Over the line?

Posted: January 9, 2012 by terryvandrovec in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

If you put stock in anything that Bill Simmons a.k.a. The Sports Guy writes, and millions must because the dude is maybe the most-read writer in the world at the moment, you’d think that all of the sports-loving males in America are gamblers. Not full-on steal and sell your grandma’s silver candlestick holders to a pawn-shop degenerates, but calculated weekly wagerererers. (I just made up a word.)

Simmons cultivates this impression by writing and talking about the subject constantly. There are times when his work focuses more on the game within the game – the lines – than the actual games.

Is it just me, or his assumption incorrect? Because while it’s entirely possible that my point of view is skewed by living in the conservative Upper Midwest, I think this topic is more a reflection of Simmons and his boys than reality. (Tangent: When will one of my friends make it big and take me along for the ride? The clock is ticking, amigos.) I don’t know anybody who bets on sports once a week let alone once a month – at least not openly.

The Sports Guy. I bet he regrets this photo

Nonetheless, the world of sports gambling is pretty interesting, especially since it’s something in which I don’t partake and know little about. It’s like another way of dissecting sports that’s akin to the usual way – breaking down matchups and streaks and just predicting a winner. In that regard, it’s sort of like crossing your arms right over left instead of left over right.

As someone who analyzes sports for a living, I do appreciate the context that gambling sets. I reference the Sagarin Ratings on a regular basis for that very reason – to give people an idea of who is favored, by how much and if the game figures to be high scoring or low scoring.

That said … I don’t get the appeal. Gambling the way The Sports Guy does it seems to be about more than analysis or money or the rush – there’s an element about proving how smart you are. Betting on lines and over-unders and futures are less specific than just naming a winner. It’s possible that’s a reflection of being a smart, life-long and in-depth sports fan – at some point it’s not enough to make an educated guess on an outcome. Or maybe you’re looking for additional validation as an analyst. Perhaps some people need that extra layer in order to stay interested – that’s one of the draws of fantasy football, a gigantic national hobby.

Of course, that can backfire. As I’ve learned from Simmons’ various pieces, Las Vegas odds are influenced (to a degree) by where the public is placing its money. That seems like a fairly large folly, no? Let’s say Joe Sixpack really, really, really believes the Saints are going to beat the 49ers next week – that doesn’t in any way influence either team’s prep for the game. Best I can figure, a line moving based on public confidence assumes a certain level of education or savvy by bettors. But are the betting kind really more informed or do they simply project that they are?

I’m asking because I don’t know. But it’s a subject that seems here to stay – at least in the written form. This blog post is proof of that. I’m not a gambler yet I’m thinking about the system and how it all works. The same can’t be said for other things I don’t do such as shave my legs or rebuild carburetors.

You win again, Simmons.

  1. You pretty much hit the appeal, at least for me, which comes two-fold: one, I like to prove how smart I am. I’m a competitive guy who doesn’t get to compete in sports all that often any more, so I love taking on Vegas and living it up when my can’t-miss guess actually, you know, doesn’t miss. The second part is that, like fantasy football, betting on games just brings an added level of interest, and the chance to be emotionally involved in more than just your home team’s games. I love my Vikings, but this fall would have been a whole lot more depressing if I hadn’t been able to blow off that steam by riding the ups and downs of other games across the league.

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