Monday, May 5, 2008

This is Why I Don't Bet On Sports ...

I'm a few hundred dollars to the good, in my whole life, gambling. Because of poker, mostly, friendly games with men who can't bluff or calculate odds worth a damn. I'm about $60 down in all the time I've spent in Vegas -- that's mostly luck. I don't play poker in Vegas, the poker players there are too good for me -- so blackjack and slot machines account for my $60 down. I was about $250 down fairly recently, but I won nearly $200 playing blackjack the last time I was in Vegas -- and then quit while I was ahead. My principle skill, gambling, is that I'm capable of quitting when I've lost my limit ($100, usually) and I'm capable of quitting when I'm ahead (the amount varies, but if I get up and then lose a couple hands, that usually does it for me. If I win a fair-sized jackpot at the slots, I quit right then.)

I don't bet on sports. The only sport I know well enough to think I could successfully bet on it is basketball, and I'm too emotionally involved with basketball to make reasoned judgements. In any given season I'm thoroughly conflicted in different directions about different teams -- I want X to win because he used to play for the Lakers. (Hello, Eddie Jones.) I want Y to lose because he used to play for the Lakers and I don't like how he left. (Hello, Shaq.) I want Z to lose because he used to play for the Celtics. (Hello, Indiana Pacers with Larry Bird, the Timberwolves with Frankenstein McHale.) I want the Celtics to lose because they're the Celtics, but I take extra enjoyment in it because Danny Ainge is there to participate in the suffering.

This last round, Spurs vs. Suns, I didn't know who to root against -- I really wanted the Lakers to play the Suns in the Conference Finals. Wanted it bad. But watching the Spurs beat them (and sheesh, that 3 pointer by Tim Duncan, really, my goodness) ... watching the Spurs beat them was pure pleasure. I found myself reading Phoenix Suns fan forums to appreciate their despair: finally, there's another whole city that hates Shaq as much as I do.

I'd have bet substantial money at even odds that Kobe wasn't going to win an MVP this year. Apparently he has. I still suspect it happened because the anti-Kobe vote couldn't settle on an alternate candidate; we'll know when the official vote is announced. If Lebron and KB and Chris Paul are all close behind Kobe (and I suspect they will be) ... I won't be surprised. If Kobe really won by any meaningful margin, I will be.

But then, I've been surprised once already. I didn't think he was going to win at all. Ever.

I didn't think the Lakers could sweep Denver. Six games was me being realistic, five games was me being optimistic. They were only separated by 7 games during the regular season ...

It wasn't close. The stat I should have been paying attention to was that the Lakers were 22 and 4 in games where Pau Gasol played the whole game. That's an 84.6% winning percentage -- over an entire 82 game season, or 70 wins. Andrew Bynum won't be back this year -- it's hard to think how good the Lakers can be once he's back there patrolling the paint. You're going to hear talk of the Lakers chasing the 72-10 Bulls record, and I'm not sure that's overoptimistic ...

I'd have bet a lot that the Boston Celtics wouldn't drop 3 games to the Atlanta Hawks. So would you. I'd have taken even money they wouldn't have lost a single game to the Hawks. Instead the Celtics looked old, slow, and confused, every time they ventured out of Boston Garden. Doc Rivers looked confused and out of his depth every time a game got tight on him. Who saw that coming?

I thought the Mavericks would take the Hornets: they went down in 5. I figured the Spurs would beat the Hornets -- they're down 1-0, and they got blown out by 20.

This is why I don't bet on sports.


Congratulations to the 2007-2008 NBA regular season Most Valuable Player, Kobe Bryant.

There aren't many advantages to being a corporate whore rather than a glamorous science fiction writer ... well, except for the money ... but I've been invited to sit in the Microstrategy suite at Staples Wednesday night. I've been to a lot of Lakers games over the years, but I've never been to one where a Laker was given the MVP. I'll be there when Kobe gets his, though.


Shawn said...

Congratulations to Kobe, and to you for getting the seats.

I keep getting offered tickets to see the Nationals. Good seats sometimes, mind you. I always have this mental image of fighting the traffic, fighting the crowd, and sitting through a game that, while I can appreciate it, just isn't anything I'm passionate about. Then fighting the crowd and the traffic again afterwards.

The things I'm passionate about are the things I participate in. Ever since I was the geeky kid who no one WANTED to participate in their team sports, those sports do nothing for me.

Dan Moran said...

Players with 3 rings and at least one MVP ...

Kobe Bryant
Tim Duncan
Shaquille O'Neal
Michael Jordan
Magic Johnson
Larry Bird
Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Bill Russell
Bob Cousy
George Mikan*

* Didn't win an MVP; they didn't have them when he was dominating. But if the award had existed, he'd have won one.

Players with 3 rings, at least one MVP, and a scoring title:

Kobe Bryant
Shaquille O'Neal
Michael Jordan
Kareem Abdul Jabbar
George Mikan*

Players with 3 rings, at least one MVP, a scoring title, and 5 or more All Defensive Team appearances:

Kobe Bryant
Michael Jordan
Kareem Abdul Jabbar

The company doesn't get any better than that.


Shawn, I feel you on the getting picked last thing. Used to happen to me, too -- I was the youngest and shortest kid in my class, every year, until I was a teenager and started growing.

Bryant Durrell said...

I went back and looked at All-Defensive teams, and found myself wondering when DJ was going to get into the Hall of Fame again. Ah well. (Rodman, too, just to be fair.)

I'll know what happened to the Celtics last series in no more than four games; possibly fewer. My cynical money is on Doc Rivers being exposed. Something I've noticed this year: the Celtics talk a lot about how much their teammates have helped them. Rondo's appreciation of Ray Allen is just beautiful. I don't see a lot of discussion about how much they like Doc.

I don't think Doc makes adjustments well. And I think that's lethal when you're playing a seven game series against one team.