Who are these guys?

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles, CEO Sports Network

About this time every year, certainly in the U.S., they come out of the woodwork and bed sheets like so many bedbugs on the prowl. They are a plague of sorts, locusts attacking a field of corn but the corn, in this case, are the players, the punters, the bettors, the dreamers. They cover the landscape like the first major snowstorm of the season.

They are the touts, the handicappers, prophets and soothsayers. They herald to all who would listen and to all who have found themselves, like yours truly, suddenly on mailing lists, the same ones being sold over and over again to each of them. The missives and unending contacts descend upon you with the same consistency as pornographic sites, marketing ones, conferences, Viagra, Victoria's Secret, Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Democrats, Republicans, Moveon.org and a flood of others among which you search for something important, friendly, from a family member, seeking your interest regarding a new business relationship, the report from a recent medical check-up, your wife's confirmation of a dinner arrangement, a child's glee over a good report card.

The technological morass in which you are mired is a quagmire of quicksand and you get sucked in every morning, only able to extricate yourself thanks to the delete key. This swampland has self-proclaimed seers of the season who seemingly have a pre-ordained knowledge of who will be victorious, by the point spread of course, every Saturday and Sunday during the Fall and Winter seasons for college and professional football, respectively, on this side of the pond ... as one might say in Europe. Surely similar situations exist over there, notably for horse racing, soccer, cricket, rugby and who will win the next election or Academy Award.

They are everywhere...they promise "guaranteed winners," "100-star specials," "ten dimes of retirement" and any other language that entices, lures, tempts and beguiles you. Even the names they select incorporating such seductive and tantalizing descriptions as "bankroll," "players edge," "Winner" as part of the surname, "Vegas Edge," "Insiders" and others are intended to set the stage, produce the bait. You get the picture and all that is missing is the hook and fish. There is no end to it. They secret themselves between the folds of the Internet and e-mails. They will make you rich beyond your wildest dreams and make every game in which you invest a few dollars as joyful as waking in the morning and finding that you are still a member of the human race. You have survived.

That which bothers me, however, is if they are all so smart why share the wealth, why seek out small fees, promised percentages of winnings, your ongoing loyalty and funds, instead of just taking their own bankrolls and securing a permanent seat at Mirage, Red Rock, MGM, or countless others whose legal sportsbooks in Las Vegas will be only too happy to take their monies and, candidly, return same with winnings accounted for.

On the other hand, Bodog, World Sports Exchange, Five Dimes, Ladbrokes, Victor Chandler and many others will open accounts for them at the first sign of the sun rising tomorrow morning. Maintain anonymity, collect countless winnings, keep that enviable knowledge of the future to yourself and, among family, friends and those with whom you wager, become the prognosticator of the decade, perhaps the century, with your oracular and predictive talents as you wend your way to the shopping mall in your Aston Martin.

Sounds like a plan to me.

But, it is not the plan of these fatidic forecasters. Why would it be when they might not be as good as they claim and the lemmings out there are looking for a crutch, of any manufacturer, to help them hobble to the weekend wonders of football and win the waging lottery ... more than once every afternoon?

Caution is the order of the day. Wariness is the watchword. Concern is at the top of the checklist. A word to the wise is the warning. Be guarded and alert. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

SFF Suicide Pools
One of the more recent fads of the past decade has been suicide pools for the NFL. Thousands play, tens of thousands and all you have to do every Sunday ... including an occasional Thursday or Saturday ...and not worry about the point spread, just the winner. And, you cannot select the same team twice during the season. How tough is that? Piece of cake!!! So much so that thousands have already been eliminated and others are hanging in there thanks to missed field goals, dropped passes, poor coaching decisions, fumbles, errant clock management and all else that makes Tums such a necessity every weekend.

Understand this ... you know as much as the augurs and theorists. You really do. You just don't believe that you do. And, someone else's opinion provides you with the opportunity to either blame them for erroneous advice or compliment yourself that you know as much as they do but a consensus thought, a supportive one, was worth the payment to be made. The crutch wasn't all that expensive, so you say. Yeah, it was. The dependency on it was unnecessary. But, to each his own.

Do not tell them to remove your name from their mailing lists. That is simply notice that you are out there and they will persist. After all, what do they have to lose? Just delete, delete, delete ... it is good exercise for your fingers, a much better one than any thoughts of entertaining assistance from any of these folks.

Does anyone that you know really know so much about sports, about the NFL, for example, that they are setting up a reserved seat at the Mirage or Red Rock sportsbooks in Las Vegas for the season with a Cadillac and home in Boca Raton on hold?

You gotta be kidding!

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