Column: Betting on goodbye

For the last six years, I’ve had a wonderful time serving as the sports editor for Hometown Media, but I’m afraid to say that come next month, loyal readers will have to get used to seeing a new byline in the back of our papers.Live Mike

Now, I’m not moving out of the area, taking my talents to a competing publication or anything else of that nature. I just figure that it’s going to take me some time to adjust to my new life as a billionaire.

This year, American rich guy Warren Buffet will be handing out $1 billion to anyone who fills out a perfect March Madness bracket.

That’s billion. With a b.

That’s 68 teams, 34 games, no mistakes, and one astronomically big prize potentially waiting for a lucky fan at the end.Livemike

But as big as the number at the end of that rainbow may be, it’s pretty much dwarfed by the odds of running the March table. Bookmakers have placed the odds of someone, anyone, having a perfect tournament at an astounding 9.1 quintillion–to‑1, which means Buffet probably thinks he can sleep easy knowing that he won’t be parting with a cool yard come April 8.

But there’s one thing Buffet didn’t factor in when he came up with this contest; the fact that I’ve lost so many bets over the course of my life, that something’s gotta give.

I’m banking on this being my great wagering turnaround.

I can still remember my first losing bet. Valentine’s Day, 1990.

The stakes were low—my older brother’s five dollars against my haul of confectionary delights from my first grade class’s celebration from earlier in the day—but the tensions in the living room were high. I was getting the chance to see my favorite boxer in the world, Iron Mike Tyson, take on this nobody named Buster Douglas, who—for some reason—my brother was picking to win by knockout.

Years later, after I learned pay-per-view events were not, in fact, ordered by popping a tape into the VCR and pressing play, I would come to find out that my brother had pulled a fast one on me, showing me a replay of the fight that had shocked the world three days prior.

My gambling career was off to an inauspicious start, and it didn’t get much better from there.

As a freshman in high school, I entered my very first March Madness pool—ironically run by an upperclassman who is now an assistant coach for a team heading to the dance—and found myself on the last day of the tournament, needing just one more Duke win to come into $850, no small fortune for a 14 year old who’s yearly income from raking leaves and shoveling driveways hovered around the $60 mark.

Rip Hamilton, had other ideas though, scoring 27 points to lead UCONN past the Blue Devils, giving the win to our JV quarterback—a religious type who promptly gave all of his winnings to charity.

At the time, I chalked that one up to karma, but my luck has never improved.

I took Lennox Lewis in his first fight against Hasim Rahman, the Rams in the 2002 Super Bowl, Clay Aiken over Ruben Studdard in the American Idol finals and I put 100 bucks on Barbaro to win the Triple Crown after his showing at the Kentucky Derby. Last March, I had a chance to win the Hometown Media office bracket, only to bow to then editor Mark Lungariello with a poor showing in the
Final Four.

If you want to add some insult to injury, try losing money to your boss sometime. It’s not a pleasant experience no matter how nice a guy he is.

And these are only the tip of the iceberg. If I had a nickel for every last-second three-pointer that blew a cover or every favorite I’ve picked that inexplicably didn’t show up to play that day, I guarantee that I’d have enough money to place a few more ill-fated wagers.

In some ways, I guess I’ve just been destined to back the losing horse. Given the chance, I’m sure that I would have been the guy who bet on the Betamax over VHS, Compuserve over AOL and that Alex Winter—not Keeanu Reeves—would emerge as the breakout star of the “Bill and Ted” movies.

So 9.1 quntillion-to-1? Bring it on. I’ve been defying the odds since my brother got his hands on my plastic bag full of Sweethearts and Hershey’s Kisses. By this time next month, I’ll be luxuriating in the Caribbean, sipping daiquiris on my own private beach somewhere; a billion dollars richer, without a care in the world.

After all, I’ve got to be due for a win, right? I’d be willing bet my life on it.

Editors note: Sports Editor Mike Smith’s campaign for a perfect bracket was busted on March 16 when NC State beat Xavier 74-59 in a first-round play-in game. He will be back to work next week.


Follow Mike on Twitter, @LiveMike_Sports

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About Mike Smith

Mike Smith has been with Hometown Media Group since 2007, serving as the company’s Sports Editor. Mike has been commended for his work by the New York Press Association, winning awards in 2008 for “Best Sports Feature” and again in 2009 as part of a team that put together “The Game,” a breakdown of the Harrison-Rye football rivalry, which won for “Best Special Section.” His weekly column, “Live Mike,” offers his unique insights into a broad range of topics in the sports world. He resides in Eastchester, N.Y. and spends most of his free time serving as the player-manager for a competitive men’s baseball team in New York City. Reach Mike at 914-653-1000 x22 or; follow him on Twitter @LiveMike_Sports.