The Fix Is In
I was flipping channels last night and happened upon Monday Night Football. Though I taried but briefly, a little shiver rose in my gut. Mmmmmmmmmmm, foooootball.
How can I, San Francisco 49er fan, get excited about football, you ask? (Which reminds me of a joke: What do the Oakland A's and 49ers have in common? They both lose once a week.)
The answer, in a word...Wagering.
Football is widely perceived as America's Favorite Sports Pastime (with Jim McManus-bashing quickly closing in second), but I'm not really on that bandwagon. It's still good ol' baseball for me. But I never bet on baseball. Because I care too much. I'm invested emotionally. There is no need to add financial pressure to the mix. Trust me, I'm not being overly dramatic here. If you think I am, perhaps I can get the dear and patient wife to pen a guest post describing my behavior during the A's-Angels series beginning this evening.
But football, football is a social event. It's hitting the Corner Bar at 10 a.m. with your buddies. It's College Football Saturday with three TVs hooked up in the family room so as not to miss a play. It's the guy at Cirivello's in the LBC who brings the helmets of opposing teams (real helmets, not replicas) and periodically smashes them together in what I can only guess is a frustrated pique of adrenaline. And, above all, it's having a hundy on Cleveland-Cincinnati.
I am not a good football bettor. I set a pre-season stop loss in my illegal online sports betting account. When my deposit is gone, it's gone. It has never been not gone. But I get a good 10-12 weeks of fun out of it. Vegas? Forget it. I hemorrhage money in sportsbooks. But I always have fun.
Which brings up a story. Couple years ago, I put some cash down on the Friday Night ESPN game while in Sin City. It was New Mexico against.......um.......I wanna say Colorado St. (though the exact team is not crucial to the tale, I am all for total recall). UNM was at home and favored by 1 1/2. Basically a pick 'em, but the home team on national TV angle is a nice one, so I went with the Lobos. This is Mountain West football, so you're basically looking at whomever has the ball last wins. It's Night Baseball with pigskin, so the game was predictably tied at 39 with a minute remaining.
I'd watched most of the fourth quarter from a bar stool at the Stardust, eavesdropping on a classic New York guinea-mobster type chat up every woman within a 20 ft. radius. It was entertaining (for me) and fruitless (for him). As the game wound down, he tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I had any money on the tilt. I affirmed that I did and he responded that we had something in common, though his wager was in the five figures. Presuming "bullshit" (this is the Stardust, after all), I turned my attention back to the game where the Lobos failed on third down and moved to punt the ball away. "That's that," I thought and let loose a noise that obviously illustrated my displeasure.
"Dont worry about it," my guinea friend assured me. "It's in the bag."
I turned to face him and he simply nodded smugly, totally assured.
As I pondered just how far this guy's delusions went, Colorado St. lined up for their first down play. Shotgun formation and the snap went...oh...8 feet to the left of the QB. The QB's reaction was to stare at the football as if it were an oblong manifestation of the ebola virus, before reacting just late enough to land on top of a lumbering defensive tackle who recovered for New Mexico.
The Guinea just clapped me on the back and walked away.
I won my $100 when the Lobo kicker was true at the whistle. But I've never been able to shake the idea that this football wagering deal is even more -EV than I ever suspected. That certain games may, in fact, be SO rigged.
Not that it'll stop me from getting down on Iowa St.-Kansas.