Opening Lines: Special Edition

I’d like to thank everyone for joining me for the first-ever Opening Lines “Special Edition” column. Can you feel the excitement in the air? We’re just a few short days away from one of the most exciting events in sports, featuring the best from each conference facing off in an effort to earn the ultimate bragging rights for the 2010 season. A game where legends are made, dreams are crushed, legacies are decided and champions are made. I’m talking, of course, about the Pro Bowl.

The Pro Bowl is basically the league’s half-hearted attempt to engage fans by allowing them to vote for their favorite players to represent their conference in a meaningless game for a national television audience. It’s kinda like American Idol, except you couldn’t beat up nearly as many of the truly annoying contestants. The event is so prestigious, a few players choose to skip the event each year because it’s not worth the extra practice time and risk of injury just to get a free Hawaii vacation that they could afford ten times over from a single game check. But on the plus side, it actually allows players like 49ers MLB Patrick Willis to find out what it feels like to play football in January (yeah, I went there). And it gives the fans a chance to see all of the stars from New York Jets. Yep, aaalllllll three of them. Oh, did anyone mention the Patriots are sending seven to Hawaii? You can add that to your long list of disappointments this morning, Jets fans. You may have won one lousy playoff game, but you’re still just the annoying little step-sister of the AFC East who still can’t find a date to the prom. /end anti-Jets rant

It shouldn’t be a surprise that a number of bookmakers are actually offering odds on a meaningless game (for the record, the NFC is favored by 1.5 points). I certainly don’t blame them for trying to make money, but I do have to question the mindset of somebody who puts money on this game. If you’re betting money on a game that is made up entirely of players who haven’t played together, have nothing to play for, and actually have a serious financial and career interest to play at something less than a half-assed level so they don’t get hurt – you probably have a serious gambling problem. It reminds me of the guys who bust out of freeroll bar poker tournaments in the first 20 minutes and then immediately start looking for people who might want to play in a cash game for whatever loose change they might have in their pockets. Or pretty much anybody with a tattoo related to poker, for that matter (I’ve always wonder why it’s perfectly acceptable for guys to have playing cards inked on their bodies, and yet people make fun of the tasteful “Patriots ATS and the Over” tattoo on my left ankle … but I suppose that is a topic for a whole ‘nother column, right?).

In each edition of Opening Lines, I try to give four options for aspiring bettors. With that in mind, here are my four gambling recommendations for those of you who are interested in placing a wager on Sunday’s game, in order of their feasibility:

  1. Don’t bet any money on the Pro Bowl. Seriously. You’re better off betting on a game of pickup basketball among grade school kids you’ve never seen play. Use that money to go out to a nice dinner with the wife/girlfriend/significant other/random chick with very few redeeming qualities who looks lonely and painfully desperate at the bar. You can read the box scores from the Pro Bowl when you get home and thank heavens you didn’t have any action on that debacle. The Super Bowl is just a few more days away.
  2. If you absolutely cannot watch a football game without having some sort of action, bet the absolute least amount of money it will take to make the game interesting. After the game, considering contacting Gamblers Anonymous by calling (213) 386-8789. When you’re connected with an operator, be sure to mention that you just bet money on the Pro Bowl so they get an adequate handle on the deep level of your addiction. They might make a house call for that sort of thing. I’m not sure.
  3. Bet on the under. I don’t know what the over/under will be, but it’ll probably be in the 60s. Since only 1/3 of players are actually putting forth any discernible effort on a given play, the two Pro Bowl teams typically combine for roughly a gajillion points. However, the two times Belichick has coached the Pro Bowl, the defense has actually made an effort. I think the hoodie scares people straight. They should have him talk to convicts in the offseason to lower the recidivism rate or something. Oh wait, the Jets already have a coach under contract. ZING!
  4. If you absolutely must pick a team and place a standard-sized bet, take the points. The NFC had a ton of roster turnover this week because of injuries and Green Bay’s Super Bowl berth, so half of their roster will be guys who just found out about their selection this week. The other half of the NFC roster is made up of players from teams that haven’t played since shortly after Christmas (I’m looking at you, Cowboys). Plus Belichick has a perfect 2-0 record as a coach in the Pro Bowl (I’m sure they’ll put that somewhere near the top of his Hall of Fame introduction). And who knows, a few of those AFC defenders might be auditioning for a job. Hey, a man can dream, can’t he?