Thanksgiving — a Classroom Memory

November 24, 2011
Posted by Jay Livingston
If you become a teacher
By your pupils you’ll be taught
                                   — Oscar Hammerstein, “The King and I”

It was my Monday-Tuesday-Thursday criminology class, and the two guys, both tall and slightly overweight, always sat in the back row together. They weren’t the best students in the class, but I liked them because they were willing to get into the discussion, often with something that was both on-topic and funny. 

This was decades ago.  One day I was talking after class with one of them, and our conversation drifted to the topic of football and betting.  “George is incredible,” he said.  “Every Thursday he gives me a couple of teams for the weekend. He’s like nineteen and one. This guy’s paying my tuition.”

The next week was Thanksgiving, and on Tuesday, I ended class wishing the students all a good holiday. Then I said, “So George, what do you like this weekend?”

Without missing a beat, George leaned back, raised his index finger to indicate certainty, and said, “The Lions at home on Turkey Day.”

I can’t remember if the Lions won on the field, but I’m sure they covered.  I did not forget or ignore his words of wisdom, not that year, or the next, or the next.  As I said, this was decades ago.  In recent years you could have lost a lot of money following his advice. This year, the Packers are seemingly unstoppable.  They opened as 5½ or 6 point favorites and the line got bet up as high as 7 before settling down to 6 or 6½ this morning.  But the Lions are much improved team this year.

UPDATE:  The betting public must have been paying attention.  A lot of money came in on Detroit, and by game time the spread had dropped to 4½ or even 4.  It looked like a test for my skepticism about “wisdom of crowds” in sports betting (see an earlier blog post here with links to even earlier posts).  The crowd was on Detroit, and the crowd lost its shirt.  The Packers won 27-15. 

I wonder what George would say.

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