Happy Thanksgiving everybody! Today is the day we should all give thanks for all the good things in our lives. Thanksgiving can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but for me it's mainly about family and sports.
I look over the football schedule for the next few days, and I can't help but think about tomorrow's game between Texas and Texas A&M. As you all probably know by now, a horrible accident occurred last week during the construction of A&M's traditional bonfire, leaving 12 Aggie students dead. I can't imagine what those families must be feeling right now as they prepare for what was intended to be a festive celebration. For those families, Thanksgiving will never be the same. First and foremost, we should all be thankful just to be alive and to have the families that we have because it all can be taken away from us very quickly.
-- On a brighter note, handicappers should be thankful that another college basketball season has begun. If you pay attention to the game, you will learn that college hoops is one of the easier sports to win money at, and it is the easiest to win at among sports involving point spreads.
As far as the national championship in April is concerned, it appears that the race is wide open. To find out who the favorites are and who got hit hard by graduation, take a look at one or more of the many available college basketball preview magazines and use your memory of last year's results.
-- I suppose we handicappers should also be thankful that we can bet college sports legally in Nevada at all. The National Collegiate Athletic Association keeps attempting to eliminate legal wagering in Nevada in order to cut down gambling on college campuses. How the NCAA makes this connection boggles my mind.
Last year $2.3 billion combined were bet legally in Nevada sports books on amateur and professional sports. Gambling experts estimate that illegal sports betting ranges anywhere from $40 billion to $400 billion a year. If you eliminate the $2.3 billion bet legally, you'll just be adding to the $40 billion or so bet illegally, because in the future, Nevadans would find a way to bet illegally just like people in every other state.
If the NCAA wants to start cutting down on illegal gambling on college campuses, it should start by banning the publication of point spreads in national newspapers and newspapers from states where gambling is illegal. Then they can go after all the television and radio shows that involve the subject of point spreads. But really, the NCAA will never be able to control gambling on its campuses. This appears to be nothing but another feeble attempt by the NCAA to deflect blame onto someone else instead of just admitting that they lack the control necessary to enforce their wishes.
-- Thank God the National Football League has quickly addressed the terrible "slit throat celebration" problem that had been growing through the last few weeks. There's nothing pleasant about the thought of someone slitting another person's throat, yet players found this gesture to be a good way to show their happiness over a great play. What an awful picture to send to kids, especially from a role model and former MVP like Brett Favre. Now this gesture will result in a fine, and not a moment too soon.
-- On a personal and selfish note, I'm thankful that Jeff Gordon didn't win the NASCAR points championship this year. Last Sunday the season ended and Gordon finished in sixth place in the standings.
Sure, I was happy when Gordon encountered problems in his quest for a third straight title. I was even happy when he wrecked. But I didn't wish he got injured in the process either.
I, like many Americans, don't like to see the same teams and athletes win year in and year out. It makes their sports boring, not that Dale Jarrett's winning the championship in the second to last race created much excitement, either. Unpredictability, to me, only adds to a sport, it doesn't hinder it. Jeff will have to be satisfied with this year's money title, and many fans will be happy to know that Gordon can't win his fourth consecutive championship next year.
College pick: Miami-Florida -10 vs. Syracuse.
Pro picks: St. Louis -14 vs. New Orleans. Baltimore and Jacksonville Under 36 1/2.