LITTLE ROCK — Masterfully crafted, the invite to again participate in Poolsville omitted specifics from the 2011 competition.
The suspicion is that the organizer of the season-long, college football-picking contest knows suckers are harder to come by when confronted with evidence of their incompetence. That would explain why the note encouraging enrollment did not include last year’s results.
Funny, isn’t it, how memories and facts don’t always jibe. At the end of the season, I recalled a couple of 5-0 weeks and a respectable finish in the middle of the pack. For confirmation, a copy of the final standings was requested.
The initial response was a flip, “Are you planning to Nancy Kerrigan the top finishers from last season?” Firing back, a subpoena for financial documents was mentioned along with the possibility of an IRS investigation of Poolsville’s tax exempt status as a charitable organization.
Known only as “mattd,” the czar caved.
Viewing the standings, I regret asking for details. Twenty-six of the players behind me did not complete the season. Without bonus points for an upset or two, the raw score was 60 right and 52 wrong, a number found on the third page of single-spaced scores. The picks are straight up, W or L, and the games are so competitive that there was a week last year when 75 percent of the 164 participants did 3-2 or worse. The point spread per game is included for guidance and for those interested in pursuing bonus points.
People with the fictitious-sounding names Vivian H., Jeff K., and Joe C., finished one-two-three with at least 81 correct. Two dozen others had 70 or more.
In an attempt to legitimize the winners, a brief interview with “Vivian,” was included. She claimed to live in Tucson, home of the Arizona Wildcats, but said she is a fan of the SEC. She even provided an imaginative recollection of her detailed weekly research involved in her picks. Encouraging to all also-rans, the “interview” included the note that the 2011 winner was 30th in 2010 and 85th the previous year, a not-so-subtle suggestion that anybody can win.
Recounted in the standings were subgroup competitions, including a media league that was news to at least one participant. Depending on the perspective, I finished sixth or next-to-last.
The pool organizer styled the cover page of the invite to draw in a potential player with clever comments. Nowhere does it mention participants who obviously have access to inside info. It begins with undeniable reasons why college football is better than pro football. For instance:
—”College football has EPSN College Gameday, which kicks off every Saturday morning with “We’re Coming to Your City” and ends with Lee Corso turning into a mascot. Pro football has the lame studio shows that remind us that no one who watches the NFL goes to church.”
—”College football has Touchdown Jesus, Chief Osceola, Ralphie the Buffalo, Joe Vandal, Pistol Pete, the Sooner Schooner, Uga, Traveler, the Gator Chomp, the Blackshirts, the Grove, the Cal band, Howard’s Rock, Floyd of Rosedale, the Midnight Yell, Enter Sandman, Jump Around, and … Woooo Pig Sooie. Pro football has Sir Purr.”
Joining, the author said, is one of the best things “you will do this fall unless you find yourself facing a plate of chicken over the coals and batter-dipped fries at AQ Chicken House.”
Hooked, I re-upped. Immediately, came a welcome back with a reminder about the $10 entry fee.
This week’s games:
—Clemson-Auburn: Tajh Boyd vs. a quarterback to be named later. Clemson.
—South Carolina-Vanderbilt. Marcus Lattimore is supposed to be healthy. South Carolina.
—Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech. A vote for quarterback Logan Thomas. Virginia Tech.
—Boise State-Michigan State. Eight defensive starters return. Michigan State.
—Alabama-Michigan. Welcome to the SEC, Denard Robinson. Alabama.
Take that, “Vivian.”
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.