I placed my first bet in fifth grade -- five bucks on the Super Bowl with my brother. I lost, but what transpired the entire day epitomizes my love for sports betting. The analysis before the bet. The anticipation of the start. The rush of the game. Yes, winning is the ideal result but the range of emotions is what the experience sells.
And I definitely was buying that form of entertainment, despite my childhood surroundings which included piano lessons, private school and an SAT tutor. The idea of gambling does not mix well with that environment, especially with four older brothers that set the bar by becoming a lawyer, rocket scientist, doctor and CEO. Nature was fighting nurture in every possible way.
But while I tried to sort out that contract, Mom knew. Mothers always do.
"Douglas would bet on the weather if he could," Mom remarked during my teenage years. While that may have been her keen perception, she chose to believe that I just really loved sports enough to watch the final seconds of a blowout, understandably oblivious to an over/under in play. Or that my high school friends and I enjoyed the pure competition of poker and the chips were just for keeping score. Of course no individual of sound mind would even remotely suspect my buddies and I played Madden with every point "mattering."
And listen, I get it. We really liked action and probably went a little too far ... but you can't deny the excitement.
Fast-forward to age 28, when my worlds collided as I landed a broadcasting gig in Las Vegas. Vegas was always my spiritual existence, and despite being from LA, I was ready to go "home."
For the next seven years, I anchored sports for the local ABC affiliate. I gave out a "Quick Pick" during every nightly broadcast and handicapped games in the local newspaper. I voiced highlights of bad beats and interviewed oddsmakers and professional bettors. I also co-founded a radio show focused solely on sports betting. High school and college buddies would visit for a taste of the Vegas life, Mom was close and I was loving my developing role in a thriving industry.
Ray Kinsella had it all wrong. This was heaven. Then Bristol called and I had a pretty big choice to make.
At the core, I am a guy who intuitively considers the point spread following any major sports news: trade, free-agent signing, fired coach, etc. I have passed up weekend golf outings to soak in the array of games at sportsbooks. The growing impact of analytics on handicapping genuinely stimulates me. On group texts, I discuss the true value of a half-point in college versus professional football. But how do you say no to ESPN? Spoiler: You don't.
I traded one dream job for another one on the other side of the country. SportsCenter is everything I could have imagined and more. Anchors I idolized suddenly knew my name. I felt validated professionally. Mom was even prouder.
While I occupied the anchor chair I continued my side interest by assembling a living room with three TVs, monitoring a live odds screen when I could, and occasionally weaving a point spread into a highlight. I essentially chose a double life. Then earlier this year, everything changed. With the blessing of the Supreme Court and ongoing state-based legalization, I'm finally able to merge these two passions into an even dreamier job.
So... here I am.
A guy who found unique ways to wager in high school is now getting to write and talk about sports betting at the worldwide leader. A friend actually suggested this specific role a decade ago. I laughed. Betting was way too taboo. That stigma would never erode enough for that to happen. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Taking the over on that notion was my worst prediction ever -- and now the most satisfying. No more double life. Sorry Mom.
So I hope you join me for the ride. One that will offer ridiculous but true stories of the betting underbelly. One that will offer insight and analysis.
Here's what I like this weekend:
Michigan -28 (vs. Western Michigan) - Successful bettors love the contrarian path. That's where line value exists as it allows others to overreact to the previous game. Jim Harbaugh will do everything he can to quiet the noise and drop the hammer with a quarterback and offense desperate to shine. Boosters, some of whom bet on the Wolverines (we'll get into that in another column), need to be kept happy.
Nevada +9.5 (at Vanderbilt) - On the scoreboard, Vanderbilt easily won and covered its opener. However, dive deeper and realize Middle Tennessee State went scoreless on seven trips into Vandy territory. The Blue Raiders even outgained the 'Dores by twice as much through three quarters. I trust a high-powered Wolf Pack offense to execute much more effectively in scoring situations, catching more than one score.
Stanford -5 (vs. USC) - One of these days bettors will realize the Pete Carroll glory days are long gone. In fact, since he left in 2009, USC is 8-16 ATS as an underdog and 11-24 ATS against ranked teams. Slap UCLA jerseys on these Trojan players and the Cardinal would be laying more than a touchdown. USC brings a true freshman QB to the farm against a team that's polished and itching to unleash Heisman hopeful Bryce Love. I just need David Shaw to avoid getting too conservative, which painfully happens way too often for my liking.
Giants +3 (vs. Jaguars) - Everyone assumes the Jaguars are trending upwards, but let's pump the brakes a bit. They won a division with its two best quarterbacks injured: Luck and Deshaun Watson. As Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders indicated on the "Behind the Bets with Doug Kezirian" podcast (that's right I plugged), Jacksonville was 10-2 last season when scoring first (0-4 when not). So what happens when they face a healthy Giants offense that can score too much for Blake Bortles to match?
6-point teaser: Ravens -1.5 (vs. Bills) and Lions -.5 (vs. Jets) - I highly doubt Nathan Peterman will throw five interceptions in the first half like he did in his first career start last year. However, the Bills are in rebuild mode and Baltimore should win, although nothing is easy in the NFL. Sam Darnold may eventually become the "Jetssiah," but a debut on the road on Monday Night Football is a tough ask for a team with low expectations. Since 2010, rookie quarterbacks making their first career road start are 15-30. Darnold looked good against vanilla preseason defenses, but this spot is much different. I don't see how he wins this game.