In the land of sports, all men make wagers. Everyone involved in the spectrum toss the dice in one manner or the other. Sportscasters bet their reputations when they make predictions, they set up the preamble of their story for the season knowing that reality hardly keeps to the script. Coaches gamble with play calls, each down being the difference between achieving skillful victory or losing face, the locker room itself, or worst of all…their employment. As fans, we know better than most the gamble we take with our hearts and hope, and the dark depression that follows each loss. Not all fans are alike in their investment, some even include their wallets, but when it gets down to it all sports fans ante up their heart to the pot.
The fact that when mine hits the table it leaves a little burgundy and gold is a matter of pride.
While none of us are right all the time, for the sake of argument let’s take a brief dive into recent history and see who has smiled more.
Sports Media has blossomed in this vein. ESPN, once a humble idea that could barely secure the rights for slow pitch softball, has transformed into a juggernaut of correspondents and pundits. Its broadcasts now consist of several suits talking over each other, each crafting their story line for the season. Who will rise, who will fade, and who will be the one to get it all right…not the teams mind you, but the men and women making the guesses. Their career depends on getting it right; hindsight is always cruel and it isn’t healthy to eat crow all day. So let’s take a look at the accuracy in the near past and see who cashed in and who should’ve cashed out (mind you, as Skins fans the rest of the NFL falls second to the happenings of the NFC EAST and it is there that we will keep our focus):
I dug through the archives of the internet to put together the preseason predictions for the two largest media conglomerates (it’s harder than it sounds, as you can imagine both of them do their best to wipe away the entries in which they couldn’t get the color of the field right much less the scoreboard). After enough scavenging, I was able to go back up to 2010 and compare the predications made by ESPN and Fox Sports for the final regular season rankings compared to the actual result. Upon analyzing the results several things become apparent. The first and most obvious point being that both ESPN and Fox Sports tend to overvalue the Cowboys (big surprise), but sans the 2015 season they were both accurate at predicting where the Giants would end up every year which just goes to show you can always count on Mara and company to provide a consistent level of sucking. All in all, unless a breakout performance occurred, you could count on the two placing the teams within quartile of their actual ranking (i.e. if they said the Eagles would be 7th, the Eagles would be +/-4 of 7th at the end of the season).
Having said that, when they missed they missed BIG. The sweetest example of this which should put a huge smile on the faces in D.C. is this past year in which Fox had us at 27th and ESPN had us DEAD LAST at 32nd. Likewise, the Cowboys in all their pomp were pre-ordained to be 6th and 8th respectively only to end up 29th. In fact, in no season did the mainstream sports media get the narrative more wrong on the NFC East than this last one. Both ESPN and Fox Sports had the Cowboys and Eagles ending up in the top 10, with the Giants at the back end of the teens and the Skins getting the first overall draft pick. In happy reality we now know that no one except the Skins would get below 20th overall for the regular season (and we all loved picking at 22nd overall).
Having said that, when you average out their rankings versus reality the pundits really have been within only a few ranks of the final standings with their picks (again, minus overreaching on the Cowboys). But betting isn’t about breaking even or getting close, it’s about taking home the pot. No one understands this better than the people who eat breathe and sleep risks and wagers. I’m talking about the purveyors of Sin City.
When you want a prime example of how to properly ensnare the wallets of fools and the hopeful, look no further. Skip Bayless may say a lot of crazy ridiculous nonsense (a simple Google search should be able to illustrate this), but he is at least smart enough not to back his word vomit with his own money. The same spineless behavior is not seen at Caesar’s, and for good reason, THEY WIN.
Vegas doesn’t waste times with frivolous things like team rankings and potential season storylines. They have the same laser focus akin to most owners and ask only one thing, “DID YOU WIN?”
Well the answer for Vegas is, “Yes, we did.” And then some. In the past five years, Vegas has won 14 to 6 in predicting the Win/Loss totals for the NFC East. No team beat the Vegas odds more than twice, and in fact other than the Redskins, no team was over the Vegas odds by more than more a single win and that was only accomplished during the amazing breakout season of 2015 (yet another reason why 2015 was such a spectacular year).
While they may have taken our money with reckless abandon, there is one fact that should vindicate them: they rake in massive profits off of fools in Dallas. No team has been overvalued and underperformed in Vegas like the Cowboys. The hype generated on SportsCenter directly translates to blown paychecks in Sin City. 2014, their 12 win season where they finished number 1 overall for the regular season is the ONLY time they rewarded the pansies who root for them. Every other year not only did they lose out, they lost out by the smallest of margins (half a win in most cases) and the only thing close to the glory of a Skins victory is the thrashing of the hopes of the silver and blue.
I had originally planned on running a thought experiment on what would have happened in NFC East fans bet loyally on their teams but the results are the same across the board. WE LOSE, VEGAS WINS. There is in fact no hypothetical scenario I can put together in which Vegas does not walk away with both their money and yours eventually. Having said that, the current numbers at Vegas are The Cowboys at 9 wins, The Eagles at 7.5, The Giants at 7.5, and our Redskins at 7.5.
So to conclude this gamble ramble, remember luck never gives it only lends. Sports Media will be in the ballpark, but that’s about as close as they get. Vegas will take your money, so keep it in your pockets. If you HAVE to bet, bet with your heart and put it all on burgundy.