NOTE: This article was made possible by the wonderful, handsome, and wonderfully handsome Chris Howell. Thank you for your support and friendship.
This past week my family got to hang out as a complete unit for the first time in a while. Myself, Moms, and my sister left our various global locations to meet up with Pops, who is currently working in Las Vegas. It was a great week, filled with merriment and me not writing all that much.
Now, Moms and my sister have returned to their East Coast abodes while I have stayed back in Vegas with Pops with the intention of writing, gambling, and maybe finding my purpose if I have the time to spare.
My goal was to write a gambling column about the final four games of the World Cup, similar to my work with The Hypothetical SuperContest during football season. While the gimmick of hypothetical dollars was tons of fun, gambling with actual dollars is tons of super fun in comparison.
The only thing standing between me and my dreams was acquiring those actual dollars. So I made a Kickstarter, which you can see (and donate to!) here. I set a goal of $100, which I thought to be a happy medium between what I could possibly raise with support of my friends and enough money to write a successful column. I promised that if any profits were made, the original investment of $100 would be donated to charity in some way, shape, or form. I also photoshopped this picture, which I am still ridiculously proud of.
Despite my impressive photoshop skills, I was still nervous about the likelihood of being able to raise $100 from a combination of kind strangers on the Internet and friends of mine who support my writing habit. A news story had been circulating on a kid who made a Kickstarter in order to raise $10 so he could make potato salad. His project as of today has received just under $32,000 in support from almost 3,000 backers. If I failed, this would be the insult to my injury.
But I would not fail.
Chris Howell, mentioned above, was the first to donate to the cause. He gave me $20, and more importantly, the faith that this was not the silliest thing I have ever attempted to do.
That faith led me to the sports book of Mandalay Bay, where I placed my first bet of this process: $20 on Brazil to advance against Germany.
Before we get on with it, I want to give a HUGE thank you to those that have supported my project thus far. I will deliver on all of your prizes in due time, but for now I just want to say – Chris, Sam, Sydney, Momma Rosenthal, Schneck – you are all heroes, and you have my sincere gratitude. If other readers of mine have any interest in supporting me as these fine champions have, I am still $10 short of my goal, which I have to reach by midnight on Tuesday. A $10 donation is good for a shout out on an upcoming post, as well as me “owing you one” which is really, in my opinion, priceless. Plus, the higher our starting bankroll, the more cash we can make. You can donate here.
The goal of this series is threefold:
- Write compelling journalism about the World Cup, bringing readers closer to the action and giving them a better understanding of both gambling and how to properly enjoy high-quality soccer.
- Give readers something to cheer for after the elimination of Team USA. Soccer is way more fun when you are invested in the outcome. By placing bets and having you read them, I hope that you will join me in exhilaration when our team takes the lead, and devastation when we lose on PKs.
- Win money for charity, plus enough to buy me a Double-Double from In-N-Out Burger.
Okay, thanks for getting through that exposition with me. What matters now is gambling, soccer, and the unifying experience of competitive athleticism. At 3pm ET, Brazil will face off against Germany for a spot in the 2014 World Cup Final. The inaugural bet of FFLV has been bestowed upon Brazil to advance: $20 at even odds.
Why you ask? Because betting on soccer is about more than just soccer. It is about faith, love, and karma.
Brazil has the collective faith of an entire country behind them. And while that argument could be made about any team in a World Cup (duh), Brazil has the distinct advantage of playing in that country that is supporting them. They have been unstoppable within their country’s borders for almost forty years. This is greater than home-field advantage; this is battling an interstellar war on your home planet. Team Brazil has the ability to send its supporters into euphoria or devastation. After every chant of “I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN” that I threw behind the USMNT, I want good things to happen to fans that will live and die with their team as hard as I did. And Brazil goes way harder than I did.
I have faith. Brazil has faith. We believe.
Gambling is also about love. While professional gamblers operate like mathematicians, looking at data and placing their money behind bets them deem as having “value” devoid of any human emotion, I am simply incapable of such a disconnect. You gotta love your team. And I love Brazil more than any other team left in this World Cup. More than anything, I love their plethora of one-name players; Hulk, Fred, Jo, Dante, and Ramires, you are all near and dear to my heart for your baller one-name status.
They even compelled me to google “why do brazilian soccer players only have one name” to which Google replied by saying, “Because Brazil is a dope country where everyone goes by their nicknames all the time, like, even the President does it.”
Most of all, I love little baby Oscar, pictured above. Oscar was born exactly one month before I was. His meteoric rise in the world of football mirrored mine in the world of blogging, if not in terms of fame, than at least in terms of timing. He’s super fast, and it’s amazing when he challenges players with the ball because he is so tiny in comparison to many of the grown-ass men competing in the World Cup. But he is a star. And with fellow single-name sensation Neymar out for the tournament, more pressure is on the young shoulders of Oscar than ever before.
I could be a cynical jerk here, and argue that he is incapable of stepping into the spotlight. Oscar is too young and won’t be able to handle the pressure with the eyes of the world and the beliefs of his country all focused on his small frame.
Or I could choose to believe in this boy, who could’ve been my classmate if he chose to forgo a career in professional soccer and receive his degree in higher education from a University in the Northeast Corridor. I can choose to believe that my peer is capable of greatness, greatness that I myself want to someday be capable of.
I’m going to root for greatness that will give me further belief in myself as a 22-year-old struggling through the calamities of becoming an adult. I am going to root for Oscar.
Regardless of what happens on the pitch tomorrow, talking heads will probably turn to this .gif as the turning point for Brazil in this World Cup.
Scenario A: Brazil loses. Pundits say this was inevitable after the loss of Neymar, that without him Brazil simply didn’t possess the offensive dynamo necessary to break down a team as solid as Germany.
Scenario B: Brazil wins. Pundits discuss how the loss of Neymar, inarguably the best player on the team, forced Brazil to look in the mirror and ask themselves what they are made of. They come out in a completely different lineup and formation than anything they have shown thus far in the tournament. They play inspired football, connecting on quick passes with what can only be described as a sixth sense uniting the minds of the team. Hulk, Oscar, and company exude joy with every touch, convincing Taylor Twellman to drop a “Joga Bonito” during post-game analysis, to the delight of everyone on the ESPN set.
Which of those two worlds is more fun to live in? Which of those two worlds is more fun to root for? Which of those two worlds are we going to bet $20 on becoming a reality tomorrow?
Let’s do this Brazil. I don’t care that you don’t have Neymar. I don’t care that you don’t have Thiago Silva.