Monday, November 5, 2007

Any Sunday

I love sports pundits-- without a doubt the most egotistic, self-centered, pretentious, young (for the most part) folk to walk the planet. I don't know what it is about the profession that makes them believe what they do is important, but something is inherent there.

I like sports as much as the next (sane) person, but it truly is only a game, no matter what the game is, and like any physical effort there are so many variables and intangibles that rejoycing over a victory (or miserating over a defeat) is just the silliest thing you can imagine. Pro Football (the sport this time of year) celebrates the "on any given Sunday" mantra so much you'd think the analysts would actually get it by now, but it doesn't seem so.

The Patriots (of '07/08) seem to be a very good football team right now, but they ain't gods, and watching them play Indy yesterday I was immediately struck by how beatable they actually are. I like the Pats because I do appreciate excellence in any endeavor, but they won't go undefeated (and yet people who should know better really think this will happen) and they may well win the Superbowl but I don't think it's a given by any means. And the sports "experts" who think it's a lock just betray how little they understand about human beings.

During my regular weekly talk show (back when dinosaurs ruled the earth) my co-host and I had a great time picking against the guys who ran the sports books in Nevada. They were the experts, they set the line, and the casino profits rose and fell on the basis of what they did and by the 3/4 point of the season they quit coming in each Friday night because we were so far ahead of them it was ridiculous (of course it didn't help that we pointed this out in our studio graphics in mean spirited ways -- I was a smart ass back then).

I'm not going to pretend my partner and I were sports experts -- we weren't then and I'm certainly not now -- but our consistently good picks weren't complete luck either. We watched all the games (Direct ticket) and had a good feel for the teams and how they'd match up. And because we didn't have our hearts invested in any team we probably saw things a lot clearer than many experts who are more invested (one thing for sure -- I made a lot of money that year betting against the local favorite when the odds were right, as the odds makers consistently gave better money against to attract the opposite side).

One of my favorite reads is Dan Shanoff, not because he's good but because he's so consistently wrong (look at his straightup football picks this season -- my sister could pick better than that on the basis of team colors being pretty) and yet still believes he understands sports. I love how he's constantly "shocked" by this or that upset (particularly when he, as usual, predicts the outcome wrongly, based on his "superior" sports knowledge). Yep, he's right sometimes, but no more than I am. He's a kid, and like most kids they believe there is a certain truth to the universe and that he knows that truth or can come close to it -- well, there is, of course, and it's this: in any contest involving human beings, anything can and will happen.

Which is why we watch -- because on any given Sunday...

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