the phrase, so Burke kept digging. He eventually stumbled upon what he believes is the answer:

The October 27, 1926 edition of the Baltimore Sun discusses the uncovering of a series of vaults along that city’s Water Street during an excavation. Under the headline “ROMANCE SUGGESTED IN FINDING OF VAULTS,” their purpose is articulated: “Southern planters,” it euphemizes, who were in the paper’s words “a gay lot,” used the pens to house slaves, according to a Civil War general named John R. King who worked at the hotel under which the vaults were discovered.

The master of the slave, according to the story, had put him in the jackpot, a part of the poker game. If the master won, the slave remained his property. If he lost, the Negro became the property of the winner of the pot.

It is not hard to extrapolate from the idea of being housed in an underground vault, your future in the hands of a poker game, to the broader concept of being stuck in a bad situation; it would certainly explain why “jackpot,” usually a word with positive associations, here connotes trouble.

Oh. As Burke puts it, “when Tom Hallion told Terry Collins that “they” had his ‘ass in the jackpot,’ he was drawing on a long, somewhat law enforcement–tinged history that traces itself back to the time that human beings were not only treated as property, but as currency. Sorry if this ruined it for you.” Hm, I don’t think I’ll be using that phrase. -TOB

Source: On The Origins, Use, And Meaning Of “Ass In The Jackpot“, Timothy Burke, Deadspin (07/05/2018)

This Is So Stupid: After a Blunder, The Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest May Go Electronic.

Nathan’s annual 4th of July hot dog eating contest is unquestionably stupid. I find myself watching it (almost) every year, though, for that exact reason. It’s dumb, and the coverage is over the top, but either the announcers are in on the joke and that’s funny, or they aren’t and they’re serious and that’s funnier.

It is quintessential Americana – excessive, bloated, disgusting, but all in good fun. The process, for decades, has been simple: put plates of hot dogs and buns in front of the competitors, start the clock, and they eat the dogs. But as its popularity has surged since first Kobayashi and then Joey Chestnut pushed the winning totals to unstomachable heights, the contest has gotten more and more hectic. Look at that picture. There are WAY too many people on that stage.

This year, the inevitable happened. When the contest finished, Joey Chestnut had won his 11th contest in 12 years, by eating 64 hot dogs and buns. But instead of being happy, he immediately looked at his scorekeeper and claimed the count was off – he thought he had 74. The second place finisher, Carmen Cincotti, had it even worse – his score read 45, but it turned out he actually ate 64. How a judge can be off by that many is hard to fathom. But the contest wants to ensure it does not happen again, and they have made rumblings this week of moving to some way to electronically measure the number of hot dogs eaten, perhaps by weighing the plates. This would also have the positive secondary effect of decluttering the stage.

But still – it seems contrary to the spirit of the event, which tries to give off a nostalgic feel. Will they lose something by doing this? It’s the only competitive food eating event that gets any mainstream attention. Will this kill that magic? I don’t know. I’ll probably still take ten minutes out of my holiday to watch a guy stuff 74 hot dogs and buns down his gullet. It’s mesmerizing. -TOB

Source: MLE mulls change to electronic tech for Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest”, Darren Rovell, ESPN (07/05/2018)

Video of the Week

If you’ve ever wondered why a hitter will sometimes take a terrible swing that makes him look like he can’t play baseball, this might give you an idea: pitch tunneling.

PAL Song of the Week

Phil is out of pocket this week, so TOB gets to choose. Boom. Enjoy!

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“Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration. Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration.”

-Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration.

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