As you all know, Dr. Milhouse and I have a gambling problem… although as any seasoned gambler will tell you, it’s not the gambling that’s the problem, it’s the losing.
Fortunately, we didn’t do too much of that this weekend. In fact, there were barely any but the losses that hit left a mark. Were it not for Justin Tucker’s bionic leg, this weekend’s take would have been a helluva lot better.
On a rare Saturday off, I made my annual trek to Gainesville to see my beloved Florida Gators take on their rival Tennessee Volunteers. Because there is nothing quite like Tennessee weekend, at least if you’re a Florida fan.
Before my drive north, I had all my weekend’s wagers in a row, including my usual stabs at underdogs. After thoroughly perusing the college and pro slate, a few games stood out.
One of those games was Bowling Green at Minnesota. The Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-1) were thirty-point favorites! Minnesota’s only loss on the season was at Ohio State. They’re generally a formidable Big Ten opponent but to call them top-tier would be misleading. Meanwhile, Bowling Green had been smoked by Tennessee early in the season and also lost at home to South Alabama. Clearly, Bowling Green had no business winning this game.
But thirty-to-one underdogs?
Logically speaking, that tells me if they played this particular game against each other thirty times, Bowling Green would win just once. I wasn’t buying it. Besides that, a thirty-to-one pay out would easily fund my weekend getaway.
It is at this point that I should remind readers what a “money line” wager is. In this game, for example, if you wanted to place a bet on Bowling Green, you could have either taken the thirty points and won back what you wagered minus the juice… or you could have been bold. That particular day, I decided to be bold. Bowling Green was coming back +2835, which means for every $10 you bet on them to upset Minnesota, you would have earned $283.50. If, of course, they pulled it off. Note: many services won’t offer money lines that large for fear of the random numbskull who will play them.
Again, nobody in their right mind thought Bowling Green could go into Minnesota and win that game. Underdogs of thirty points or higher were an imperfect 0-60 so far this season. In other words, they were due.
Knowing I had money on Bowling Green to win at a healthy payout, I was obviously paying attention when I saw the score was close. When the Falcons took a late lead, I anxiously checked my phone, swerving unsafely from lane to lane while driving along 75 Northbound. However, as I passed through North Central Florida’s pockets of spotty coverage, all I got was those little circle bars spinning around, taunting me all Borat-like as if to say you will never get this.
Fortunately, this part of the story has a happy ending. Bowling Green shocked Minnesota. A simple twenty-dollar wager had upped my account to the tune of six bills. (We also had a Syracuse/Bowling Green/Rutgers three-team parlay meaning, had Rutgers beaten Michigan, a $1 wager would have paid out seven grand! Unfortunately, Rutgers fell short.)
Despite the near miss and still grateful for the hit, it was onto Sunday’s wagers and yet another underdog, just not nearly as huge as Bowling Green. Note: with a considerably lesser disparity of talent from top to bottom, it goes without saying that you will never see an NFL dog that substantial or a money line that hefty.
The Detroit Lions, at home, were eight-and-a-half point underdogs, or +320 to beat the Ravens outright. By this point, you understand how I roll. I had money on the Lions to win. In fact, a friend sitting at a Biloxi sportsbook called me to ask who I liked on the day. I replied “Detroit.”
I had read that Lamar Jackson was under the weather and also felt Detroit wasn’t nearly as bad their record indicates. At over three-to-one, why not take a stab? Especially when my underdog senses were still tingling from the day before.
Wouldn’t you know it? Detroit was winning the game… until the final minute which saw a suddenly healthy Lamar Jackson drive half way down the field. With seconds remaining, enter Justin Tucker, a.k.a. the most accurate kicker in NFL history. As time expired, the Ravens kicker converted a league record 66-yard field goal! Now, while I suggested my friend bet the Lions small, he decided to throw a $100 on the upset. There he sat in a Biloxi sportsbook, the ticket already cashed in his head, winnings already spent, as Justin Tucker ripped his heart out and ate it for brunch. Welcome to the wild world of sports gambling.
Tucker also stuck it to me and Milhouse who had already cashed winners with NC State (who had upset Clemson), the Atlanta (not to be confused with Bowling Green) Falcons and ultimately, the Packers. Justin Tucker’s toe, and a football that dinked off the crossbar to set a new NFL record, well, let’s just say the weekend could have been considerably more lucrative. In other words, it took an historic feat to screw us out of that much more money. I’m not suggesting the Tucker kick sits atop the pantheon of all-time bad beats but it sure as hell ranks. There’s something about losing wagers on moments in sports that turn out to be iconic that resonate a tad longer in the gut.
After the weekend I had, I’m not complaining. I’m just saying it would have been nice had the record not been set at my expense.
So, it’s up to you, my friends. I’ll never suggest you dump a ton of cash willy-nilly on an underdog but there are ways to play them wisely. The stats will tell you they rarely hit. But no matter how hard you try to, you’ll never convince me that Minnesota beats Bowling Green twenty-nine out of every hypothetical thirty times. Even if that’s true, all you need to do is bet against them the day that they don’t.