The Plight of Being a Fan and a Gambler – By Cameron Heffernan

Earlier in the year, Cameron, a sports and gambling fanatic placed bets on a few smart picks, at the time, for future bets on the World Series. Now post MLB trade deadline, he finds himself in a predicament between rooting as a gambler and rooting as a fan.

Sports betting is just as fun as any betting. Either one of two things is going to happen. You’re either going to win or you’re going to lose. As opposed to other forms of gambling, when you win in sports you feel like some sort of sports-god, an all-knowing, all-seeing deity of the major league sports of America. In September, 2011, with the St. Louis Cardinals 4 1/2 games back in the NL Wild Card race, their odds sat at 500/1 to win the NL Pennant, and 999/1 to win the World Series. One lucky man placed a bet on both odds, and walked away one very happy Cardinals fan. Not only financially, but just as a fan too.

On my birthday this year, my girlfriend and I, took a trip to Vegas to celebrate. I feel when turning any age over 21, you go to Vegas for your birthday, it just doesn’t make sense to go anywhere else. Vegas has shows, music, strippers, booze, and various other adult activities that you can’t find at places like 5-star restaurants, and places like “Dave and Buster’s”. It just makes sense to go to Vegas for any birthday over 21. Prior to this visit, I hadn’t been to Vegas in at least two-years, and the last time I had been I figured I would see Vegas’s more “exotic” sights than it’s gambling. Suffice to say, a certain sort of slot saw my money, just not the one you’re thinking of, if you catch my drift (in laymen terms I spent my money at strip clubs, instead of gambling. I didn’t have a girlfriend then so I was in the clear).

This year though, I was loaded with some cash and armed with the intelligence of countless amounts of years of sports writing and following Sportscenter and sports radio. I felt damn near invincible out there. Even though during the entire weekend stay it was over 105-degrees, and I ran from shady-place-to-shady-place, and in-and-out of casinos just to stay cool. I had come to Vegas for three things, party, normal gambling and sports gambling, and more sports gambling then anything. Now before I get into my bets, the whole purpose of this article is to articulate my struggle with being a fan of specific teams and also having to root for the teams I placed bets on. So let us first run through my favorite teams in each sport, then we’ll turn to the bets.

MLBAL: Boston Red Sox (Not doing anything this year, so no need to worry about rooting for them too much. Hey next year will be better. Insert panic here.) NL: Los Angeles Dodgers (I at least have to root for one hometown team. You’ll see what I’m saying in a second. By the way, I’m from L.A. so be prepared to be confused by the rest of this list.) 

NFL – Buffalo Bills (Only one team here. And it’s the one team I’ve been a fan of my whole entire life. Like I literally remember watching them get pulverized, two times, in the Super Bowl by the Cowboys in 1992 and 1993. Sadness has been apart of my sports life since the beginning)

NBA – Boston Celtics (The greatest basketball team of all-time. No questions should be asked about why I’m a Celtics fan.)

NHL – Philadelphia Flyers (My pops is from Philly, and I really don’t have much invested in Hockey, and I have never given a crap about the L.A. Kings, even when they had Felix Potvin, Luc Roabitaille and Andy Murray in the early ’00s too the Stanley Cup Champions of this year. Also, the nickname, “Broad Street Bullies,” has a sweet ring to it. Go Flyers! Someday you’ll get an actually goaltender and win a Stanley Cup, until then though, you’re doomed to second round purgatory. I don’t bet on Hockey, it is way to much of a crap shoot and my favorite team is a big bag of penises.)

As you can see, I, for the most part, am a one team kind of guy. Except baseball. I feel baseball is the only sport where the two different leagues – American League and National League – feel like two, actually, different leagues. In the NFL the NFC and AFC feel the same and there’s really no reason to separate them, aside form being able to dictate which two teams end up in the Super Bowl. In the NBA it’s split into conferences, much like the NHL, and neither of them feel anywhere near two different leagues. As a matter of fact, in Hockey there really isn’t a dominant conference, which is cool. But, In basketball the West has dominated for most of the years, that is until the Heat, Celtics, Bulls, and most recently, the Nets pulled it together in the last couple years. So it just makes sense to root for two teams in baseball, all the other sports don’t have a designated hitter and altering park dimensions, it’s things like this that make baseball feel like two different leagues that come together in October to see who’s the best in baseball. So you can root for one NL and one AL. In the other sports this should not be allowed.

Now as I first got into Vegas I went straight to the Caesar’s Palace to take a look at their books. My first idea was to place a bet on the Bills for $20 at 30/1, which I followed through with, next was the NBA, which I had to venture to the Bellagio for because I guess the Celtics organization has business ties with Caesar’s entertainment so this makes it impossible to bet on them at any Caesar’s affiliated casino. This is when I mainly had to dodge from shady-area to shady-area just so I could place a $40 bet at 12/1 odds on the soon to be 2013 NBA Champion Boston Celtics. I soon thereafter placed my bet and drunkenly stumbled my way back to my room at the Flamingo. In my drunken stoop-er I stopped back at Caesar’s and made the following bets.

Bet numero uno40 on the L.A. Angels at 10/1

Bet numero dos40 on the Cincinnati Reds at 10/1

I thought about the Red Sox, but as a fan I had already faced the fact that they probably won’t even make the playoffs, so no bets for you. I moved onto my second favorite baseball team, the Dodgers. Sitting at 17/1 odds, I resisted, mainly because they had Matt Kemp, Andre Eithier and Clayton Kershaw. Then after that it was a huge drop in talent. Dee Gordon was serviceable for a month or two but he was a defensive liability most of the time (I wish MLB had negative videos on You Tube I could show you, but they have barely any videos as it is because of copyrights..

The Reds just felt like a safe and effective bet. In the Central Division their toughest competition is the Cardinals, Pirates and Brewers. Three teams I felt were fairly easy competition. The Cardinals lost Albert Puljos in the off-season, Adam Wainwright was a  having a sub-par season, the Pirates, well, although surprising, they still are the Pirates and the baseball Gods seem to have an ax to grind with them, and the Brewers lost Prince Fielder and I’m sure Ryan Braun is terrified to over-perform in any manner that could be considered suspicious and contribute to his teams success, he is having the single quietest possible MVP season ever.

A quick note on Braun as a Dodgers and Matt Kemp fan: His batting line is .319/.397/.604 with 29-homers, 74-RBIs and   72-runs. He so far is on pace to put up better numbers this year than his MVP season last year, and no one seems to talk about him possibly repeating as MVP because he’s on a team that won’t make the playoffs (like Matt Kemp last year) and all the P.E.D controversy that surrounded him in the off-season.  As I said previously. There are Baseball Gods and they find Karma to be hilarious. 

Now with the Angels bet I feel safe. They wen’t and got Zach Greinke from the Brewers, at the trade deadline to bolster their already solid rotation that features, definite AL Cy Young candidate Jared Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, and whenever he decides to wake up, Ervin Santana, and then with with Albert Puljos, Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout, Kendrick Morales(waking up), and Tori Hunter backing them up at the plate my bet feels safe. Right now, as I write this, the Angels do sit third in their division, by only a half-game-behind, and have a half-game lead in the second Wild Card spot, it is shaky, but it feels safe.

The Reds have been a solid team all season. Playing to a 6.5 game lead at 66-42 in one of the tougher divisions in baseball they have been a huge surprise this season, even without Joey Votto, who’s been out since July 16, they’ve gone 16-3, without Brandon Phillips, another offensive key who went out Tuesday, they’ve gone 5-0. They seem to be a solid team-unit. That’s why I placed a simple bet on them and not the Dodgers. At the time, although the Dodgers looked good early in the season, they had dropped the last 11 of their last 12. They started the month of June at 32-20, at the half-way point of the month, they were 41-24. By the end of the month, 43-36. So as you can see, a team that seems to be falling apart slowly isn’t the safest bet to make.

Now after the trade deadline the Dodgers, sitting at 56-49 and only a few games behind the San Francisco Giants they got, Hanley Ramirez from the Miami Marlins, Shane Victorino from the Philadelphia Phillies, as well as veteran pitcher Joe Blanton, and Reliever Brandon League from the Seattle Mariners at the Trade Deadline. So in a two day swing of things they filled up their Short Stop woes with one of the top three SS in the whole league, they filled up the hole in left field known as Juan Rivera with Shane Victorino and bolstered thier five hole with a wily veteran and beefed up their bullpen with one of the best relievers in the AL. The Giants picked up Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence, but they hardly help the fact that the Gigantes have two pitchers and that’s it, and other than Pence, Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey they are a rather impotent offensive group. Ranking no higher than 15 in any offensive category and Barry Bonds isn’t walking through those clubhouse doors anytime soon.

Now with the Dodgers stepping their game up in such a way, I’m left with the ultimate Karma from the Baseball Gods. I turned my back on one of my favorite teams and went with the safe bet. Baseball was the only sport I did this with too,  and now the Angels are in a dead heat with Oakland for the Wild Card and in a way the Western Division of the AL, the possibility of Detroit, Tampa Bay or Baltimore catching up to them in the wild card is also a terrifying idea (Jesus, talk about false confidence in the paragraph about the Angels). The fact that the Dodgers stepped up their entire roster and possibly could meet the Reds in a NL Wild Card showdown or even in either NL Divisional Series or the NL Championship Series I don’t feel as if the Reds could pull it off.

That’s the thing with sports gambling and being a fan, you feel you have to root for the team you placed the bet on. What’s the point of placing the bet if you aren’t going to root for that team? Absolutely nothing. Then you’re just a greedy schmuck, like I was, who is probably placing ridiculous bets on the Yankees, Lakers and Packers (which I didn’t) to win their respective leagues because you know they most likely will win. Yes, That is the point of sports betting but if you’re going to place those bets, on the “Sure” teams, then you should at least place a bet on all your favorite teams too. Isn’t that why their our favorite teams? Because we feel like they’re going to win, everything, all the time. And that’s why I was tormented by the Baseball and Sports Gods at the MLB trade deadline, I lost, that feeling that all real sports fans should have, the feeling that they’re team is going to win everything, all the time, no matter what.

Cameron Heffernan is an editor and co-creator of HefferBrew. He feels that his loss of sports innocence came because of the Buffalo Bills and all the losing they did in his childhood. Thanks, dicks. He also placed a $20 bet on the Saints to win the Super Bowl at 15/1 odds for shits and giggles.  Follow Cameron on twitter at @karateparty1

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