How does CJ
respond to news from the real world?
When CJ reads or
hears about an unusual event, such as two ships colliding in mid-ocean with
great loss of life, or a Latvian brother and sister separated during World War
I who learn they have been living on the same street in Bridgeport for the past
47 years, he usually says: "What's the odds on something like
What does CJ fear
most in this life and in the life to come?
CJ fears the
weather most. He remembers waking up on the morning of Dec. 31, 1967 and
turning on the radio and hearing a voice that sounded like the judgment of God
(Him again). The voice said: "It is 13� below zero in Green Bay, Wis., site
of today's NFL title game." Bad weather usually favors the underdog because
it tends to neutralize superior strength, to atomize and equalize. CJ has the
Packers 100 times and he is giving seven points and God has made the
temperature drop to 13� below. The Packers win in the last few seconds but they
fail to beat the spread.
CJ tries to use
the weather like a tribal conjurer. One day the radio reports tornadoes in
Kansas. It is Saturday evening and CJ tries desperately to find a college
football game being played in Kansas that night. Finally he comes up with two
small, small colleges—names he no longer remembers. He wants the points. He's
dying to take the points. He will sit by the radio, all night if necessary, to
wait for the final score of what is bound to be a windswept and topsy-turvy
game. He feels sure the underdog will come through for him because he knows, he
has always known, it has been basic knowledge for many years that bad weather
favors the underdog because it is a neutralizer of ability, experience and
talent, an atomizer and equalizer, and he is ready to wire his mind into the
desolate roar of Kansas, for a full night if need be. But his bookmaker,
Bernie-Sherm, has no line on the game in question because the two schools are
exceedingly tiny, obscure and pathetic, assuming they exist at all.
How did CJ stop
The year is 1970.
CJ has the Boston Celtics 40 times against the Cincinnati Royals. He is giving
5� points. With a minute left in the game, he leads by 11. With four seconds
left, he leads by seven. He has possession of the basketball. The ball is his.
Suddenly he loses the ball. The ball is lost. The other team has the ball. A
man on the other team heaves a wild shot from a crazy angle. The ball falls in
the basket as the buzzer sounds. Bzzzzz. CJ gets up, opens a cabinet, takes out
a carton of cigarettes and in a morosely romantic and life-enhancing gesture he
quietly strangles the carton before throwing it away.
good had to come out of that game," he says.
Kool greets CJ by
butting pads with him. He throws a shoulder, backs off, lunges again. Three
times he does this, deadpan. It means they are together in this thing, and it
is a manly thing, and they are not unlike the players themselves, fond of mock
pummeling, doing work heroic enough to require ritual, and it is good luck
Kool has made
three bets. All look bad at the moment. Through the years he has been so
consistently wrong that CJ often uses him as a guide, betting against the teams
his brother selects as winners. Kool lives in a remote part of New Jersey,
where he walks the moors in a half-trance before making his betting selections
for the week. This trek is meant to empty his mind, enabling him to pick up
vibrations from NFL cities.