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Sports makes us gambling fools

It’s better be a bettor when it comes to sports.

My latest obsession began about three weeks ago. I sat down at my home computer and, not straying from my usual routine, I went to my favorite Web site, ESPN.com, after checking my e-mail and bank accounts (ouch!).

But this night would prove distinct after all. Somehow I ended up on ESPN’s Gridiron Weekly home page. And, there, before my computer-scorched eyes was a deal I could not turn away. It beckoned me to click my mouse button repeatedly and reveal my credit card number to the evil Internet.



This is what I saw: “Week 11 teams are available! Buy 3 Teams, Get 1 Free! – $14.95. 1 team per week for the next 4 weeks!” It practically screamed at me.

For a meager price of $4.95, you get to pick 16 players and two head coaches from any of the 32 NFL teams for a chance to win $3,000. Second through sixth places earn $500.



Basically, if the players chosen do well, then you do well.

Now you can see ESPN’s genius in creating this game. I’m thinking, “Wow. That would only be $84.15 a year ($4.95 calculated over an entire 17-week season). If I won $500, or god forbid I win the grand prize, I would more than earn my money back. I’d be rich. What do I have to lose?”

Well, so far I have lost $14.85 and counting. I can’t imagine how many other dreamers I’m competing against each week. In a major stroke of beginner’s luck, I did come close to winning in my first week, but I was shut down in the red zone driving in for the winning score, so to speak.

Gambling is a way for the average Joe to feel closer to sports. To have a better reason than entertainment’s sake to watch a game. Well, I am one of those Joes who spend countless hours agonizing over teams and players. I’ve researched players, teams and statistics trying to choose those special 18 – those 18 players that will have the game of their lives on Sunday, or Monday, or Saturday, or even Thursday in the case of Thanksgiving Day.

The catch in this game is that the players have to produce touchdowns and avoid costly mistakes (fumbles, interceptions, missed field goals, etc.) to do really well. I find myself hating players that have let me down, loving players that earn me a lot of points. Check me in. I’m a case.

In addition, influenced by a football pool that my father once participated in, I started a similar pool at my former work place. I have continued the pool with my former co-workers. Each man puts in $5 and picks the winners of every game, using a confidence scale of 1-16, if there happens to be 16 games that particular week. The highest number is placed next to the team you feel most confident to win, and so on.

For a chance to win a minuscule $20, I am pinned to the TV on Sunday watching the scores of teams that I really don’t care about. So far I’ve won one out of four for a .250 winning percentage. Hey, that’s better than the 2-10 San Diego Chargers.

Don’t get me wrong, I have not and will not join the casino-dwellers, betting entire paychecks on something they have no control over. Considering I’m from Reno, I think that is pretty good self-discipline. I keep my bets small and low-risk.

Plus, I disapprove of betting odds and point spreads, and that is what the real betting world revolves around. I refuse to put my fate in the hands of the oddsmakers. They may have been accurate in years past, but in professional sports this is the era of Any Given Day. Especially in the NFL, it’s just one big guess. “Parody around the league” is what the experts call it. The dynasties are extinct – I know, I’m a San Francisco 49ers fan – so the odds should be as well. It is hard enough to pick the winner of a game these days.

So put Pete Rose in the baseball Hall of Fame already. He is no different than countless other American sports fans. In fact, sports journalism paralleled the rise in popularity of betting on the games we love.

I guess when I think about it, the players are making so much money off the game, why can’t the fanatics?

Matt Brown is sports and outdoors reporter for the Sierra Sun.


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