Column: Why I like to make it interesting

11/29/2010 10:09 PM |

So, what were you doing at 4:15 Saturday morning? Sleeping, presumably. I, on the other hand, was glued to a flat screen television, watching a DVR replay of the Boise (Idaho) State versus University of Nevada college football game.

Boise State lost in overtime — ending the nation’s longest Division I winning streak at 24 games in the process — meaning that I lost, too. And that’s because I had placed a wager on the outcome of the contest, as has been my practice since my college days (daze?) some four decades ago.

Hold it right there! Before you alert law enforcement authorities to my betting proclivities, please be advised that I have never, ever placed a wager with a bookmaker. That would be against the law, I’m told, so I limit my sports bets to friends and unsuspecting acquaintances.

Unsuspecting acquaintances like my former barber, who for many years always bet on the white man, while I always bet on the black man, in professional boxing matches. (Hmmm. Let’s see: Chuck Wepner or Muhammad Ali? Gee, I think I’ll go with the African-American.) Yes, I know that constitutes racial profiling, but all is fair when it comes to betting on sports.

I think it would be safe to say that I am a serial sports bettor. And never is that more obvious than when an unsuspecting acquaintance walks up to me on the street and forks over a five-dollar bill or extends his or her hand in search of the fiver I owe them. Often, I have completely forgotten making the original wager, which is something you might want to keep in mind the next time you’re short of cash and happen to pass me on the street.

My urge to place wagers on sporting events is so powerful, in fact, that I often place bets against my favorite teams, like the Yankees, football Giants and my alma mater, Penn, also known as the University of Pennsylvania (and not Penn State University!). And this is how it works: If your favorite team wins, you don’t really care if you’ve lost the bet. But if they lose, the sting of the loss is offset by the appearance of a crisp five-dollar bill. Duplicitous? For sure, but try it, you may come to like it.

Just this week I collected on another sports bet. Only this time it was with a suspecting friend. Sam and I have wagered on nearly every Penn-Harvard football game in recent memory, and this year my lads prevailed, 34-14. But there wasn’t a crisp five-dollar bill riding on the outcome. The stakes were breakfast at one of our favorite eateries outside Boston, LobstaLand, and I surprised my buddy by bringing along our 3-year-old grandson, who made his “Pa” proud by doubling down on two pancakes and a side of bacon — all underwritten by the hapless football team from Harvard.

When it comes to betting on sports, there’s no such thing as starting them too young.