Back in the day, before conglomerates and takeovers and Great Recessions and alleged Ke$ha snuff shots, the holiday season was as pure as any 2-year-old kid's intentions.
You could count on certain things -- like a tipsy Santa at the mall in St. Louis where I used to visit my grandparents. Or my mom getting mad about something, like us having too many cookies, and then banning sugar from the house ... forever. (No joke, I came home one day and found her on he counters pulling all the sugar cereals out of the cabinets and then the Haagen-Dazs out of the fridge. Gut punch. I swear that was the beginning of the end for my parents. My dad loved chocolate cereals.)
What I loved most was that, at any time of day for about a month between T-Give and Christmas, you could find the movie "It's A Wonderful Life" on television. It aired on local channels during the day and late at night on national networks. Jimmy Stewart and his aw-schucks warbling voice were as ubiquitous as that Zuckerberg guy is today. The constant airings became a national joke, a reference everyone understood. And then, after nasty copyright lawsuits that nearly ruined Christmas (for lawyers who deserved it, I'm sure), NBC retained the sole rights to air the movie. Now it's on only a couple times a year. Humbug.
To be honest, I don't even like the movie that much. I don't go for Capra. But I liked that I could find it at any moment. And I like that people watched even though they knew what was going to happen. Holiday traditions matter, and this was one of them.
Which is why I'm starting a new one. I've gotten a lot of questions about doing another Bowl Betting Bonanza series, like I did last year. It was actually one of my favorite projects from 2009, illuminating for me the huge differences between handicapping bowl games and college football's regular season. I thought there might be one or two theories floating around. I was wrong. There were actually eight factors, all based on sound wiseguy logic and math, that handicappers took into consideration. I ran them in three parts last year, Bowl Betting Bonanza I, II and III and then tied them all together to preview the BCS title game, using those factors to determine who would cover the spread. Remarkably, all signs pointed to Bama. And the Tide rolled. Hoo-ray, bettors.
So in the spirit of It's "A Wonderful Life" repeats, below are the first four factors from the original Bowl Betting Bonanza series, given to me by Kenny White, who used to run the oddsmaking service Las Vegas Sports Consultants.