Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bracket Anguish (Or how I broke a glass over a garbage time free throw)

It has been well noted that I am a man of many vices.

Drinking: Love it.
Carousing: Huge fan.
Watching naked ladies do naked things: Two thumbs up.
Laughing at the misfortune of others: I revel in it.
Eating three times my weight in foie gras: BEST ACTIVITY EVER.

As wonderful as I find all of those activities they pale in comparison to my love of gambling. It is important to understand that there is a difference between enjoying gambling and having a gambling problem. The way that I have always rationalized things is that I have never had enough money to actually have a problem. When you're dropping 5-10 dollars on a bet it's not going to have a notable effect on your life, even when your income is as meager as mine is. Plus I don't even know any shady bookies or loan sharks to get in deep with in order to end up at the bottom of the Chicago River when the Bears fail to cover. Now that I have firmly established that I don't need an intervention let me continue.

I LOVE GAMBLING. Poker, roulette, black jack, Star Wars slot machines, betting the ponies, sports bets, fantasy baseball and football, betting tickets, Super Bowl Squares and March Madness brackets all take up far more of my time and money than they probably should. I know in the long run that I'm going to come up behind but I don't really care, I figure that's the price of being entertained. As much as I love football it's always a little more interesting if I need 110 rushing yards and at least 42 points scored if I don't have a vested interest in either team.

It is the sports gambling that leads to almost all of my fury. When I'm playing roulette I know that I have long odds and no real way to stack them in my favor, it's pure luck. (Yes, I know some bets are better than others, my point is that no amount of research I do beforehand can tell me that a certain number is going to come up more often) So when I lose my money to a bad beat in poker or a run of red in roulette I shrug and attribute it to bad luck. When it comes to sports betting I feel like I am an expert, as if I already know the outcome thanks to the legwork I did before hand. I can look up stats, watch games, listen to real experts discuss the match ups. I should be able to piece all of it together to have an informed opinion that will lead me straight to the bank. Of course this rarely actually happens. And then I throw a fit.

The arrogance I have when making sports bets is both hilarious and infuriating. On my bracket this year I had UNLV making it all the way to the Final Four. Why? I had watched them twice. Not even for an entire game either time. Yet I decided that they were pretty good and put all my faith in them. Naturally they lost in the first round. All it took is that one tiny little act of hubris and my entire bracket became bupkis. I DON'T EVEN LIKE COLLEGE BASKETBALL THAT MUCH. I'm certainly not a student of the game, why the hell would I trust my opinion? How fucking arrogant am I to think that I actually know what is going to happen, especially about something that I don't even care that much about? If I just went ahead and picked teams with blue in their school colors I would be sitting pretty right now.

Where I find things to be really galling is in fantasy baseball. I love baseball to death. In between March and October I spend as much time as I possibly can taking in baseball in any form I can: watching it on TV, reading about, going to games, arguing with friends. In the weeks leading up to my fantasy baseball draft I read over every bit of information I can get. I look at the rosters of the other people in my league from the previous years to try and determine what players they are likely to target. I go through at least two mock drafts to see where players are falling. What was my team's record last year? 6-15. They were horrible. Yet I walk around with my chest out beforehand because I know how well prepared I am, what an absolute moron I must appear to be.

It's so much easier to digest a failed bet at the horse track than it is a fantasy loss, at least at the track I make my bets almost entirely on the name of the horse. Although, truth be told, I have often drafted Taco Wallace to my fantasy football team for the same reason. It's just unbelievably galling to me that I have zero edge whatsoever when it comes to things that I should know a little bit about. Of course this just leads me to try and read more so that I won't suffer such ego shattering defeat the next year. I'm sure you already know how that turns out.

Like a complete sap I keep going back for more. I still field fantasy teams and fill out brackets. I still try and pull off a huge score on an eight team parlay with a $2 bet, I still always bet on gray horses and I play every Red Sox retired number in both roulette and the lotto. Even though I know that there is very little chance I will win I still do so willingly and full of hope. Despite the loss being expected I still scream obscenities and throw things at the TV. It's really the silliest my rage can get. At this point I might even be filling out brackets for the sole purpose of having something to get angry about. I see my folly but I certainly don't see it ending any time soon, and I'm OK with that. The wins are nice even if they are few and far between. I just need to find a way to stop getting so irate about things that are obviously out of my control. More importantly I need to realize that I have no goddamn idea what the outcome of a sporting event is going to be and just chill. Although I did hear a pretty good tip about the 5th race at Hawthorne tomorrow. . . .

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