Sports Handicapping – There are no sure bets
Here is my favorite tearjerker story to tell. It was a football game football game several years ago (I believe 2003 or 20004) between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars. My daughter Lori and I had arranged our bets to where we had the under (46) and Jacksonville +3. The score was Pittsburgh 21-20 with 6 seconds to go and Jacksonville lined up for a chip shot 15-yard field goal.
- If Jacksonville kicks the field goal, we win both the game and the under
- If Jacksonville misses the field goal, we win both the game and the under
Lori (in her infinite wisdom) says: “Dad, we can’t lose, no matter what happens!”
I (in my infinite wisdom) say: “The only way we can lose is if the field goal is blocked and Pittsburgh recovers and runs 90 yards for a TD. But that can’t happen.”
- The ball is snapped
- The kick is blocked
- The ball rolls to within one inch of the out-of-bounds line
- Pittsburgh picks up the ball and runs 84 yards for a TD
- Pittsburgh’s final score is 28-20!
We lose the game and the under. I walked out to my driveway in my stocking feet to avoid kicking the TV set. There were curse words invented that night that won’t be discovered until the year 2048. The same questions spun in my head for weeks:
- Why wasn’t the blocking better?
- Why didn’t the ball roll up the field?
- Why did the ball roll to the sideline?
- Why didn’t the ball roll out of bounds?
- Why didn’t the Pittsburgh player fall on the ball?
- Why wasn’t there a Jacksonville player over there to tackle him?
There were no answers to why I didn’t win that bet. I have a lot of these types of stories, but only a few stand out from the din of all of the others. I’ll briefly tell you a couple other stories where I was on one side of the spectrum or the other.
More Examples of Handicapping gone wrong (or right)
From the heartbreaking category, there was the NBA Finals game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Cleveland Cavaliers. I had San Antonio -7 (I think) in the closing game of this series. They were up by a bunch and already celebrating the championship when Cleveland started to make meaningless buckets. The worst of which was a Delonte West layup that clearly was shot after the buzzer, but counted anyways because no one outside of the betting circles cared because the Spurs won the championship. This bucket made Cleveland the winner of the spread by 1 point. I nearly broke my TV.
Purdue vs MSU
I have a couple of stories on the other side of the fence. First, there was a 1997 college football game (a game which got me hooked on sports betting) between Michigan State and Purdue. The Spartans had a 16 point lead with a little of 2 minutes left as they were attempting a field goal. That’s when I said, “All they need to do is block the field goal and take it for a TD;” which they did, but they missed the 2 point conversion.
Then I said “All they need to do is recover this onside kick and score a TD;” which they did. I tried it one more time, “All they need to do is recover another onside kick and get the field goal;” which they did with time expiring. I have never been as elated as I was at that one time.
Raptors vs Wizards
The last one I will leave you with is another legendary one from the vault. This was about 2007 or 2008. The Toronto Raptors were playing on the road against the Washington Wizards when I was really big into betting on the NBA. I even had the League Pass so I could watch all of the games. This game was rather uneventful during the first 3 1/2 quarters (like a lot of NBA games). I had picked Toronto to win straight up.
I didn’t really get into the game until the closing couple of minutes when Washington went on a run to seemingly win the game. They hit a 3-pointer late and the Wizards’ color commentator shouted “Dagger!” like he was screaming it in my face. That put Washington up 6 points with less than a minute left. Toronto hit a 3 pointer and I yelled “Dagger!” in jest back at him. The game was closed within 3 points.
Toronto missed an opportunity to tie the game. When the Washington player (his name escapes me) got the rebound, he celebrated too early and threw the ball up in the air with several seconds left on the clock. The guard on the Raptors caught the ball in mid-air and made a shot before the buzzer sounded to tie the game. “Dagger!” The game wasn’t even close in OT; Toronto had already won and ever since I have said “Dagger!” whenever the team I bet on looks like it’s going to lose.
Still, it’s very helpful to get some advice with your sports betting picks. Most of them are not going to be as memorable as you favorite and least favorite moments. Just realize that no matter how good the source, there is no such thing as a sure bet.