Forming Positions… The Long and Short of It
At the core of “A New Method of Handicapping” is my tireless pursuit towards developing “positions” on teams compared to the public perception swirling around them. Everyone else is busy reacting to results and forming fictional narratives in a futile attempt to predict the future. My mission is to analyze the teams independent of one another and in a completely unbiased fashion.
The idea of analyzing the direction of the teams themselves rather than analyzing their week-to-week matchup has been a concept I’ve been intrigued by for many years. One of my coaching inspirations is Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern. I’ve always admired his energy and his ability to have his players, often undersized and less athletic than their foes, beam with confidence. Coming off a lackluster 2011, the wildcats were not expected to make any noise in 2012. I followed the team closely throughout the offseason and really liked the mental approach they were taking heading into the season. To this day, I have not witnessed a more determined bunch. Their self-belief was not fake. They had been prepped by former marines in a toughness training program, and received nothing but positive reinforcement from coach Fitz. Their recruiting was also on the improve due to a promise of new facilities, and a general rededication towards football from the university was simultaneously taking place. They were set on becoming “Chicago’s Big Ten Team”. The cats went 12-1 against the spread that season and, for a brief moment, I was rich.
I was fortunate enough to hear their wide receivers coach, Dennis Springer, speak at the National Coaching Convention the following offseason. I was blown away by his commitment to details and ‘the little things.’ Way before the Philadelphia 76ers did their thing, I was “trusting the process” with this rag-tag bunch from Evanston, Illinois. They’ve logged some profitable ‘against-the-spread’ years since then, but nothing like that magical 2012 run. Public perception had finally caught up. I was no longer ahead of the curve on Northwestern. I’d spend many years and all my dollars looking for the next Northwestern of 2012 team to hitch my wagon to. It never came…
Like all gamblers, I wanted a shortcut. Give me the path of least resistance that can take me to the land of economic freedom. Unfortunately, these shortcuts only exist in fairytales.
I’ve tried several approaches in recent years. Concepts like fading the public and tracking reverse line-movement seemed to have merit at times, but I’m still dubious on whether or not they carry long term profitability. For me, these avenues mostly lead to frustration, tilt, and bankroll destruction. I would venture to say most turning points begin with an “enough is enough” moment. I know too much about gambling and the beautiful complexities of the game of football to not create a method of my own.
I remember watching the Big Ten Media Day leading up to the 2012 season and being totally shocked by the lack of respect the pundits were giving NW. All these years later, it finally dawned on me to go back to my roots and analyze the NFL in a similar fashion to the way I originally analyzed Northwestern. If I can pick out where the public is missing the boat or overly enthralled with a particular team, I could finally get back ahead of the curve. In today’s social media driven world and with an abundance of consensus data readily available, it isn’t hard to figure out where the public is at regarding a specific team. Quantifying my stance, or “Position”, compared to the public perception on each team would become my new mission.
I decided simpler was best. I’d grade each team on a weekly basis from a scale of one to five; one being most bearish, five being most bullish, three being neutral. Originally, I was generating one position “P” on each team. But in re-watching game film, listening closely to coaches interviews, and deeply analyzing public takes, I determined it would be more beneficial to create both short-term “SP” and long-term “LP” positions. Factors such as being on the bad end of variance, poor officiating, or even poor technique are all elements of my short term position ranking. Certain factors, on the other hand, won’t necessarily rear their heads the following week, but will eventually eliminate or elevate a team’s chances of long-term success. Some examples here would be leadership, offensive and defensive identity, poor effort, coaching philosophy, etc… I’ll get more into the importance of these type of details in my next article, “How I See the Game.”
With such a miniscule percentage of people even having the ability to profit from betting on sports, you must first defeat the public before even attempting to conquer Vegas. Forming these positions on teams is something no one else is currently doing. And since we know there are no shortcuts, that, in itself, means we are on the right track. Best of luck in Week 6, cheers to continued success!