Before this year’s NFL season began, I SWORE to myself that I wouldn’t let my attachment to the Suicide Pool get out of hand — like it did in the previous three years.
For those of you lucky enough not to be indoctrinated, a Suicide Pool, aka a Knockout Pool, is a very popular form of fantasy-league betting — and torture.
I suspect that millions of people are involved on one kind of fantasy league or another. My chosen form of torture is the pool in which contestants choose one NFL team each week to win — a tie is the same as a loss, and you’re outtahere. It’s win or go home.
The catch is the rule that you can only bet on one team per season. So, if, say, the Denver Broncos are marching toward a Super Bowl berth and you took them in week one versus Baltimore, you can’s pick Denver again. You can, however bet AGAINST a team more than once (hello, Jacksonville Jaguars).
Anyway, I promised myself that this year would be different. I wouldn’t badger my friends for their suggestions. I wouldn’t spend my waking hours pouring over injury reports and listening to every conceivable program on ESPN television and radio for insights. Above all, I wouldn’t burn the late-summer Sunday afternoons in September by staying hunched over the gamecast on ESPN.com to follow my pick.
Well, folks, that lasted about one quarter of football. I had the Indianapolis Colts, a young team on the rise, in my initial week. I reckon that a good number of the other people in my pool did the same. (The Colts were favored at home by 10 1/2 points in some betting lines to beat the woeful Oakland Raiders, the most lopsided point spread of week one).
The Colts, sparked by the passing of second-year quarterback Andrew Luck, jumped out to a commanding 14-0 lead, and I felt so giddy that I actually went out for a walk and smelled the coffee, the flowers and anything else I could find with a scent.
Then, gradually, the Raiders fought back and held a 17-14 lead late in the game. That was my signal.
Hello, ESPN gamecast.
Luck proved as good as his name by engineering a late-game drive and scoring the winning touchdown on a 19-yard run. The final score: My Colts (for a day, anyway) 21 Those Raiders 17. I felt quite lucky, all right.
What I secretly love about the pool is the feeling it gives me that I have something on the line, like the players. It makes following the football games more meaningful, if not fun (when I win). But no, I don’t juice before a game and nobody wants to interview me afterward.
In 2010, my first year, I made it to week 11 — not bad for a rookie, everyone told me (I tripped up when Washington quarterback Donovan McNabb had one more shot of glory and helped beat the Titans in Tennessee (as I recall, the Tennessee quarterback went out of the game with an injury…). Pretty good to get that far, eh? It still hurt when I got knocked out of the pool. It was much more painful, in fact, than getting torpedoed in my Match Madness brackets. I vowed to do even better the following year.
I thought I was pretty smart in 2011 when I sailed through the first two weeks (week two, the powerful Steelers coming off a big loss and hosting Arizona? Please!). In week 3, I went for the always-powerful New England Patriots in Buffalo. The Pats predictably jumped out to a big lead and all-world quarterback Tom Brady was on fire. Then, right before the half, Brady threw a costly interception, which the Bills converted into a touchdown. Uh-oh. I had a sinking feeling. You guessed it. The Bills won, and I was outtahere.
Undaunted, I tabbed the Pats again in week two of the 2012 season, at home against Arizona. It looked like a lock. The Cardinals were making the dreaded long plane flight east for a 1:00 game. The Cards were a mediocre, at best, team, and the Pats were, as ever, championship contenders.
I don’t have to tell you which team won — and who got knocked out of his Suicide Pool, unceremoniously, in week two.
This week, the easy game looks like the New York Jets on Thursday traveling up to play … the Patriots. Do I dare to go back to the poison well? Or do I smarten up and finally conclude that, like an evil woman, this dalliance with New England is simply bad news for me and that I am in over my head — and I’ll end up in tears?
I love the Suicide Pool. I hate the Suicide Pool.
I am the Suicide Pool.