By Buzz Daly
Special to The Sports Network
Despite Claims to the Contrary, Betting With Your Heart Is Okay
If you're reading this column when it comes to sports betting chances are you put your money where your mouth is, as the saying goes. Over the years, wagering on sports has morphed from being a character fault to actually being considered by many as a vice to a mainstream life-style choice. Today, betting on football is close to a national obsession and the intensity of trying to pick winners has reached epic proportions.
Everyone, from local sports writers to The Swami on ESPN, tries to amaze us with their ability to predict winners. Whether you live in Las Vegas, like me ? surrounded by legal sports books, or you just surf the Internet for info, analysis, and, of course, free picks, none of us can escape being bombarded by touts and sports services promising to crush our bookmaker with their advice and guidance. Aiding and abetting this commercialism is the pressure of today's society, in which losing is sneered at and scorned. Trash talk is an exercise in which winners ridicule losers
Against this backdrop, a bettor who wishes to place a few quid on his alma mater, which has a hapless record straight up and ATS, is made to feel like a fool for such an indulgence. Our egos demand that we be winners.
ENOUGH! The emphasis on winning among bettors has gotten out of hand. Are we so competitive and such bottom line worshippers that the simple pleasure of backing a favorite team, despite its slim chance of winning, puts a dunce cap on our heads?
Make no mistake, as a regular bettor I always want to win. I'm hardly advocating that anyone throw money away on a diet of foolhardy or sucker plays. But, I am suggesting that the mantra of so many serious players, "Bet with your head, not your heart," doesn't apply to everybody, all of the time.
Mimicking the highly disciplined approach to betting that a professional follows is not a reasonable working model for most of us. We who do not pay our rent/mortgage, or put food on the table with profits from our bets, can observe a different set of criteria. Ideally, guidelines that reflect a more realistic attitude about where gambling fits in among our financial and emotional needs.
I don't wish to trivialize betting. Hell, I've been doing it since junior high, and I'm not living in Sin City by accident. Wagering on sports is fun, and winning is a lot more enjoyable than losing. But, whether you admit it or not, for many of us the experience is just as rewarding as the outcome. You may have heard the joke about the gambler who has a rough day, and just breaks even. "Good thing, too," he says, "?cause I really need the money."
At the end of the day, for those who have a traditional life ? I'm not referring to professionals and addicts ? the penalties of losing are generally not catastrophic which is not to say losing doesn't hurt. But, we suck it up and get on with our lives.
There is intrinsic value in watching and betting on games. For these values to have any meaning the cost of losing should be no more burdensome, for instance, than it would be for a skier to buy a new set of skis. Essentially, I am saying that the occasional joy of betting on and rooting for your favorite team, even in a losing effort, can supersede the joy of winning money.
Despite a lot of effort I put into trying to pick winners, here in Vegas l am a minnow swimming with sharks. As part of the sports betting community, I am acquainted with some very sharp bettors and exposed to expert opinions. But much of that expertise doesn't rub off. Nonetheless, they don't always win, and I don't always lose.
When we bettors do win, we feel like a genius; losing generates another altogether different emotion. But it shouldn't be shame. Those who denigrate betting with your heart are missing out on an important intangible that should come with the territory. I grew up in Ohio, and have been a life-long fan of the Browns. Or, to be more precise, a glutton for punishment in recent years.
Last year, the Brownies were 4-12 straight up, but 8-6-2 ATS. I don't always bet on the Browns but never against them. When they lose but cover, it's bittersweet, but a little more sweet than bitter.
Theoretically, the point spread, although designed to equalize the money for the books, does level the playing field to an extent. For all those who believe that the only worthwhile causes are the lost causes, hold on to that thought. Here is an idea that might bring you comfort: Man's reach should always exceed his grasp.
And, for those who bet on their alma maters, or home town teams, even if they are really bad, remember ? you are not a sucker because, with the point spread, there is always hope.
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