Marketing 101 and Gambling 43.7

Last week I drove over to New Castle, Indiana to sell books at the City Securities Hall of Fame Classic. The four-team tournament is held in New Castle’s Chrysler Arena every year, hosted by the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. The HOF is selling copies of Thirty-Two Minutes in March at their gift shop, and I asked if I could sell copies during the game.

As I’ve written before, Chrysler Arena is the largest high school gym in the U.S. Maybe in the world. It’s a classic fieldhouse structure, with one large seating area arranged in a bowl around the playing surface. The floor is below ground level, and the place seems dark as you enter and descend the stairs to your seat. The parquet floor trimmed in green reminds me of Boston Garden. When I entered the gym at about thirty minutes before tipoff of the the first game, about half the 9,000 seats were already occupied.

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The tournament featured the New Albany Bulldogs against the Warsaw Tigers, and the Lawrence North Wildcats against the Logansport Berries in the morning session. (Berries. Get it? Like, Loganberries? Maybe it’s an Indiana thing.) The consolation and championship games were scheduled to follow that evening. I’d guess that about half the people in attendance were New Albany supporters, with a significant number of non-partisan fans mostly there to watch the Bulldogs’ Romeo Langford.

I liked hearing the Southern Indiana accent that reminded me of my hometown just across the river, and several Bulldog fans came up to thumb through the book and talk about basketball. I sold several copies, but not everybody was in a spending mood. One guy came up and talked for a while, showing me pictures of all the Indiana basketball memorabilia and baseball artifacts in his “museum”. After a few minutes, he offered me an opportunity to donate a copy of my book, promising me that he’d also give out my business card to anybody who visited. I asked him if his museum was open to the public, and he shook his head, saying he only lets people in that he trusts. Which makes it sound less like a museum and more like a private collection. But, being in sales mode, I kept this observation to myself.

Another man came up with his adult son, and we talked high school hoops, New Albany basketball, and the Louisville Cardinals. He told me that Langford wasn’t even among the best five players to come out of New Albany. I can’t think of five better players to come out of New Albany. I’d be open to his argument, but I didn’t want to come across as challenging his opinion, so I didn’t ask him to name those players. Again, sales mode. Always be closing.  

Then there were the people who just walked up, said “How much for the book?”, and handed over a twenty without even browsing the cover. Which startled me. It’s not that I need the interaction; hell, I’m borderline sociophobic. I guess it’s just so different from how I’d purchase a book that it surprised me.

In the morning session Logansport and New Albany both advanced, with New Albany claiming the trophy by a score of 58-33. Langford was named tournament MVP, of course. But by then I was almost back home, driving west past frosted Indiana cornfields.

                                               *****

I’m making a comeback in the NCAA handicapping contest. As I’ve mentioned, nine of us created a pool to pick five NCAA games per week against the spread for fun and prizes. After a dismal start, I began this week at 2-0 after Canisius won by three and Evansville easily covered a two point spread against Northern Iowa.

I stumbled a bit last night, taking Western MIchigan plus 10.5 against Ohio. (I think Western lost by around 160 points), but my handicapping was solid. (“Solid handicapping” being the last refuge of a losing bettor.)

In general, I’m focusing on mid-major conferences, in the hope that the point spreads will be softer than for games that people actually watch. Since they’re not generally on TV, I often can’t even see the teams I’m betting on. Which may end up being a good thing. I tend to imagine I’m gaining a special insight when I watch teams carefully, and that conceit has cost me dearly in the past.

So, if you’re scoring at home, I’m 2-1 so far this week. Tonight (Wednesday) I’m on Southern Illinois minus one against Indiana State. The Sycamores can’t shoot a lick (why am I suddenly channeling Slick Leonard?), and I thought it would be a good bet even laying four points, so I jumped on the number as soon as it came out.

I’m not as confident in my other wager, taking the Missouri State Bears plus 9 points on the road at Illinois State. In this game, I’m really betting more on the expected pace of play rather than the teams’ relative quality. The Bears rank 248th in possessions per forty minutes, and the Redbirds are 256th. Illinois State also shoots a horrendous 67% at the free throw line (247th in NCAA Division I), so I think it’ll be hard for them to cover a large spread.

I’d rather be getting ten or eleven points, but, hey….it’s gambling.

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