LITTLE ROCK — Carelessly double dipping, the man in charge of the college football pool slipped up.
Known only as M.D., the caretaker of the $10 per person, season-long competition notified participants that somebody named Josh in Arizona took down the $800 top prize and Ramon Escobar Trophy in 2012. Apparently, the mastermind forgot that his wrap-up of 2011 identified the winner as Vivian, also from Arizona.
What are the chances that a friendly competition, where virtually all the players live in Arkansas, was won by an Arizona resident in back-to-back years? To that, M.D. responded: "Maybe it is because the Pac 12 people are more objective and not picking with their Southern allegiances."
Once others called his hand on two same-state winners in a row, M.D. tried to recoup with a purported Q and A with the "champion."
The interview was the worst of the canned quote genre. The word "exciting" appeared twice in the same paragraph, the winning formula was touted as research with a warning against thinking too much, and plans for the windfall ranged from paying down a credit card to going to Vegas.
About to hit delete, I reviewed the 2012 standings and found that I had finished behind 64 others, but ahead of almost 100 — a marked improvement from 2011. Possibly to encourage another $10 investment, the list of stragglers was seeded with a couple of former champions and I wondered if everybody in the pool received identical standings.
Good enough with words to succeed in public relations if his gambling empire crumbles, the Poolsville policeman has a knack for keeping his fish on the line. In my case, it was a broadside at Lee Corso, who used to spend Saturday nights second-guessing every unsuccessful third down call and now spends Saturday morning donning mascot heads. In the pool primer was the note that "You cannot change your pick because Lee Corso has decided that somebody out there knows something, and I’m going with that somebody …"
For those needing a Vince Lombardi pep talk, he added, "And if you are near the bottom of the standings halfway through the season, don’t quit because there is still a long way to go."
He did not mention that he could be liable for refunding up to $5 to anybody who bailed before midseason.
Knowing the betting-line favorites win most of the time, he made a thinly veiled attempt to push pool participants to pick the underdogs, particularly the ones that are double-digit dogs. In such a case, the favorite is worth two points, but the underdog nets twice that, he pointed out.
The only one of the five games that meets that criteria opening week is Oklahoma State over Mississippi State — one of three games where the Southeastern Conference could lose. Others are TCU-LSU and Georgia-Clemson. Personally, Ole Miss-Vanderbilt tonight is the most interesting since both are considered up-and-comers in their divisions of the SEC.
Despite being flushed with a $4 profit from golf last weekend, I was still waffling when the desparate entrepeneur forwarded a supposed quote from somebody he described as the 2004 pool winner, knowing full well the gentlemen finished 24 points behind me in 2012.
"I sat in a motivational seminar once and the speaker asked when you die and people look back at your life, what do you have to show for it, what can be said that you accomplished," wrote Chris B. "The speaker started to name all these professional accomplishments and social accomplishments that people would like to have said about them. I sat there and thought, the h … with that, I won the Ramon Escobar Trophy."
Inspired, I handed $10 — cash just to keep secure my checking account number — to a co-worker who claimed he knew a guy who knew a guy who could deliver the entry fee.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.