Oct 1, 2006

seduced by numbers, or why I never bet on sports

Writes Bill Simmons,
Thankfully, the third strange thing about betting on football CAN be explained: It's easier to pick games after you spend time ranking every team from bottom-to-top every week. See, gambling can be deceiving: With so many teams to remember, only the Raymond Babbits of the world can remember how everyone compares to everyone else at all times. You end up using phrases like, "they're not that good," or "they're better than people think," when the reality is, you might be a little off because you didn't think it through. And that kills you with gambling.
Tell you what else kills you in gambling: ranking teams, and trusting your rankings. Consider his top team, the San Diego Chargers.
I think they're the best team right now, and I think they throttle the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday. And that's why you rank the teams.
The Chargers got beat 16-13. "Too much McNair," Simmons wrote, ironically right.

The root error is a sort of reasoning that works in linear situations...
A is taller than B.
B is taller than C.
Therefore, A is taller than C.
...but doesn't when multiple variables intervene.
A has a better offense and defense than B. B has a better offense and defense than C. Therefore, A will defeat C this Sunday.
You can already see where the problem lies. A uses a West Coast offense, lots of short passes. C sucks against everything but the West Coast, which they tear apart like potluck casserole. Or, C's head coach wrote A's playbook. Or, A's star quarterback boozed it up Saturday night. Or, A's leading wide receiver snapped his tibia on the second play. Or, any combination of the above.

Now, the painful rundown.
TITANS (+9.5) over Cowboys
Too much T.O.
So much for the spread. Terry Glenn, wide whenever the Titans double covered T.O., scored two TDs.
Dolphins (-3.5) over TEXANS
Too many boos.
You usually can't go wrong picking against Houston. This was one of those rare times. The #1 Draft Pick saved the game by tipping a two-pointer away.
Lions (+5.5) over RAMS
Too many points.
Too many points, sure, but for Saint Louis, which sent Detroit to 0-4. At Detroit.
Jaguars (-3) over REDSKINS
Too much talent.
Mark Brunell to Santana Moss, over and over again.

Thus far, Simmons is 6-6. Don't bet on sports.

Update: With the Seahawks getting smashed 37-6 on enemy turf, Simmons falls to 6-7. Don't bet on sports.

Update Update: Add to that the Eagles stomping Green Bay, and Simmons falls to 6-8. What'd I say?

(I said, "Don't bet on sports.")

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