Saturday, October 10, 2009

I’m a Gamblin’ Man

I’m undeniably a gambling man. Like most other people who decide to go into business for themselves, I do a little high-stakes gambling every week… you know, like gambling that there will be money left at the end of the week so I can get a paycheck. Most weeks, I lose.

I also gamble on a variety of other things.

Politics, for instance. I spend a lot of time grooming candidates for public office, in hopes that, on election day, they’ll get at least one vote more than their opponents.

And driving. I’m a really bad driver, mainly because, due to my increasing age and the accompanying absent-mindedness that seems to go along with it, my attention is rarely on the road where it should be. Instead, I’m usually somewhere else entirely. Anytime I drive, it’s a gamble.

And cooking. Mostly, the cooking I do involves tossing a slab of meat on the grill. It’s a major gamble whether or not I’ll remember the meat before its burned into charcoal. (See “increasing age and accompanying absent-mindedness” above.)

I do NOT, however, gamble on sports.

It’s football season, and sports gambling is in full swing. But not for me. Believe it or not, I’ve never bet on a sporting event.

We’ll, that’s not entirely true, because in grammar school, we always bet each other five dollars on the outcome of the USC vs. Clemson game. Only, we never paid off the bet, nor were we expected to, because none of us had ever even owned a five dollar bill, much less squandered one away in a bet. To us, “betcha five dollars” was simply a figure of speech… certainly not intended as a promissory instrument of any kind.

I don’t oppose wagering on ballgames. I think it should be legal, if that’s what you want to do. When I’m on a cruise or at some faraway destination, I have been known to light up a casino or two. (I should point out that I’m not a high-roller. I usually start small… and end up smaller.)

But sports betting lost me when I discovered what they called “the spread”. To me, “covering the spread” had always meant what I did with the strawberry jelly on top of a layer of peanut butter and a slice of bread. But now, it suddenly meant a “point spread”: my team not only had to WIN… it had to win by a certain number of points.

“So let me get this straight,” I remember asking myself, “If the Gamecocks win by 3 points, but the spread was 4 points, even though they won, I would lose my bet?”

Then I said to myself, “Self! You don’t want no part of that!”

It got worse.

As I investigated further, I discovered that lot’s of times, the “point spread” was not just a number, but it was a number and a half. For instance, they would say, “The Cowboys are a 5 ½ point favorite” or “The Falcons are a 4 ½ point underdog”.

I’ve watched a whole lot of football games in my 55 years, but I have never seen a team score half-a-point.

But then a light went off, and I figured out exactly what was going on here: It’s a money-making scheme!!! That half-point, I’m guessing, is sorta like everybody betting on those red or black spaces on the casino’s roulette wheel, when all of a sudden – KERPLUNK – the little ball lands in the green slot, and everybody who bet on red or black loses! I think it’s the same principle.

The point of betting on the game, I’m told, is to make it more interesting. I always thought that’s what the cheerleaders were for. Just sit closer to them, if you want it to be more interesting!

At my age, I probably don’t need ballgames to be too much more interesting. It couldn’t possibly be good for the heart.

Imagine the strain the following football game scenario could place on my cardiovascular system:

WHAM! My team intercepted a pass with 11 seconds left and runs it back 87 yards for the winning touchdown! BLAM! But they didn’t cover the spread, so I just lost the thousand bucks I bet! SLAM! The cheerleaders don’t know the games over… they’re still out there shaking their all-overs to the rhythm of “Beat It.”

Instant heart attack, except for….

SHAZZAM! Due to my increasing age and the accompanying absent-mindedness that seems to go along with it, my mind has wandered to a recent documentary I watched on The History Channel, and I’ve completely missed all three of the preceeding events, avoiding the heart attack and likely saving my life.

Now I wonder if I can persuade my bookie that “betcha a thousand dollars” was just a figure of speech.

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