PlayBook: Junkies, Political Or Otherwise

By Fraser Lockerbie

The NFL championship game lines with a side of South Carolina.

January 19, 2012, 8:45 PM

Primary season is a dangerous time for gamblers to be betting on both the high stakes world of professional football and national politics. Waters run deep and lines will usually change on the whim of a word or the whisper of an injury. In truth it’s a natural obsession; the differences between the two are minimal which is why they attract the same sort of beasts. Our kind will always call for a winner and loser and we’ll expect nothing less than a long and bloody road to the finish. The closer the race, the higher the stakes and we’ll usually settle for an exciting end over a runaway win, despite the losses we may have to endure.

Junkies - political, sport or otherwise - are here for the rush, which is why I find myself flipping with increasing intensity between the Southern Republican debate and the Heat-Lakers game. The Lakers are now down by two and lip service has just been paid to ‘crony capitalism’ so I guess we’re here for the long haul and about to settle in for a very serious night of both.

When the two collide it will always mean fast times for fast people; we’ve become experts at high-speed channel changing and instantaneous Twitter rhetoric. The slightest lull in the action will drive us away which is why it is important that both shows have a score and a clear-cut winner at any given time. We’re driven by fast falling numbers; we have no patience for deadlocks or ties. One point or one vote will suffice and the only thing that matters at the end of the day is how much you laid against either side of line. People can win and people can lose; the important thing for anyone serious about making any money on either is that they knew where they stood when they started and didn’t get in over their head. Betting sports is of course faster paced than betting politics but the outcomes are rarely as dire and the pot is never as deep. Professional politics is big game money for big game players and there is simply no comparison in the stakes between the two.

But don’t confuse the point; in circles of public opinion the two play just as intimate a role. A life-long Lakers fan will not take kindly to a game seven loss but could care less who their congressional representative might be; a political candidate couldn’t tell you the score of last night’s game but knows down to the third decimal point where voters stand when it comes to the color of his tie. No, the two arenas are not always mutually exclusive but both are built on the same premise and are as equally relevant when it comes to popular opinion and the dangerous exchange of money and pride.

It is of course this exchange that leaves us in the precarious position we find ourselves tonight, flipping haplessly between channels, undecided as to which we really care more about. The Lakers are now being drubbed by the Heat and the money is lost but it’s peanuts in comparison to what we have invested in the future of this country, a bet everyone has made, knowingly or not. The only real difference between the two wagers aside from stakes is that basketball is a game played with sets and presses we can all understand; politics is an uglier sport where the rules always change and the game never ends. The fans always watch and they can never go home. Like a Super Bowl stuck in a scoreless tie, heading into 22 consecutive overtimes and on all the time. At least the Lakers will win or lose and our lives will go on. Life in the endless loop of politics can sometimes make it harder to care even when the stakes are so high.

This Week’s Lines:

Baltimore (+7.5) over New England

We witnessed exactly what we said would happen when two offense-only teams met up with more well-rounded opponents; both the Packers and the Saints fell because they couldn’t play D and they couldn’t play around a good one. With the pressure on, these two teams gave up nine offensive turnovers after combining for only 41 all year. They made mistakes, they fell behind and they couldn’t keep up when the game mattered most. You think whatever corpses they wheel out onto the New England backfield are going to do any better? You think Gronk is going to look as good playing around Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs?

San Francisco (-2.5) over New York

One through three, the Giants might actually have the deadliest receiving trio in the game right now. The Manningham/Nicks/Cruz connection is a formidable force when all three are allowed to fly which is tethered to which tight end shows up. If it is Jake Ballard, who effectively draws safeties away from wide-outs in short coverage, then the Giants have a chance. If it’s the under the radar player we hardly knew and didn’t care about at Ohio State, then San Francisco’s safeties are going to have a field day.The Giants know they won’t be able to run so Ballard’s abilities as a legitimate distraction will be put to the test and the boy hasn’t put up the numbers to say that will be the case. The Niners are running like a well-oiled machine and we might just be on our way to the first ever Harbowl.

Last Week: 3-1

Overall: 81-54-6


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