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Talk, Talk, Talk

   by Al McMordie - 05/16/2005

Back in the 1950s, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were the kings of comedy. One time they went on a popular TV show, and no one in show business wanted to follow them in the next time slot. It was guaranteed ratings suicide. Except one guy: Innovative TV comedy pioneer Ernie Kovacs. The brilliant Kovacs did something clever, a half-hour show with no talk: Just music and visual sight gags. He opened the program with a disclaimer, "From the moment you woke up through the entire day all you've heard is talk, talk, talk. Well you won't hear any talk for the next thirty minutes." That broadcast won an Emmy.

There's a lot of talk in sports, too, from players, coaches and media personnel. A good handicapper uses his eyes and intuitive powers to sift through statistical data, but it's also important to use your ears: Tune in to what participants are saying. During the Rockets/Mavericks playoff series, Tracy McGrady said he wanted to guard Dirk Nowitzki. McGrady stepped up to the task, playing very well as Big Dirk shot 46% during the regular season, but just 38% in the playoffs. In a Game 6 Houston win, Nowitzki shot only 5-of-22 as he continued his series-long struggles against McGrady's defense. If you like to play prop bets, this type of matchup would help you look at Nowitzki "under" any total posted on him each game. Nowitzki had just 14 points in Game 7, too. Although no one on Houston's team stepped up in a blowout loss to Dallas, as one final quote from McGrady summed things up: "We couldn't defend anybody. They were driving right by us."

Good sports handicappers aren't the only ones searching for quotes in an effort to find betting edges. Coaches use them, too, to help motivate their team. The Celtics talked endlessly about how great they were after a Game 1 blowout of Indiana -- only to have the veteran Pacers feed off that and win 4 of the next 6 games. Young players are more prone to "foolish talk," while veteran players are better at keeping their mouths shut.
<>It's more difficult in baseball to follow through on talk. During the Yankees' recent losing streak there were all kinds of talk every day from players about "We have to get serious and turn this around" as well as notes about team meetings led by Joe Torre and Derek Jeter. Nothing made any difference during their 11-19 start. Now they're playing better ball, though it's not because of the talk, but because of their bats. <> The piece of talk that received the most play over the weekend was Detroit forward Rasheed Wallace. With his team down 2-1 he proclaimed, "We're definitely going back to Detroit with this thing 2-2, no question about it." He delivered, along with Chauncey Billups, at both ends of the floor as Detroit won primarily with defense. Quotes from players like that don't always come to fruition on the playing field, however, as you may recall from the Super Bowl when Philly WR Freddie Mitchell shot his mouth off, then overslept for the game, catching just one pass late. Sometimes the public gets fueled by players predicting a win or a big game and all the money goes on the team with the big mouth, although that's not what happened Sunday as the Pacers/Pistons Game 4 stayed around 5 all weekend.

Perhaps the best quote summing up that playoff game came from Ben Wallace. After dropping Game 3 he said, "We have to do a lot less talking and a lot more playing." Still, keeping an ear out for significant quotes that hint at a team's psychological state can be an important edge for betting sides, totals and props. You won't win an Emmy, but at times it can help you win at the betting window. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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