Picking games not as easy as it sounds

By By Stan Torgerson / guest columnist
Nov. 25, 2002
This may come as a shock to the local police department but there are people in this town who bet on football games.
Really.
Unless of course the law thinks Tom, Dick or Harry's place is a reading room in which people spend pleasant afternoons with their local newspaper, enjoying a visit with other entrepreneurs who are interested in increasing their personal wealth.
A very worthy goal.
The difference between them and myself is we both think we know more about football than we apparently really do, except I learned a long time ago Tom, Dick and Harry have friends who are smarter than any of us.
They're not natives, of course. They live in Las Vegas. Most of them have never set foot in Mississippi. But they make part of their living here. Or we make it for them.
At our TV station we play a miniature version of Tom, Dick or Harry's place. We have a football pool in the newsroom. Shocking, but true. This isn't just for pride or prestige. This is a high stakes operation. Come and get us Mr. Policeman, but bring money. It costs a dollar a week to enter. We pick 10 games, eight college and two pro and it is winner take all. To date "all" for me is snickers from the winners. You'd expect some pity, but no such thing.
Not a single winning week. None. Nada. Why do you think I'm blowing the whistle on those pros I work with. That girl who produces the early news. Can't be over 21 and doesn't know a football from a gall bladder. She's won twice. The station manager. He thinks the SEC is composed of Tennessee and 11 other guys, but he might not be able to name them all. He's won it.
Engineers know only about amplifiers, picture tubes and TV cameras. One of those types has collected my money.
But me? After 17 years in the Southeastern Conference and goodness knows how many columns like this filled with priceless knowledge about the game, not one win.
The only consolation is our sports director, who obviously insists on remaining nameless at the risk of my personal health, hasn't won it either.
Our mutual problem is we pick the best teams. We read the releases from the schools, take into consideration every strained hamstring, analyze the odds in the paper and select our winners on the basis of scientific fact and certainty.
Like last weekend. Alabama had to win. The folks in Las Vegas said so. Maryland was going to mop the field with Virginia. Go back and read last week's paper if you doubt my word. Washington State was a lock over Washington. No other way. You might also read Sunday's paper as well, the section which gives the scores of Saturday's games. You'll find miracles happened.
Frankly, betting with me is better than an annuity. It's a sure thing and you don't have to wait years to get your money.
This is one of the craziest, most mixed up, unbelievable, no accounting for it football seasons ever. We're only two weeks away from the Heisman and nobody has a favorite. The three preseason candidates from the SEC, Rex Grossman of Florida, Casey Clausen of Tennessee and Eli Manning of Ole Miss have played so poorly at times none of the three may even make All-SEC.
LSU and Arkansas will meet for the SEC West championship this week and the preseason forecasts by the media gave the Razorbacks zero votes as the possible winner. Ole Miss, which did get votes, is in the throes of a five-game losing streak and can't do anything right.
Mississippi State has a losing streak of their own going and can only do everything wrong. The SEC is looking at agreements to send seven league teams to bowl games and if Mississippi State beats the Rebels Thursday there will only be six that qualify. The team with the best record in the West can't qualify because of sanctions and is going to Hawaii to play their final game of the season and make believe it's a bowl.
And the most entertaining team in the East also has sanctions and won't even get out of the state of Kentucky for the holidays, to say nothing of going to Hawaii.
And I've had 12 weeks to win that darn pool and haven't collected a dime yet. At this rate I'm glad McDonald's and others have those 99 cent hamburgers. It's better than not eating at all.
Tom, Dick and Harry don't serve lunch.

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