Unlike the sharps who occupy most of the space in this weekly journal, I’m the king of the sucker bettors. I don’t use analytics, and I don’t give a whoop what the ATS is for any team that pulls cash out of my wallet at the betting window.
When I depart for the Suncoast to make my wagers, I have my picks jotted on a scrap of paper. But if the line at the book differs significantly from the line in the newspaper, I’m likely to change my bet on the spot. Strictly amateur stuff.
Gut reaction and hunch are a huge part of what I’ll loosely call research. I also never bet against my favorite teams, which are Oregon in football and basketball, and Gonzaga in hoops. Fortunately, this pathetically provincial attitude has served me well in recent years as all of these teams have played remarkably well, both in straight-up wins and against the spread. But any sharp bettor will tell you that smart money will never be influenced by regional bias, or where you earned your degree.
In other words, I’m like 95 percent of the rest of you who enjoy betting on sports. Having currency riding on games is fun, it increases the adrenaline flow, and the subtle turns that occur in every game can elicit loud cursing and groaning that scares the family pets and should be reserved for graveside services. Vented emotion is healthy, and makes us feel more alive.
My wife scolded me three days ago when I used horrible language to bemoan a terrible call by an official in a season marked by terrible calls. I questioned the refs’ ancestry, the fact that his biceps were much smaller than the rest of his crew, and I loudly accused him of having accepted a bribe from mobsters for rigging the game’s outcome.
“Why are you getting so upset?” Carol barked.
“Because that call might cost me a $100 bet, which means you will get one less Christmas present this year,” I shouted back.
“That’s the most pathetic thing I’ve ever heard,” she said. On careful reflection I have to admit my retort was tacky and childish, but sports betting can bring that out in a grown man.
All we amateurs are looking for when we make our bets for $10 or $50 or $100 is a “sweat.” We want the game to have more meaning in our lives than whether our team stays in contention for a major bowl game, or a wildcard spot in the NFL playoffs.
Having confessed all of this, I will tell you that I have miraculously won 10 of the last 13 bets I’ve made on the NFL and college football and hoops. This past Sunday I was 3 for 3. I had the Baltimore Ravens by 6.5 over the Buffalo Bills, and they won by 7. I had the surging Pittsburgh Steelers by 2 over the Arizona Cardinals and they won by 6. And I had Gonzaga hoops by 4 over their in-state rival Washington Huskies.
That one was really sweet, because the Zags were up by just two points in the final minute when a recent transfer whose name I can’t even pronounce swished a three-pointer to cover my number. I was so elated I gave our dog Sadie a chicken drumstick, which any veterinarian worth his salt will tell you is likely to choke a beast to death.
As I flashed my winning tickets, Carol said, “I guess that means I can get small diamonds in those earrings I want, rather than cubic zirconium.” I made a mental note not to announce my bets in the future, or celebrate my wins too loudly.
Based on my recent good fortune, I offer fair warning not to call or email me for future picks. You and I both know damn well that my amateurish hunches are certain to catch up with me, and that I’m about to turn colder than a well-digger’s derriere.
On the other hand, I do like the Rams, who are a small 1-point favorite, over the Cowboys Sunday. That’s because no matter how many personnel changes Dallas makes, last I checked they can’t fire the owner. And that’s the only thing that will fix that broken machine.