In this edition of his weekly column The Ticket, Adam Kramer is excited to see fans return to sports and how it’s affected sports betting. He also recaps his betting week and offers his picks for the week ahead.
I learned what it was like to gamble without fans in attendance. It was a little weird — at least at first — watching sporting events unfold in empty stadiums and arenas. But like most things, we adapted knowing that it wouldn’t stay that way forever. Inevitably, we would see fans return to sports.
The kicks in UFC sounded more violent, as if they weren’t already violent enough. The foul balls and home runs in baseball made it feel like they were playing in some sort of cavernous Little League park. And I will never forget what the NBA bubble looked and felt like — digital walls and fake crowd noise booming in from God knows where.
The Covid-19 pandemic did a number on the world, and sports were affected just like everything else. But the sheer existence of games and contests and outcomes — things to bet on, really — remained a constant presence in our daily lives.
I didn’t know, however, how I would feel when the fans returned. I didn’t know a loud, erupting Madison Square Garden would give me chills. I will never forget that, even if the Knicks never win another game this year.
I don’t bet on sports to generate profit. I like to make money, sure, and I can every now and then, but I would be lying to you if I said that was my primary motivation. Like most, I bet to be entertained and to feel, if only for a few hours, smarter than other bettors when things pan out.
But most of all, I bet for the rush. I bet because I enjoy it. I just never realized how much the atmosphere truly mattered, how important the fans are to the whole experience.
And over a few weeks, through Phil Mickelson’s PGA Championship triumph and the NBA Playoffs, I have realized just how much I missed them. It won’t change the way I bet, why I bet, or how I bet, but it will inject the spirit and emotion back into the watching experience.
The best part? We’re just getting started. Full stadiums are likely soon to be the norm again, and sports like college football and the NFL are on track to look and sound like they normally do.
The worst part? Fans interacting with players. Dumping popcorn on athletes, throwing water bottles at players, running onto the court — things that have all happened in the past few weeks. The NBA Playoffs have sadly been overshadowed by stupid people in the seats.
I get it, we’ve all been locked up. But that doesn’t mean idiocy should be tolerated. It hasn’t been that long: let’s act like we’ve been there before.
On the whole, the return of fans to sporting events is a wonderful thing…as long as everyone behaves themselves.
The Return Of Fans (& Normalcy) To Sports & Sports Betting
At the Window: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
THE GOOD: A Well-Timed Portland Trailblazers’ Bet in Game 4
The NBA Playoffs has been bumpy at times — see below — but I loved Portland as a 4.5-point favorite against Denver this past weekend in Game 4. The Trailblazers were down 2-1 in the series and responded with an easy 20-point win. There was something about this line that really appealed to me. I only wish more lines would do the same.
THE BAD: I Bet the Knicks…Twice
To be clear, I bet the Knicks the last two games, both of which were losses. It wasn’t quite a double-down scenario in Game 4, although the bet was a loser regardless. I also bet that Julius Randle would score more than 24.5 points in Game 3, which was more of a feel than anything else. Needless to say, that was an ugly sequence for the bankroll and the Knicks.
THE UGLY: I left a state where sports betting was legal, and it was jarring
Look, I have other ways to make a wager. I won’t go into details, but you get what I am saying. Still, when I left my home in Illinois and arrived in a state without sports wagering, it was somewhat jarring. Was I still able to make the plays I needed? Absolutely. But it also reminded me that much of the country still can’t wager on sports legally. I know this is changing, but it really can’t change fast enough.
What I’m Watching: More NBA Playoffs, the Belmont Stakes, and Mayweather-Paul
2021 NBA Playoffs
There is something comforting in knowing there will be high-level, high-stakes NBA postseason games every evening. Sure, you might think the NBA Playoffs are far too long (you’re not necessarily wrong). But to me, having a buffet of options to choose from is a wonderful thing.
Also, I will not bet on the Knicks again until next season.
2021 Belmont Stakes
Oh, yes. It’s time. While the third leg of the Triple Crown doesn’t get nearly the same publicity as the other races — unless, of course, a horse has won those previous two — I’m a huge fan of this race and the obstacle it presents to young horses. At a mile-and-a-half, this is an enormous test for three-year-olds in terms of length. Keep an eye out for my picks and breakdowns on the site later this week.
Floyd Mayweather vs. Logan Paul
First, allow me to complain. The fact that this event is taking place on a Sunday rather than a Saturday makes me sad. This is a perfect “fight” to order with your buddies and a bunch of beer and a non-work day to wake up to.
Regardless, I am still pumped for this. I wrote about my excitement a few weeks ago, and those emotions remain. Also, Chad Johnson fights on this card as well. Yep, I’m buying. Come by, bring some beer, and we’ll fake our energy for the following Monday.
What I’m Betting: Some Golf, Some UFC
One of the challenges of this weekly column is not being able to adapt to plays day-to-day and week-to-week as new lines emerge. That said, there are some lovely events on the horizon and bets to be made with the slate as it stands.
2021 Memorial Golf Tournament
Fun tournament at a great track with a loaded field. Here are a few win bets I’ll be playing this week:
Xander Schauffele to win tournament (+2000)
Hideki Matsuyama to win tournament (+2200)
Billy Horschel to win tournament (+5000)
UFC Fight Night 189
After a week off from UFC picks, I’ve got a couple for this week:
Jairzinho Rozenstruik (-118) vs Augusto Sakai
Marcin Tybura (-177) vs. Walt Harris