Curses, charges, flying chairs and wild controversies. Miracle comebacks, Olympic heroes and football gods. For sports fans and sportsbooks, it has been one of the biggest years for sports in recent memory. With that in mind, I give you my thoughts on the year that was 2004. Some of these will appeal to every sports fan, but a lot of them will be memorable only to bookies and bettors:
Orange Bowl, Florida State -2 vs. Miami
Low scoring game, especially the 2nd half, where the only score was a Miami field goal to take a 16-14 lead, when FSU lined up for a go ahead field goal with 5 ½ minutes to play. Florida State needing a field goal to win against Miami…are you kidding me? Sure enough…wide right…again! The year ended with no Florida team ranked in the Top 10 for the first time in years.
Jan 1st: Rose Bowl, USC -7 vs. Michigan
Jan 4th: Sugar Bowl, Oklahoma -7 vs.LSU
USC wins 28-14, LSU wins 21-14, the BCS cries. Sports fans call for a playoff system. This is the reason Bodog offered the NCAA $50 Million to let us host a game between Auburn and USC this year.
Super Bowl XXXVIII, New England -7 vs. Carolina
Bettors who played the under 19 in the first half were robbed. Scoreless game with just over 5 minutes left in the half and Carolina looking harmless deep in their own end. Then a turnover leads to a quick New England score, Carolina goes 95 yards for a TD in 2 minutes, the Patriots then go 88 yards for a score in 50 seconds, and finally Carolina gets a last second field goal after a short kickoff and 20 yard draw play. First 26.5 minutes - no points. Last 3.5 minutes - 24 points! And then to rub it in, the 3rd quarter is scoreless…tough beat.
Final Four, UConn -2.5 vs. Duke
The most expensive, meaningless basket in NCAA history. The match-up between titans UConn and Duke was extremely heavily bet, with heavy action on the favored Huskies. Duke had a 75-67 lead with 3:28 to play but UConn stormed back with an 11-0 run to take the lead 78-75. Duke goes for the tie and missed and has to foul with just 3 seconds left. Okafor makes one to give UConn a 4-point lead, a sure win and what appears to be the cover, but Chris Duhon hits a meaningless 3 with just 1 second on the clock that the TV coverage doesn't even really mention. ESPN estimated that the shot resulted in $30 million dollars changing hands! Our phones lit up with people wondering if the basket counted as it was apparently several minutes before the network showed the actual final score.
Phil Mickelson gets the monkey off his back in dramatic fashion with a 72nd hole birdie putt to win the Masters and his first major. One Bodog employee remarks that if Mickelson can win a major, maybe the Red Sox could win a World Series. It was a mixed result for books, some reported not having much action on Phil as he was playing well and so the odds were low given his inability to win a major, while others reported taking lots of money on him. No truth to the rumor that the course will be changed to favor righties after lefties win in consecutive years.
NBA Playoffs. Home Dogs Take a Beating, So Does the Book.
Indiana -8.5 at Boston, 90-75
Lakers -3 at Houston, 92-88
New Jersey -5.5 at New York, 100-94
San Antonio -5 at Memphis, 110-97
In football, the house frequently does as well or as poorly as the home dogs that do that day. It isn't quite as strong a correlation in basketball but there is a link…
It is very rare for home dogs to go 0-4 ATS on a single day, and that isn't usually good for the house, but when those are the only four games, it is a real disaster for books. That is our worst NBA day on record. On the flip side, our best day was in January when home dogs went 4-1 ATS, including a couple of straight up wins. In college hoops, our best day of the regular season ever, had home dogs go 7-1 ATS.
NBA Finals, Game #2, Detroit +8 at LA Lakers
Despite a big win in game #1, the line actually moves against Detroit as bettors play for the bounceback. Detroit held a 6-point lead with 47 seconds left and the announcers were talking about how bad it looked for the Lakers in the game and the series with games 3-5 in Detroit. Shaq gets a layup and free-throw to cut the lead to 3 and the Pistons miss a shot with 16 seconds left. Kobe hits a tough 3 with just ticks left and force OT where the Lakers go on to outscore the Pistons 10-2 and push the sides. It was as good as a beat for those in on the Pistons as they were up 6 and getting 8 with less than a minute to go, but revenge was sweet…
NBA Finals, Game #5, LA Lakers +2.5 at Detroit
Bettors loaded up on LA in games four and five, expecting the mighty Lakers to figure out the Pistons and take the series back. It never happened and the Lakers get beat badly 100-87. Books cash in on the 'upset', the Pistons owner collects his second Championship that month (he also owns the Tampa Bay Lightning who won the Stanley Cup 8 days before; see dictionary under "having a very good week"), and the break-up of the Lakers powerhouse begins.
LSU +2 at Auburn
Defending champs LSU (according to the BCS at least) missed an extra point on an early TD and that was a difference in a 10-9 loss. Auburn goes on to a perfect season but doesn't get the same chance to play for the national championship that LSU did the previous year despite having lost a game!
October 12th - 20th:
ALCS, NY Yankees at Boston Red Sox
The Yankees took a 3-0 lead in the ALCS. The 'Curse of the Bambino' looked to be in full effect with the Red Sox high priced pitching staff having surrendered 32 runs through 3 games. In game 4, the Yankees squander a 4-3 lead in the 9th and leave the bases loaded in the 11th. Ortiz hits a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 12th to keep Sox fans' hope alive. It didn't seem like a huge deal at the time, as they still had a 3-1 lead. In game 5, the Yanks blow a 4-2 lead in the 8th and Ortiz makes them pay in the 14th. Again, it still looked good for the Yankees as they only had to win one of two home games to win the series. Boston never lets the Yankees get a chance, cashing in on early leads of 4-0 and 6-0 and leaving the Yankees as the team looking cursed. The World Series almost became secondary (and expected) as the Babe Ruth theory is finally put to bed!
The NFL's Black Sunday
Favorites went 11-3-1 on the day and books got buried. Road favorites were 5-0 during the day and players loaded up on the Packers on Sunday night in Houston as the 6th road fav of the day. The Texans had a 13-3 lead going to the 4th quarter but gave up 13 points to force a push and deny the house any chance of revenge. New England threw gas on the fire on Monday night as they won and covered in Kansas City as a road favorite to make the home dogs a dreadful 0-6-1 ATS on the weekend. Books got beat so bad that at least two publicly traded books had to issue profit warnings to shareholders. There were rumors of smaller books being in trouble, but books rallied with their best month in several years in December to dispel those rumblings.
Books Get Revenge. New England -10 at Miami
This is one of the games that made December so good. The book had a good Sunday and bettors were chasing a little on Monday night with the heavily favored Patriots. It looked like all of Sunday's profits would be given back when the Pats scored a TD with 4 minutes left to make it 28-17. The hapless Dolphin offence rallied for two remarkable touchdowns in less than one minute, including a 4th down desperation pass to the end zone, to win 29-28 and give the house the biggest win of the year.
And there you have it. All things considered 2005 has some pretty big shoes to fill, but I'd like to believe that in sports - in any sport - you never know what can and will happen. Anything and everything is possible, and that's what makes this industry so exciting for the fans and the books. Happy New Year!
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