By: Kimberly Southwick
I have been betting against the spread since I was a teenager. My stepsister and I were first allowed to bet as a duo, choosing which teams were in cities we would prefer to visit (New Orleans or Detroit? Easily the Big Easy) or which teams had the coolest helmets (the Bengals, every week.) We always picked Tennessee because they were a new team and we were new bettors. We always picked 42 for Monday Night points because, duh, 42. Our second or third year with my Dad buying us into the pool, we tied for third place. I’m not sure what the lesson is there, but it reminds me not to take my sports betting too seriously—and not to trust anyone who buys in for any reason but fun. Sure, I like to win, but I don’t regret my bad picks like one would regret a drunken indiscretion or business deal gone sour. Games are for fun.
OHIO STATE @ VS WISCONSIN=================== 6.5
ARIZONA STATE @ VS U S C ================== 4.5
Back when we were in high school, the internet did not exist in the capacity it exists in today. Sure, it was there, but I’m not sure where my Dad got the lines for the games. Did he call Vegas? Were they in the local paper? I know he adjusted them slightly from what the official lines were sometimes when he thought they were outrageous. The point of a spread is to make the difference difficult; half the time, the team you picked loses by that half-fucking-point and you are howling in front of the television.
Nowadays, you can go to ESPN or to SBnation.com and find a host of sports fans picks for each week, judge the collected information they’ve provided, and make a decent guess based on the little you know and the more someone else thinks he knows. Fact: other people’s more-educated-guesses exist out there and are easy to find. These sites will justify their choices many times with “star running back so-and-so seemed to be limping in practice, so he won’t be getting the ball so much this week and if he does his speed just won’t be the same” or “the blanks pass defense is actually quite miserable, and everyone is about to find out this week when they play the other-blanks.”
DENVER @ VS E-A-G-L-E-S !!! =========================11.5
TAMPA BAY @ VS ARIZONA =========================== 2.5
BALTIMORE VS BUFFALO @ =========================== 2.5
DETROIT @ VS CHICAGO ============================== 2.5
CINCINNATI VS CLEVELAND @ ========================= 3.5
INDY COLTS VS JACK-VILLE* @ ======================== 9.5
KANSAS CITY @ VS N.Y. GIANTS ======================= 4.5
PITTSBURGE VS MINNESOTA @ ======================= 3.5
SEATTLE VS HOUSTON @ =========================== 2.5
TENNESSEE @ VS N .Y. JETS ========================= 3.5
DALLAS VS SAN DIEGO @ =========================== 2.5
WASH SKINS VS OAKLAND @ ======================== 3.5
ATLANTA @ VS NEW ENGLAND ======================== 1.5
These days, I no longer select Tennessee every week or base my picks on cities I’ve visited and loved or would love to visit. But I also don’t know what so-and-so’s knee looked like in practice or whose pass defense is overrated. Being a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan, the games I watch– besides the Eagles every week– tend to be those in my division. This gives me decent knowledge on the teams the Eagles play throughout the year, but it takes all year for me to get to know a handful of teams NOT in the NFC East. And the problem is, despite having knowledge about my division, I don’t want to have to root for the Cowboys against anyone. I will never root against the Eagles against anyone. So I always pick the Eagles, even if I know enough about Peyton Manning and the Broncos to consider that 11.5 points might not be enough for the birds to cover the spread. I always pick whoever isn’t playing the Giants, even if I know Andy Reid and the Chiefs are due for a loss. I oftentimes pick with my heart and then with my brain. Not always who I think will win, but who I hope wins. The spread often helps justify these choices. But not always. And it’s good to know that I’m not the only person out there who plays this way.
NEW ORLEANS @ VS MIAMI ======================= 7.5
MONDAY NIGHT POINTS : 52
MOST POINTS: Atlanta
FEWEST POINTS : Jacksonville
When I worked at a bookstore in NYC, a friend there ran a weekly pool. I was used to buying in for a whole season, one lump sum to pick every pro game and a handful of college games every week. This bookstore pool was five bucks in every week, win everyone’s cash who played that week if you win. There was no spread. You were generally picking the favorites every week or risking it and picking the underdogs you hoped had a chance to win outright. It was 2008 and the Eagles had a battery-filled snowball‘s chance in the hell at going to the playoffs. The only way we** would make it was if Chicago and Tampa Bay BOTH lost, AND we beat Dallas in the last game of the year. This series of events seemed unlikely. I changed my schedule at work so that I worked on Sundays, but I still bought into the weekly pool– though, against all normal self-inflicted gambling rules, I picked Dallas to beat us.
Already mourning another wasted season, I went to work that Sunday prepared for defeat. But I did spend my lunchbreak at a sports bar–and the rest of the day at work receiving text messages of mounting excitement from fellow Eagles fans. In the end, the Eagles won, the teams we needed to win and lose, won and lost, and the Eagles went to the playoffs. The guy who ran the pool came up to me to congratulate me on the birds making the playoffs—and to let me know that if I had picked the Eagles that week, I would’ve won the pool. He lectured me, sad to not be handing the cash over to me, Never bet against your team, Kimmy. Never!
And so I don’t. Even in moments of disgust. Even when the spread is loaded and clearly Vegas must be run by people who have no clue what’s going on in the NFL because we’re GIVING points when we should obviously be getting them. It doesn’t matter. I no longer work at the bookstore, or bet on games outright, but I’ll never forget his admonition. The Eagles, luckily, are getting points this week against Denver—a decent amount, too, considering our new-to-the-NFL coach, fluctuating strengths and weaknesses, and prone-to-injury stars—not the mention the altitude, my favorite Manning brother, and the fact the Broncos are at home.
EAGLES VS DENVER ———————– ( 57.5 ) ———— OVER/ UNDER ?
DALLAS VS SAN DIEGO ——————-( 45.5 ) ———— OVER / UNDER ?
WASH SKINS VS OAKLAND ————–( 44.5 ) ————- OVER / UNDER ?
KANSAS CITY VS N.Y. GIANTS ——— ( 44.5 ) ————- OVER / UNDER ?
PITTSBURGH VS MINNESOTA ———–( 41.5 ) ————- OVER /UNDER ?
NEW ORLEANS VS MIAMI ————— ( 47.5 ) ———— OVER / UNDER ?
For the most part, the knowledge with which I make my picks is limited to watching the Eagles/NFC East games, a handful of other games (generally if I can convince my husband to let me, we’ll watch the Sunday night game), and occasionally reading up on others’ points of view online or listening to local sports radio– but these limitations haven’t kept me from having the most weekly wins on occasion some years and once, a few years back– winning the whole shabang again, this time as an adult and on my own. A few years ago, out of 30 or so people in the pool I’ve always played against the spread, I tied for first place. I was pretty thrilled with myself and brought it up whenever I could for about two years. I haven’t ranked impressively since that year, but I’m on my way back up. Last year was my rebuilding year. I’m coming out on top again this year. I’m in it to win it.
NOTES ON ASTERICKS
*Pool is the actual pool I receive via email– & my educated/ill-conceived bets for this week. All divergent spellings &/or plays-on-words are due to the poetic license our commish employs.
** “What position do you play?” asks my favorite DC-poet, when I refer to the Eagles as “we”. I say, “shut it.”