This weekend, I went back to Denver for the weekend to reacquaint myself with autumn and breathe some non-recycled air for a few days.
After weeks with the ability to place a bet or watch any game in the world a short walk away, it was a little strange to be back with the limitations imposed on the non-Nevada portions of the country. When a friend and I traded texts on Sunday, incredulous that the Jets line had moved back up to 11 or higher, I was powerless to do anything to take advantage.
But even more than the lost gambling opportunities was the reminders of the limitations put on us by television networks. The Florida State/Miami game got primetime ABC coverage for 82% of the country. For 82% of the country, ABC decided this game was the most important thing they could broadcast on their flagship station. For the other 18%? There were no viewing options at all, short of buying it on pay-per-vew or streaming it on your computer.
Why ABC and ESPN (who has approximately 47 channels at this point), thought it was the single best thing for 82% of the country to watch but not broadcast it at all for the remainder, is the height of incompetence and small minded thinking. We have become a national sports country. Just because I am on the other side of the country doesn’t mean I don’t have an interest in a game being played. Maybe you could cancel one showing of the Crossfit games or World Series of Poker and show live football on ESPN2 or ESPN Classic or ESPN News.
But this is what happens when we have a monopoly. ESPN doesn’t care what we as consumers want or deserve. They want to drive up streaming views online to sell more ads and make more money so they force us to do that. It isn’t like they have competition that could show us more games in better quality. Fox Sports may have hired Erin Andrews but that doesn’t mean they are a legitimate competitor of ESPN for college sports. Just like soccer, Fox dips their toe on occasion but never make enough of a commitment to do anything but demonstrate their incompetence further.
And so, on Saturday night, not feeling like battling the crowds at a lower downtown bar to watch the game, I did what ESPN wanted me to do all along – I streamed the game on my computer and watched with a view that vacillated between nearly indecipherable and relatively clear.
ESPN is the tragic example of a company that can do so much right (30 for 30 documentary series, broad support of soccer) yet with no one to answer to will just as often use its captive audience as lab rats in a never ending crusade for profits at the expense of customer service.
With that rant out of the way, let’s look back at my bets for the week. Having left Vegas on Thursday morning my bets were limited this week – no last minute bets thrown just because I was in the sport book.
This was either good or bad. Good that I avoided throwing money away or bad that I missed opportunities to recoup losses.
Bet #1 – Western Kentucky (-3) vs Louisiana-Monroe
After weeks of riding the Hilltopper gravy train, this week it veered off the tracks and plummeted into a deep ravine. There were no survivors.
Despite some hesitancy this week, I stuck with the Hilltoppers again. How could I abandon them after such a good run of wins – against the spread, straight up, home and road? They had shown resiliency and kept finding ways to win.
A back and forth game saw WKU holding a 7-point lead with less than 2 minutes to play but the defense couldn’t stop ULM who tied it up quickly to force overtime.
In overtime, WKU scored in 2 plays to go back up by 7. ULM responded by scoring just as quickly. However instead of kicking the extra point, they went for 2. At this point, my bet was dead: 1-point win or 1-point loss are equally not covering a 3-point spread. ULM ultimately made the 2 point conversion to win the game.
If my winning run with the Hilltoppers was going to come to an end, it would be fitting to end this way. I started watching WKU when they beat Kentucky (and my bet) several weeks ago. How did they beat the Wildcats? By converting a 2 point try in OT for the road win.
Bet #2 – Three Team Tease: Cincinnati (-.5) at Toledo, Louisville (-.5) vs South Florida, Marshall (+9) at Southern Miss
I think I owe the Thunder Herd an apology. After saying I was only really concerned about them last week, they absolutely crushed Southern Miss like Jonathan Vilma offered them a bounty for beating Brett Favre’s alma mater. Sorry Herd, I will ride with you from here on.
But then there was the Big East. Louisville held on and won relatively comfortably over the consistently underperforming South Florida Bulls. Cincinnati however couldn’t stop Toledo and fell one drive short of finding a way to win. Apparently the ‘good’ teams in the Big East are only good relative to each other, sort of like how people think that the winner of Dancing With the Stars is a good dancer. Sure they are, at least relative to other wannabe celebrities with nothing better to do.
Which I guess means that Cincinnati is the Bristol Palin of the Big East. Not quite good enough to win but with a high enough of a profile to be overrated.
Bet #3 – Louisiana Tech (-30.5) vs Idaho
Really, there are only 5 things you need to know about this game:
1 – Idaho fumbled the opening kick-off, which was recovered by La Tech on the 1-yard line. Bulldogs scored a touchdown on the next play.
2 – La Tech scored 56 points in the first half to tie a conference record
3 – La Tech had 839 yards of total offense.
4 – Idaho’s coach was fired on Monday.
5 – Yes, I finally got a win after 2 close and painful losses.