Exotic Prop Bet Mania: Profiting Off the Madden Curse

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When the average sports fan hears the word "wagering," for the most part they equate it with football and basketball, betting on spreads and total points scored. But if you read my work in this space, you know that the occasional prop bet is a fun diversion and oftentimes a chance to have more long-term wagering "investments" in your degenerate portfolio.

It's important that you understand, as you look around at the sports and entertainment landscape, you can wager on (and, in turn, drum up fabricated interest in) almost anything. Hell, I'm sitting on a "Phil Phillips +300 to win American Idol" ticket as I type. True story.

So is it any surprise that we can get some action down on an NFL phenomenon as old as the Xbox itself?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you your Madden Curse prop bet for the 2012 NFL season.

If you're unfamiliar with the Madden Curse, you probably skip over my posts anyway, but in case you're the one person who likes sports but doesn't know about this scourge upon the seasons of star football players, the players on the cover of the Madden video game, shortly after adorning in the box, are beset by misfortune ranging from injury to incarceration.

The cover boy for the Madden '13 video game (which will contain the rosters and stats for 2012...don't worry, I never understood it either) is none other than "Megatron" himself, Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, as voted on by you, the NFL video gaming nerds.

So, I know what you're saying -- "Damn, Sean...betting on whether or not someone is going to get injured? Really? REALLY?"

And to that I answer: "Fair question. Do I feel good about it? No. But an investment is an investment."

Now, I know what you're saying as a follow-up -- "Wow, Sean makes a GREAT point! What are the odds on this exotic prop bet of yours, Seanie my boy?"

And to that I answer: "Glad you asked, young gambling padawan! Here it is...."

So for the uninitiated, if you think Calvin Johnson will miss one full game due to injury this season, then you have to risk $280 to win $100; if you think he can play in all 16 games, then you can risk a mere $100 to win $190. (Overriding caveat on all of this is that he must play in Week 1 for the bet to be valid; if he doesn't play in Week 1, you get the amount you risked returned to your account to be flushed down the toilet on some other prop bet.)

So let's assess where the value is on this bet, based on history.

CALVIN JOHNSON MEDICAL HISTORY Let's start with the most important history and that's Calvin Johnson's personal injury history. Like a degenerate doctor, we pull out his medical file and find out the following:

2007 -- played in 15 games (started 10), battled a lower back injury for most of the season 2008 -- played in all 16 games 2009 -- played in 14 games, missed two games with a knee injury 2010 -- played in 15 games, missed the final game with an ankle injury 2011 -- played in all 16 games

So in three of his five seasons (60 percent), Calvin Johnson missed at least one game due to injury. MADDEN CURSE MEDICAL HISTORY Now let's move on to the 800-pound gorilla in the room and the reason this bet exists, and that's the history of the Madden Curse. You can go get full-on detail (up to 2011, at least) in a post I did on the topic, but for now here's a relevant summary of how each cover player did during the season in which they graced the box (Again, keep in mind the real-life NFL season in play is always one year behind the Madden-named year, i.e., Madden '13 is for the 2012 season...again, don't ask.):

Madden 2001 ('00 season): EDDIE GEORGE, RB, Titans...played in all 16 games, led the league in carries (403), and started to decline rapidly a year later

Madden 2002 ('01 season): DUANTE CULPEPPER, QB, Vikings...missed 5 games due to injury after a Pro Bowl season in 2000

Madden 2003 ('02 season): MARSHALL FAULK, RB, Rams...missed 2 games and only started 10 as the Steven Jackson Era was within range

Madden 2004 ('03 season): MICHAEL VICK, QB, Falcons...missed 11 games with a broken leg (also, went to jail a few years later, but that's not important right now...prop bet...focus.)

Madden 2005 ('04 season): RAY LEWIS, LB, Ravens...missed one game in Week 15 due to injury.

Madden 2006 ('05 season): DONOVAN McNABB, QB, Eagles...banged up all season, McNabb missed 7 games and finished the season on Injured Reserve with a sports hernia.

Madden 2007 ('06 season): SHAUN ALEXANDER, RB, Seahawks...missed 6 games with a foot injury and was out of football a couple years later.

Madden 2008 ('07 season): VINCE YOUNG, QB, Titans...missed one game due to injury and was benched the following season.

Madden 2009 ('08 season): BRETT FAVRE, QB, Packers...played all 16 games in a Jets uniform (among other activities....cough, Sterger, cough)

Madden 2010 ('09 season): TROY POLAMALU, S, Steelers/LARRY FITZGERALD, WR, Cardinals...Polamalu missed 11 games with various knee injuries, Fitzgerald played in all 16 games.

Madden 2011 ('10 season): DREW BREES, QB, Saints...played in all 16 games the season after winning a Super Bowl.

Madden 2012 ('11 season): PEYTON HILLIS, RB, Browns...missed 6 games with various injuries and left for Kansas City on a one-year deal.

So if we're counting Polamalu and Fitzgerald as separate entities (even though they are on the same cover), that's nine out of 13 players (69 percent) who missed at least one game. I understand that the argument in applying this percentage to anything Calvin Johnson-related is somewhat flawed because of positions, styles of play, age, etc. However, I'm counting the Curse as its own percentage, its own entity, much like the valet's B.O. on Seinfeld.

So if we're taking the Calvin Johnson medical history (60 percent of seasons with at least one missed game) and the Madden Curse cover players medical history in the season they had the cover (69 percent), the percentage that something happens to Calvin Johnson in 2012 while burdened by both the Madden cover and by being Calvin Johnson is a whopping 88 percent! (This doesn't factor in mitigating circumstances like Johnson being rested in Week 17 with some nagging injury to rest for the playoffs, an unlikely but possible occurrence.)

The -280 odds on Johnson missing a game equates to a 74 percent chance of it happening. So the play is simple, and it comes down to belief. If you believe in the Madden Curse and its 88 percent odds of afflicting Megatron, place the bet on it happening.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.

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