Not to say I told you so but…. last year in my annual Super Bowl column, I urged readers to back the Tampa Bay Bucaneers +4. For those with short memories, go the Lodi News-Sentinel archives and look it up. Final score: Tampa Bay 48-Oakland Raiders 21.
The especially astute readers also picked up on my suggestion that a lot of points would be scored. I predicted, "Games played outdoors during the day on grass end up with a big score." And the score was plenty big enough for those who took "Over 42."
Best of all, for those with real gumption, I passed along the insights of Stanford Professor of Economics Justin Wolfers who advised that the best proposition on the board, "might be a 60-1 (maximum reward for minimum investment) shot on Tampa Bay to win the game by between 8 and 13 points." For those of you who saw the logic in the professor's analysis and laid $100, you collected a nifty $6,000.
Unfortunately, Professor Wolfers has no opinion this year. On the strength of last year's pick, Wolfers may be retired in the Fijis.
Before proceeding, full disclosure compels me to confess that my Super Bowl wagering record since the event began 38 years ago is very poor. My won-lost record is about 25%.
That might stop a prudent person but it doesn't stop me.
The New England Patriot team presents a special challenge for me. The Pats have been in the Super Bowl twice. And twice the team proved how little I know about handicapping. In 1986, I loved the Pats +11 points against the Mike Ditka led Chicago Bears. How could I go wrong with +11 points? Very easily as it turned out. The Bears mopped the floor with New England, 46-10.
Then in 2002, New England was getting 14 points against the St. Louis Rams. Despite the two touchdown spot, I took the Rams. And what happened? The Pats pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history beating the Rams 20-17.
The most painful part of that particular wager was that it was the first time all year I had backed the Rams even though All-Star quarterback Kurt Warner and his receivers consistently lit up the scoreboard and won most games by about 30 points.
Among the many problems I have analyzing the Super Bowl is that I allow myself to become distracted by peripheral issues. Why should I be concerned—as I have been in the past—with the prominent presence of two of my least favorite entertainers—Kathie Lee Gifford and Celine Dion?
This troubling tendency to get sidetracked continues in 2004. Briefly last week, I pondered the significance of New England quarterback Tom Brady being a guest in First Lady Laura Bush's box during the president's State of the Union address.
What, if anything, does it mean that a key player was so closely allied with President Bush during the same week Bush's ratings dropped 10%?
This year, I have forced myself to focus on the task at hand. As a result, I stumbled onto the intriguing "Bayesian Analysis." This, I feel sure, is a major find.
According to the Bayesian theory, athletes—while seemingly dependent on agility, speed and lightening reflexes— also subconsciously make advanced quantitative analysis that evaluates conditions at a specific moment during a game against past experiences in identical game situations.
From a meshing of the current and the past, an athlete develops a plan of attack.
Well, that doesn't sound so far-fetched. The Patriots and Brady have been to the Super Bowl twice in the last three years. The Carolina Panthers and quarterback Jake Delhomme have never been. They have no past experiences to recall.
Therefore according to my interpretation of the Bayesian analysis, I fearlessly predict that the New England Patriots will win Super Bowl by the necessary 7 points or more.
Proceed, if you must, at your own risk.