Dawg Pound Daily bettor’s guide to a clean and sober Super Bowl
By Roger Cohen
The Super Bowl is on Sunday, and while the Cleveland Browns are not there, you can still have fun by taking the advice of our resident handicapper.
For Cleveland Browns fans, this weekend brings the most anti-climatic and meaningless game regardless of the year – the Super Bowl.
Each and every year for the pass half century, most Browns fans have shared my Switzerland-like neutrality about the game’s outcome. I gloated as the Cincinnati Bengals lost twice (thank you Bill Walsh), and while I confess to pulling for the Pittsburgh Steelers several times (Editor’s note: Possibly a fireable offense), my worst Super Bowl memory was watching David Modell gloat on the NBC Today show the morning after the Baltimore Ravens crushed the New York Giants in SB XXXV.
Maybe sometime in the next half century Browns fans will have a real rooting interest in the Super Bowl. But until then, we’ll have to settle for our annual ritual of gathering with family and friends, blowing our New Year’s diet resolutions, one eye on the game another one on the nachos. Oh, and my favorite drinking game: downing a shot each time a former Brown makes a great play – and Sunday I will make it a double when Denver Broncos wide receiver Jordan Norwood lights it up as the Browns cut Norwood, not once, but twice!
Even if you don’t care who wins the game between the Broncos and Carolina Panthers, you probably do care about your share of the $4.2 billion expected to be wagered Sunday. That figure doesn’t include those office pool “squares” where I always wind up with “2” and “5” and the IT guy who doesn’t know anything about football takes home the $500 final score jackpot.
For gamblers, Super Bowl Sunday is like New Year’s Eve, 4th of July and St. Patty’s Day combined for a problem drinker. You can wager any possibility, from the coin toss to whether Panther’s kicker Graham Gano boots more field goals than Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo against Granada (please remind me not to set my clock for that 5:30 a.m. kickoff).
I quit gambling cold turkey in September and, gratefully, have remained 100 percent sober all season. Sunday’s Broncos-Panthers will be the first Super Bowl where I won’t have wagered on the outcome. Instead, I will be at a friend’s party rooting for my wife Janet’s $10 square (likely “2” and “5”) and more excited about the Denver bison chili and Carolina BBQ than which team wins.
Thanks to my Dawg Pound Daily editors for granting me these pages to handicap games, their grace and support helped me kick a lifelong gambling habit – and saved me a few bucks on my own predictions. (Editor’s note: We may be able to overlook rooting for the Steelers.)
When the Panthers toasted the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship game, and the Broncos upset the not-invincible Bill Belichick/Tom Brady New England Patriots, my playoff record evened out at 5-5 and inched my overall season to 42 wins, 41 losses and two “pushes” or ties in straight bets. If I had been betting $10 per game (to make the math easy) I would be $31 in the hole given the 10 percent commission or “vig” on losing bets ($420-$451 = -31).
Lucky Dawg Pound Daily readers who followed my lead and mixed in some of my teasers, which won at a 70 percent clip – and bet with their head, not above it – hopefully profited and had some fun. Which leads us to the Big Game:
- Do not go crazy betting the Super Bowl just because, well, it’s the Super Bowl. It’s just another game as former Dallas Cowboy Duane Thomas said 45 years ago, “they play it again next year.
- Do not bet any of those crazy proposition bets, like if Ted Ginn Jr. (not a former Brown, but more depressingly a Cleveland-bred Ohio State Buckeye and Glenville High Tarblooder) will score the game’s first touchdown – which at 20-1 does look enticing. Prop bets are for suckers, you’d be better off investing in Martin O’Malley or Mike Huckabee presidential futures.
- Do not trust my picks with your 401K, or even your Starbucks money. With a $4.2 billion handle, the betting lines – Carolina minus 6 points and 46.5 over/under game total – are honed to attract an equal amount of action on both teams, which would net bookmakers $420 million without risking a cent.
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But if I were betting, Carolina is on a roll and real-deal quarterback Cam Newton continues making gee-whiz plays, while Peyton Manning is on his last legs and the Browns – the Browns! – had Denver beaten multiple times in their matchup earlier this season.
All signs point to a Panther blowout similar to what the Seattle Seahawks inflicted on Denver and Manning just two years ago, but giving nearly a touchdown to the world’s most annoying insurance/pizza pitchman goes against my hard-wired gambler’s DNA: Broncos +6 is how I’d bet it – but I won’t.
If you do bet Sunday, good luck. I’ll be pulling for you, grateful to be more concerned about a second helping of bison chili than a second and nine – and dreaming the same dream we have shared since 1967.
Next year in Houston, Hue Jackson becomes the eighth rookie head coach in NFL history to lead his team to the Super Bowl.