Why Athletes and Teams Suffer Letdown and Identifying Situations Following Disappointment
This is a multiple part series in which I’m going to evaluate letdown situations in sports. The college football season kicks off later this month, and the NFL follows shortly after the week of Labor Day. Pro football is the most popular spectator sport in the U.S., and along with college football, they make up the largest sports book handle and betting interests of fans.
A record $4.87 billion was wagered on sports in Nevada during 2017, including a record $1.7 billion on college and pro football and another record $1.4 billion on college and pro basketball. Major League Baseball was also a billion dollar bet sport at $1.1 billion. Nevada sports books won a record $248 million (revenue), which means there was a lot of letdown and disappointment for sports bettors. The betting handle in Nevada has increased each of the last eight years starting in 2009 with $2.5 billion. These numbers will seemingly continue to rise with the increased interest in online, mobile and in-play wagering. Yet, those betting numbers represent a fraction of what is wagered on sports at the leading offshore and online sportsbooks.
Nevada was the only state in the U.S. with legal single-game betting until the federal sports betting ban (PASPA) was lifted in May this year, clearing the way and opening the starting gates for individual states to prepare and pass legislation to allow sports betting. Delaware and New Jersey were up and running in June following the Supreme Court’s ruling, and Mississippi, West Virginia and Pennsylvania are primed to join them for football season. Other states that don’t get up and running soon may suffer a letdown themselves, but like athletes and teams, they will plan and prepare for the next opportunity.
Since football is king when it comes to sports betting, fan interest, fantasy football and daily fantasy sports (DFS), it’s not just the athletes and teams that suffer letdowns. The feeling of dissatisfaction, disappointment, distress and even displeasure will be part of the process throughout the season of letdown situations.
How players, teams and we as fans, bettors and supporters handle those letdowns and situations will shape not only our attitude and approach moving forward, but guide us to become stronger and more experienced to handle the adversity that hits a vast majority of players and people in contests, competition, wagering and all walks of life.
Here is a definition of Letdown:
A feeling of dissatisfaction that results when your expectations are not realized.
Throughout the football season, there will be many players and teams that suffer a letdown due to unrealized expectations. Coaches of course will try to motivate them to play to their potential. But letdowns occur to all players and teams through the course of a season and recognizing this, along with corresponding point spreads, is part of the identification and application process. We’ll discuss more as the NFL and NCAA football seasons approach and during the season as these situations present themselves.
But to use a most recent example of letdown and how to identify the potential before it hits a player or team, let’s look at last week’s Canadian Open on the PGA Tour. This event followed the (British) Open at Carnoustie in Scotland, a major championship that many touring pros prepare for in more earnest and compete in with great intensity. The weather can be a factor, just like for a football team that is playing a key conference game in poor weather conditions and travels the next week off a disappointing defeat. The human side of sports can really take its toll, and understanding and identifying emotion, motivation and potential let down situations can really set you up for more winning wagers and set you apart from the vast majority of fans and bettors that fail to evaluate these meaningful situations often enough.
So here’s a look at many of the PGA pros that competed in the Open at Carnoustie and then traveled across the world to Canada to play in the Canadian Open. Following the players name is their current FedEx Points ranking. Many of them were offered in tournament match-up wagering.
Dustin Johnson (1), Bubba Watson (4), Tony Finau (10), Brooks Koepka (13), Ian Poulter (34), Tommy Fleetwood (35), Byeong Hun An (36), Gary Woodland (37), Kevin Kisner (38), Matt Kuchar (68), Brandt Snedeker (77), Charlie Hoffman (88), Sergio Garcia (132).
We’ll note right away that Dustin Johnson won the Canadian Open. He also missed the cut the week prior at Carnoustie and the Open. His motivation is unlike any other player in the field when he plays the Canadian Open. First, he’s connected to the Canadian hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, as Dustin goes home at night to Gretzky’s daughter Paulina, who happens to be mighty attractive, and who is his fiancé and mother of his daughter. Johnson had huge fan support and clearly he would not want to disappoint Paulina, right? Second, the course fits his game beautifully, as he’s finished runner-up twice in recent years at Glen Abbey. Length is a big advantage on the course, and when it’s wet even more so. Sunday’s final round had a two hour rain delay, and Johnson entered with the lead and help up to win with a score of 23-under par.
But look at some of the other contenders that were all priced as top-10 players to win in the betting market. Bubba, Kisner, Kuchar and Garcia all missed the cut. Kisner and Kuchar finished top 10 at the Open the week before and Kisner was tied for the lead into Sunday. Koepka made the cut and Fleetwood was just outside top 10 and contending strong into weekend. Going through the grind and intensity of a weekend in contention can really take its toll especially at a major championship. A big letdown seems inevitable. Finau and Hoffman finished outside the top-25 in Canada and each shot over par in the final round when fatigue was more likely to set in from the previous week in Scotland. Some had good weeks in Canada like An, Fleetwood, Poulter and Snedeker, the latter two who missed the cut the week prior at the Open and again that’s better in terms of emotion and energy going to play the following week. But many players ventured to Canada after the Open in Scotland, some due to contracts with RBC, and not because they were mentally ready or wanted to be playing. Kuchar was an example, and he was favored in a tournament match-up over a lesser known. But Kisner was prime for huge letdown after the disappointment of leading the Open Sunday and all the emotion and energy sucked out of him. Those two lost tournament match-ups, as did Garcia to Poulter, who was more motivated with his push for the Ryder Cup. Garcia has just lost it since getting married and the Masters a year ago. Combination of off form, mental approach, little competitive edge and lack of course form or knowledge would have made him an easy target to fade after his disappointment at the Open too.
We’re analyzing these for you after the fact here, but went through some of the exercise in advance. Most wagers worked out, and a few didn’t. Point of this lesson and time on the practice range is to understand and analyze potential pitfalls that can develop with these situations, and recognize that a letdown is a very real human emotion that impacts performance, awareness and attitude when approaching the next contest or event. Letdown can also apply to winning teams off a big effort, and combining it with a bookmakers adjustment in the betting line can provide a real opportunity to cash in and take advantage of a letdown situation.
We’ll evaluate this more as it relates to football and identity potential situations and games where it may apply so we can all learn and be better prepared, and profit from the experience.
You can bet on it.
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay