View From Lodi, CA: Super Bowl Sigh


As the kick-off to Super Bowl XXXVII approaches, I am
overwhelmed by the same two emotions that grip me every
year in late January: excitement and dread.

Super Bowl Sunday is just an inch shy of being a
national holiday. The big feeds have become as
traditional as

Thanksgiving
.

In the days leading up to the game, office chatter
centers around football. Someone will start a pool.
Newspapers quote famous personalities about which team
they like. Britney Spears likes the Raiders; Donald
Rumsfeld picks the Bucs. What topic other than the Super
Bowl could bring such divergent types into the same
stories?

But my dismal Super Bowl betting record has taken a
bit of the shine off the event. My ineptitude is so well
documented that I have become the target of good-natured
abuse from my wagering colleagues.

Lucky thing for me that the sums involved don`t
amount to, in betting parlance, “shoe money.”

Since 1967, I have lost with shocking predictability.
I remember the details of each crushing defeat with such
clarity that the games could have been played yesterday.
The fumbles, the interceptions, the penalties, the
injured star player are vivid.

I can`t pick just one game and say, “This was the
all-time low!” The bottom was 1986 and
1987. In 1986, I loved New England +11 against the
Chicago Bears. The Bears were

annihilated
46-10 in a game that ended for me during
the first quarter.

And the

very next year,
to prove that I could back another
hapless team that was steam-rolled from start to finish,
I took the Denver Broncos +9 vs. the New York Giants.
The game, in which Giant quarterback Phil Sims set a
Super Bowl record by completing 22 of 25 passes, wasn`t
as close as the final 39-20 score would suggest.

Why not stop betting, you ask?

Because it`s the Super Bowl, that`s why!

Super Bowl XXXVII poses an additional wagering worry.
I view

Celine Dion`s
involvement with grave apprehension.
Dion will sing, if that is what you call it,

“God Bless America.”
  

You will recall that Dion “retired” two years ago.
Tens of millions of Americans rejoiced—no more
screeching, no more wild gesticulating and no more
saccharine personality.

Yet, like the proverbial bad penny, here she is
again.

Dion`s presence conjures bad memories of 1995 when
another chanteuse jinxed me.  Kathie Lee Gifford`s
caterwauling version of the National Anthem so
distracted the San Diego Chargers (+20) that Steve Young
picked the defense apart for six touchdown passes in

a 49-26 thumping
.

Before fearlessly giving my prediction, I`ll offer
some sound advice from two betting experts with very
different socio-economic backgrounds.

Stanford University economics Professor

Justin Wolfers
is the author of

three papers
  on gambling. Wolfers` data is

more esoteric
than the average sporting gent might
require but very valuable nonetheless.

In an interview on John London`s KNBR`s “Not
Just Sports” talk-show
, Wolfers suggested that those
who like Tampa Bay +4 talk up some local Oakland fans
who might in their enthusiasm be willing to give up a
few more points. And losers, reasoned Wolfers, won`t
have to pay the 10% vig.

In an interesting side comment, Wolfers mentioned
that the best choice on the board might be a 60-1
(maximum reward for minimum investment) shot on Tampa
Bay to win the game by between 8 and 13 points.

The second expert is a nefarious character I met in
the underbelly of Sparks, NV. The locals called him
“Whispering Eddie.” You would never invite Eddie to your
home. He almost certainly has a criminal record. But
when Eddie whispered about football, everyone leaned in.

Years have passed since I spoke to Eddie. He may be
away. But I remember well Eddie`s lessons:

  • Just because it is a big game doesn`t mean it`s a
    big bet. Eddie cleaned up on those late season games
    between the 4-10 Chicago Bears and the 5-9

    Washington Redskins.

  • Games played outdoors during the day on grass end
    up with a big score. See last week`s Oakland-Tennessee
    41-24 final. And note that Super Bowl XXXVII will
    kick-off at the same time.

  • Winning two bets in a row is hard business.
    Conversely, losing twice in a row—or more— is easy. If
    you won the play-off games, sit back, relax and enjoy
    the game. If you lost the play-offs, proceed with
    caution.

And because I am a glutton for punishment and don`t
care if my losing prediction is posted on the World Wide
Web, I pick the Tampa Bay Buccaneers +4.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the


Lodi News-Sentinel
.