I can assure you that this blog isn’t turning into a giant Pat Myself On The Back session. I swear. While it’s undeniable that part of what makes life worth living is gloating over the misery of your enemies, and likewise crediting yourself when proven right, I will say it’s a different thing in matters out of my control. Like, if I take a risk in my personal life and it turns out well, I have every reason to feel smug about it. But if I’m just gambling on sports teams, where I have no sway on the outcome, then it’s less legitimate. I can only feel tangentially smug.
With all that said, I’ve been pretty fucking awesome at picking winners in the NBA Playoffs this year. Since the second round — the Conference Semifinals — I’ve bet on all six winners to advance. At first I parlayed Golden State, Houston, Boston and Cleveland (+1100), in the Conference Finals I parlayed Golden State and Cleveland (+103), and what started as a $100 bet turned into about $1,300.
For the Finals I told myself I wouldn’t touch the original $1,100 I won. I should, unless I’m a complete degenerate, have something to show for all the winners I picked. So when I bet on Golden State to beat Cleveland in the NBA Finals, I only put down about $200, and since the Warriors were an excessive favorite (-900), the amount I will win is only about $22.50. (It’s not a matter of if, but when.) Ridiculous as it may be to write — because what kind of jagoff would wager so much to win so little? — the only reason I did it was for my own selfish posterity. I want to be able to say that, in 2018, I went a perfect seven-for-seven in the series’ that mattered.
How many people will I tell? Probably, like, five.
For the duration of the 2010’s decade — up until this moment, at least — baseball has been my sport, and the Texas Rangers have been my team. There is no way around this. At the start of the decade was around the time I discovered Sabermetrics, the new wave of statistics and analytics that revolutionized a game I already loved. What followed is what was probably to be expected: I read up on the Collective Bargaining Agreement; I learned the process of draft pick compensation and international bonus money; I got better at deciphering which players I thought were good versus which players were actually good. (At least to the extent that some 20-something year-old with no affiliation to professional ball could.) I exhausted about every avenue of the sport there was to explore, and turned into what I believed was the upper crust of informed baseball fans.
But this year, my love of baseball has almost completely evaporated. I don’t mean that in the sense that I haven’t been listening to as many games on the radio on my drives home from work, or that I haven’t been watching as many games when I’m free. I mean that I have not watched any game, all season, from start to finish. The most I have viewed in one sitting has been maybe three innings, and it’s been late night Dodgers games that I’ve slugged through when nothing else was on.
I could blame this all on the Rangers for being so bad, but that honestly has little to do with it. I know I still love my team, and I know a day will come (possibly sooner rather than later) when I’ll be back, all-in. I’m just saying that time is not now.
For starters, I’ve been consumed by the NBA Playoffs. I have been betting on the NBA Playoffs. I have been winning bets on the NBA Playoffs. This is a key life lesson for any sports fan: money won feels more gratifying than money earned, and money trumps just about everything.
And sticking to money, I’ve been working more this year. The table games department at the casino I work for has been short-staffed. Throw in a handful of dealers going on the shelf with various occupational injuries — carpal-tunnel, back surgery, hip surgery — and I’ve found myself as a part-time dealer working full-time hours.
This has been great for my checking account, but overall it’s made me a significantly less informed sports fan. In the past the more time off I’ve had, the more I was able to read sports articles and listen to sports podcasts and stay on the up-and-up. This year, though, I have actively put sports on the back-burner to focus on shit that betters myself. So instead of going on break to smoke and check the latest sports news on Twitter, I’ve opted for reading books and letting my phone take a breather. When I’m home, I just want to eat and sleep.
It also doesn’t help that baseball is not interesting right now. Strikeouts have taken over the game, and to compensate MLB has juiced the baseballs so more marginal players are able to smack 30 homers a year. As a result, the product on the field has suffered. It’s slow-moving, it’s bereft of any real action or rhythm. Fans watch for three hours basically waiting to see which team will hit a three-run homer to swing the game in their team’s favor. Besides that, every pitcher who enters the game from the sixth inning onward can just gas up any hitter with some 97 mph heat.
I’ll revert back to my original point, the one about how I can’t blame my disinterest exclusively on the Rangers for being a poor team. That isn’t a lie, because I tend to like the Rangers even more when they suck, knowing the majority of sports fans are just a bunch of frontrunners who show up when their club is on the verge of making the postseason.
I think I may have simply reached that point where sports don’t make up my life in my free time. I’m far more curious about labor relations and U.S. politics in general, in the stock market, in putting in my hours at work and not being a complete dipshit by blowing money gambling or going to bars or the strip club. I’m more interested in reading books and trying to discover new information that can help me presently and down the road. Sports are an awesome escape, and they will always be part of my life, but I don’t see why they should take any sort of precedent over any of the other items I’ve mentioned.