Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears…
Or, in this case, Friends, Followers, Bloggers, and Real People with Daily Bullshit in your lives, lend me your eyeballs and about 15 minutes of your time…
It tis’ now 2015, and it is time to write again. I took some time off in pursuit of one of the most glorious achievements that I hope to attain someday. You may ask, geez, what is this pursuit, this thing that has you so possessed that you chose to not write a thing for almost three months? Surely it must be something important…maybe a personal health goal, or some family relationship goal, maybe some professional goal…maybe I am taking cooking lessons, or the wife and I are finally going to dance lessons? Alas, all noble and positive thoughts and dreams, but those shall remain in their most realistic place, far off in my head, only to be accessed in my deepest sleeps where I actually have dreams.
Remember, I have three daughters, ages 11, 9 and 11 months now. Sleep deprivation is back in the ocean of estrogen, and it is simply kicking my ass. More on that later in another post.
As for my absence from the blog, I was pursuing a most improbable and illogical thing called the Westgate (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton) Football SuperContest. No BULLSHIT, that is it. For those of you not aware of it, yes, it sounds stupid. And when I give you more details, your snap conclusions will probably be confirmed. But, for those of us in the business, and all of those who love to watch football and “predict” the outcome, this is like the World Series of Poker for poker players, the Super Bowl for the NFL or the Stanley Cup for hockey players.
The format is simple. The lines for the contest come out every Wednesday based on the current line of the NFL games that weekend. All you have to do is pick 5 games each week against the spread, and the picks have to be submitted by Saturday morning at 10am PST. At the end of the season, the entry with the most games right wins. Seventeen weeks, five picks per week, 85 picks total. One point for a winner, half point for a push, and nothing, nada, zilch for a loser. The top 30 finishers get paid. The rest get stugotz.
How much does one pay to enter this prestigious contest? Entries cost $1500. Yep, you read that right. And this year, thanks to Bill Simmons writing about it on ESPN, Cousin Sal giving out picks each week on Sportscenter, and all the other publicity from gambling sites like Oddshark.com amongst others, there was a record number of entries this season, 1406 to be exact. Yep, that means that 1405 other jagoffs like myself “took a shot” at getting enough games right to maybe change their lives by picking the right sides of NFL games each week. The Westgate Superbook is selling a dream, and there are more and more buyers for the aggravation every year.
Being in the business for 2o years, I would say I have a decent opinion, but one thing is for sure, I don’t have the book from Back to the Future with all the scores in it. I would say that I am right more than I am wrong most of the time, but I don’t know everything (despite what my wife and daughters say.) I like to solicit other opinions on everything, not just football games. I am the first to seek out knowledge or someone smarter than me when I need to make a decision, whether that is what blender to buy or if the Steelers are going to cover on Sunday. Simply put, I know I cannot go at this alone because I will inevitably “outthink” myself. So, I have a partner in the contest, and together, we hash it out each and every week.
My partner and I made our maiden voyage into the contest last season when there were 1002 entries. Same deal, top 30 spots got paid. For the math impaired, that means that only the top 3% got paid. This year, the spots remained the same, meaning it was only the top 2.1%. Not a real good investment to say the least. Figuring that you have to pick at 60% or better to make the money, it is most likely a waste of time and money. I had been studying this contest for a few years, and my partner and I were ready to take our shot. So, we gave it a go, and the Sharp Squad was born in 2013.
Keep in mind, it’s only 5 games per week. That means if you can go 3-2 over the 17 weeks, you finish with 51 points, and that is usually good enough to get in the money. Anything better than that is surely a cash, let alone if you get 54 or more, we are talking a six figure payout. Trust me, it seems easier than it actually is. And if you are anything like my wife and girls, it is REAL EASY on Mondays after the games are played. I’ll get, “Daddy, why did you pick that team? You knew they were going to lose.” The ocean of estrogen is real SMART on MONDAY.
We started out pretty well at 13-6-1 after four weeks. After a few up and down weeks of 2-3 and 3-2, we caught a little fire with some 4-1s and avoided any disaster weeks. We just couldn’t get what I have dubbed “that ever evasive 5-0” that really jumps you up in the standings. We maintained our spot from anywhere in the top 10 to the top 50 for just about the entire season. The finish line was in sight, and we had a real shot at some life changing money with three weeks remaining.
We kept the routine the same. Sunday nights, after the games were played, we made our own numbers for the next week. That way, when the books came out with their own, we had an idea what our “first opinion” was. Minimal communication Mondays and Tuesdays to keep things fresh. Wednesdays, the lines came out on the website, and we go back and forth via text to see where each other is at with our thoughts. Thursday was the first face to face talk. We go back and forth like any of the shows on ESPN. The best thing that came out of the Thursday talks was usually what games we wouldn’t be using. Finally, after work on Friday, it was time for the phone call. Him at his place, me at mine, both of us in front of our computers, ready to get to it.
As the season went on, these talks became marathons. We left no stone unturned. Who is injured for Tampa? Who is playing QB for Tennessee? Who are people betting in the San Diego game? On and on it went. No BULLSHIT, it felt like going 15 rounds with Tyson, and we were exhausted after these talks. Somehow, each week, we would come to a consensus on five games. Only occasionally would one of us say, “You know, I hate this pick, but this one is on you. Better get it in.” Somehow, the partnership worked, and we had success.
How did it turn out, you ask? In 2013, the top 30 plus ties got paid, meaning the top 35 entries got paid. The winner, David Frohardt-Lane, won $536, 000, and the tied spots for the last paying spot each got $5300. The Sharp Squad finished 36th, exactly one half point out of the money at 50.5 points, 59.4% correctly picking winners. First loser. I couldn’t move for 24 hours afterwards, despite my wife being 8 months pregnant and two daughters on winter break. We had come so close, literally 4 games away from a six figure payout, let alone a half point from a little score.
Onto 2014. With a new baby at home, daughters without an off switch, mama on the overnight shift, and me coaching a 10 and under girls softball team, I didn’t know if I could do it again. Plus, with us coming so close, we just knew how it would go this season. With 400 more entries, and my partner’s life thrown into disarray losing his job right before the season, odds were stacked against us right from the start. Throwing logic to the wind, we decided to give it another shot this season.
At the start, all of our preconceived notions were validated and the gambling gods gave us the finger. A terrible 5-10 start put us way behind the pace. We couldn’t pick our nose. Every game that could have gone our way didn’t. We were doubting ourselves and our process. I figured we were a week or two away from throwing the towel in and not even submitting picks anymore. It just wasn’t working. Then, we got a break in a game that we had no business winning and had a winning week. We went 11-4 in the next three weeks to get back over .500, and things were looking up.
That was after week six, right around the time I wrote my last post here on the BULLSHITTERZ blog. Things were really going good, and I was all in. Every waking moment was spent reading and researching games, players, numbers, past performances, even weather reports. The Squad was back! I liked to say, “it felt like we were dancing” when we would watch the games on Sunday and the results were close to what we predicted. We went an amazing 35-15 (75%) after that terrible start, and at 40-25, we were back in the top 60 and had a shot with four weeks remaining. Girls, maybe we will go swim with the dolphins in Hawaii.
Shit was getting pretty real at this point. Laundry wasn’t getting done, phone calls weren’t being answered, etc. I stopped shaving. At times, it was lucky the kids were being fed and the baby’s diaper was getting changed. “What do you mean the baby pooped? I am reading about the Jaguars practice here!” “Sure, go ahead and have chocolate cake, girls, Daddy is trying to figure out what the weather is going to be like in New York on Sunday.”
After back to back 3-2 weeks, we were sitting with 46 and two weeks to go. 8-2 gets us in the money for sure, 7-3 is a maybe, and 6-4 or less, and history repeats itself. I can hardly sleep for days that week. The lines look like hieroglyphics. The baby is starting to stand up and creep around, let alone crawl all over and get into everything. Every second she is awake in the house is a heart attack because of course, the house is not baby proofed. The holidays are a week away, and I am zero help in getting a single present. I wake up for no reason wondering if the line moved in the Houston-Baltimore game.
The phone call was tense that week. We were both stressed and felt out of sorts. His parents were visiting for the holidays, and I had a pack of females wondering when we were going to see Santa Claus. Well, Daddy has to talk about the games. Tell Santa I said hello. We went back and forth, forth and back, and after at least an hour, we submitted our five games. Now, we had to sit and wait for the Westgate to put out everyone’s picks online like they do every week on Saturday at noon. It’s always a big deal to see what everyone has each week, but this week felt different for what was at stake.
After the picks came out, we felt nervous because we found our way to games that not a lot of people had. That meant if we had a good week, we would make up some ground and possibly be in the money going into the last week. On the flip side, if we did not, the dream of swimming with the dolphins in Maui may be over. What do you think happened? What is that saying, history repeats itself?
Every call went against us, every fumble was lost, a guy who can’t run scrambled for a first down on 4th and 14, and we went 2-3. I was down. It was deflating. All this hard work for what? Now, it would take a “ever elusive 5-0” to get us to the money, and the dream of a top 10 finish was done. The top entries in the contest this year were all having record setting years, and we were just behind the pace. In years past, we would have still been in it. Not 2014.
As expected, the call the last week was melancholy. We knew it was mathematically possible, but we knew it wasn’t realistic. We tried our best to make a case for the first 5-0 in Squad history, but it just wasn’t meant to be. A respectable 3-2 put us at 51-34 for the year, an exceptional 60% again, yet in the all too familiar out of the money spot, this time two points out. Frustrating to say the least. Congratulations to CH Ballers and their absurd 64.5 finish and $756k first place prize. Google them and you can read their story, a four man partnership of 30 somethings in their first year in the Westgate contest. Also, a shout out to Kelly in Vegas and her 14-1 finish to win the last three weeks mini contest and the $15k. You can find her with google as well.
As for me, football season is technically “over” with my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers laying an absolute egg against the Ravens on Saturday, much to the delight of my daughters. Thanks to their kindergarten teacher being from Baltimore, and their love of rooting against Daddy all the time, they have adopted the arch rival Ravens as their football team. They have all the gear, and they think it’s normal for their team to win a Super Bowl, let alone always beat the Steelers. Now, if that isn’t BULLSHIT, I don’t know what is.
Happy New Year to all, and please follow the blog on Facebook and Twitter.