At the end of January as the Super Bowl approached, I noticed a gambling site commercial running regularly on TV. “Life is more fun with skin in the game,” it said.
I don’t bet big bucks on football, but I have been known to put up a penny a point in a competitive bridge game. Or a nickel a point with my elderly neighbor, Mr. Mac, who was a pretty slick gin rummy player who served in World War II. “Deal the cards, luv,” he would say, knowing he was about to clean my clock and shuffle home with a whopping $5.45.
The commercial also brings back long-ago memories of a small Mississippi Delta community. When fall rolled around, the two main topics of conversation in our circle of friends were cotton harvest and Southeastern Conference football. And a jovial, penny-ante fellow who ran an establishment in one of the downtown brick alleyways took bets on the Saturday games. I was a rabid college football enthusiast, and, at the time, I even kept up with on-going team records and power ratings as a sort of hobby.
We didn’t have much money, but I sure did want to put down a five spot on a game or two. The kicker was this guy didn’t allow women in his joint, so my husband had to place my bet. But he did tell him it was for me. All the local guys were betting on Mississippi State or Ole Miss or Alabama or whichever SEC team they favored.
One year, while conducting my research, I noticed that Boston College was doing really well, so I decided to invest my “$5 life savings” on them. And I started winning. My oddball bets were a source of amusement for the local SEC crowd. But I did gain enough respect from the establishment owner that he finally called me to say I could drive down the alleyway, but not come inside, to collect my $10 bounty in person.
This walk down memory lane is not an endorsement of sports gambling, but it reminds me that farming has been compared to taking a gamble as well. And if you are going to gamble, you have to do your homework. So as the 2021 season gets underway and you choose varieties and other crop inputs, study the numbers and “power ratings” from reputable sources before you make that investment.
Having some skin in the game is fun, but it involves incurring risk. Making a profit in the end based on careful research and planning is smart. Don’t forget that your livelihood depends on it.