Looking back at...'03

Dec 30, 2003 9:14 AM

Wins, losses, pushes. The years may change, but sports wagering in Las Vegas comes down to those three possibilities no matter if the bet is on a team or an individual.

Whether it was Ohio State’s thrilling overtime victory over Miami for college football’s national championship or the improbable win by Ben Curtis at the British Open, our memories may simply boil down to whether we had a winning year.

No doubt you have seen the media parade Best of 2003 shows, but maybe it’s better to review what the odds were on these champs before the feat was accomplished. Perhaps the figures could be a crystal ball to 2004. Heck, we’ll try anything for a payoff at the window.

For me, 2003 stood out for the interesting array of proposition bets. For example, Annika Sorenstam was —500 not to make the cut when she dared to take on the men at the PGA’s Colonial golf tournament in May. She gained respect, but didn’t make it.

In June, there was the corked bat incident with Sammy Sosa and subsequent suspension that inspired Caesars Palace race and sports director Chuck Esposito to set an "over / under" home run total for the Chicago Cubs slugger by season’s end. At the time, Sosa had hit only six or seven. The bar was set at 27½ with the "over" at even money and "under" at —130. Sosa easily cleared that figure.

Station Casinos came out with several for NBA wonderchild LeBron James, including an over / under wager on how many points the high school sensation would average in his first NBA season with Cleveland. The number was 16.0, with the over at even money and the under at -130. We liked the over then and certainly do now.

There were also futures odds on what James would average. The most intriguing was 150-1 for 30.1 or higher. That’s still a possibility.

In baseball, the Florida Marlins opened at 50-1 to win the World Series and were up to 100-1 on June 23 before going on to beat the 3-1 favorite New York Yankees to culminate the most exciting postseason in major history. Meanwhile the Anaheim Angels, the 2002 World Series champs, opened at 8-1 and failed to make the playoffs.

In pro football, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers captured the 2003 Super Bowl after opening at 15-1. The St. Louis Rams were 5-2 favorites and didn’t make the postseason.

The biggest Cinderella in major sports didn’t win the NHL Stanley Cup, but at 75-1 didn’t do too bad making the finals before ultimate falling to the 8-1 New Jersey Devils. Detroit, the 4-1 favorite, lost in the first round to Anaheim.

And, just about everyone handed the Los Angeles Lakers another NBA championship. After all, the Lakers had Kobe and Shaq and who could dare challenge 7-5 odds? Well, it turned out to be San Antonio at 10-1.

In NASCAR, Matt Kenseth won one race but led for 33 of the 36 weeks to capture the covet points championship. The Palms had Kenseth at -125 to win less than four races, -105 to win more. On the other end, Ryan Newman was -130 to capture at least two races. Newman won eight, rewarding his backers at even money.

Perhaps the biggest shocker of all was Tiger Woods not winning a major title. Yet, Woods captured his fifth straight Player of the Year trophy after posting five victories on the season. Woods is 5-2 to win next year’s Masters.

Betting Tiger in Augusta will be my first New Year’s resolution. Have a healthy, happy and prosperous 2004.