Thursday, August 30, 2007

Counting Down to Kick Off

With a few days to go to the opening kick off on Thursday the 6th of September, many American football fans are ignoring friends and family to spend all waking hours combing through annual guides for inside information on which teams to back this year with their weekly pool selections.

If you feel you must bone up on football before the season, I recommend consulting award-winning University of Chicago Professor Steven Levitt's article:

Professor Levitt is also the co-author of the best-seller, Freakonomics.

On another subject, I want to respond to questions about the on-line poll that appeared on this blog last month. How could a Coventry lass like myself born in 1977 possibly know about a cheesy show on American telly during the 1960s?

You have my new boyfriend Archibald to thank for our August Gilligan's Island survey. Archibald is a historian of popular culture who has just completed his doctoral thesis at the University of Syracuse, The Transatlantic Transmogrification of the Court Jester Archetype from British High Culture to American Low Culture: Falstaff to Connecticutt Yankee to Dobie Gillis. I can't believe anyone other than dear Archibald would be interested in such a topic, but he's now received a Bradley Foundation post-graduate fellowship to pursue his passion for telly history.

Archibald advises me that almost all football fans reading my blog will be interested in debating such weighty matters as Gilligan's choice between Ginger and Mary Ann. I've handed Archibald the task of coming up with a season's worth of poll topics on popular culture. During the footie season I will be polling my readers from Thursday to Sunday morning on which of my picks you think has the best chance to be a winner. Each Sunday to Wednesday, the poll question will be a TV quiz devised by Archibald.

In closing, I should mention that Archibald was taken aback by Mary Ann's overwhelming victory over Ginger. In fact, if Archibald had not himself voted twice for Ginger (his bad joke being that Ginger deserved at least a pair of votes) even the Professor would have finished ahead of Ginger in the hearts of Lady Godiva readers.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Introducing Lady Godiva's Weekly NFL Picks

Greetings, fans of gridiron or football as you call it here in North America.

I am Dr. Veronica (Ronnie) Gipp. Born and raised in Coventry, England, I know nothing about American football rules or strategy.

Despite my ignorance of your brand of footie, over the past six National Football League (NFL) seasons I have averaged a 53% winning percentage picking winners against the point spread in a non-profit office pool. I won first prize in 2005 for picking winners in 57% of the games and finished 4th last year with 55% winners.

I call myself the Lady Godiva of football picking. Like the original Lady G, I hail from Coventry, am naked (of football knowledge in my case) and have a pack of foolish lads trailing behind me wondering how I get away with it.

To pick NFL winners, I ignore all team and individual stats. Instead, I exploit persistent patterns in home team and road team winning percentages against the spread.

I might not finish first every week. But, I fancy my chances against any self-proclaimed football expert over a full season.

On Thursday, September 6, the NFL season will start and I will post a full set of picks for all 16 NFL games that week. I will continue every Thursday until the Super Bowl in February 2008.

You will NOT be able to use my picks to make a living betting on football. To cover the commissions charged by bookmakers and gaming houses, you need to win 55% of your bets just to break even. Only con artists promise a betting system that can consistently win at a 55% rate.

You WILL be able to use my picks to improve your odds of winning a friendly, not-for-profit NFL office pool where everyone chips in a modest entry fee at the start of the season and the person with the best record at the end of the year takes home the pot.

My picks should be of special interest to women as well as those few sensible men who have no interest in football, but have been pressured into participating by the office jock in charge of your local football pool.

How did I become a sporting Nostradamus? While doing graduate work at the Indiana Institute of Technology (IIT), I wasted many hours in front of the boob tube watching football with Reginald, my first North American boyfriend. I could never make out why those fat slobs wearing colourful hard hats were deliberately crashing into each other.

Reginald insisted that I join the NFL pool run by one of his student buddies. According to Reginald: “The more women in the pool, the more money for me to win.”

I accepted Reginald’s challenge after putting in a small amount of research. I discovered convincing academic work identifying consistent historical patterns in football betting. The data are freely available, but few professional gamblers make use of useful information. Most gamblers are learned fools like Reginald poring over meaningless team statistics, injury reports and something that I never understood that he called “key match-ups”.

Sadly for Reginald, he never twigged to the Scottish gambler Macbeth’s advice that a computer full of football data amounts to no more than:

… a tale told by an idiot
Full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

Reginald devoted so much time to analyzing each game in minute detail that he lost everything – first yours truly and then his IIT scholarship. The last I heard, Reginald was living in Las Vegas supporting a retired exotic dancer and his gambling habit on his modest salary as a teaching assistant at the University of Nevada.

Reginald is long gone from my life, but he did leave me with an abiding passion to beat the pants off men at their own game – the football pool.

So, let the word go forth. Lady Godiva will be here each week from September to the Super Bowl with a full set of NFL picks.