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Interview With NFL SuperContest Winner

After a rough two-week stretch that saw him go 2-7-1 in the the SuperContest at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, James S. was disappointed but made sure he would not get so discouraged to let his lead slip down the final stretch of the NFL season. It could not have been more appropriate that he was “Rounding Again” at the right time to hold off his competition and win the record $906,675 grand prize with 60.5 out of a possible 85 points (71 percent) in the world’s largest football handicapping contest.

James chose the alias Rounding Again from a quote in the movie Rounders used by Edward Norton’s character Worm to describe the state of Matt Damon’s Mike McDermott after he was kicked out of a cash poker game. “At least you’re Rounding Again, right?” Worm said. “You’re gonna thank me for that someday.”

“It was the first thing that popped in my head when I was there in Las Vegas,” said James, a 44-year-old Denver native who did not realize he needed an alias when he entered the SuperContest for the first time last August. “Nothing special to it.”

What was special was the runs James went on before going 0-4-1 in Week 11 and after a 2-3 mark in Week 12. He started the SuperContest with a 39-9-2 record through the first 10 weeks and then was 18-7 over the last five, finishing 4-1 or better 12 times.

“I had a goal – if I really wanted to get somewhere in the Top 5 – I figured I needed to get to 60 points,” he said. “That was nine weeks of 4-1 and eight weeks of 3-2. So that was my mindset, it wasn’t ‘I’m just going to bang out 5-0 all the time.’ To me, that was not going to be realistic at all. I had one week of 5-0. It wasn’t anything like, if I didn’t get 5-0 I was going to be disappointed because I didn’t have expectations of going 5-0 every week. I was going to be completely satisfied with nine weeks of 4-1 and eight weeks of 3-2. That would get me to the target, and the end result, there it was.”

As for the consecutive losing weeks most contestants who hope to finish in the money do not recover from, James said he stayed focused and kept his eyes on the prize. Of course it also helped to have short-term memory and remember the long-term goal.

“I don’t really remember, I might have subconsciously blocked out that 0-4-1 week,” he said. “But I remember the 2-3 week. And I remember two of those (losses), they were two plays away from going 4-1. One was Pittsburgh (at Seattle) and then the Monday nighter where I picked Cleveland, (Baltimore) blocked a field goal and returned it to win.

“That night I was crushed, that hurt. And then the next day, I was like, there’s still five weeks left. Get back to work, you’re not done yet, you’re still in first place. Do what you do. Of all the years I’ve been doing the NFL, December has always been my best month. Do what you’ve done and have the confidence to do it. I was fortunate enough to have made the right selections, kept it rolling, and got back on track.”

The only other losing week for James came in the last when he went 2-3 after trying to predict the top consensus picks in order to protect his lead. He had a 4.5-point cushion going into Week 17 and shared one common pick with the two other contestants tied for second, knocking them out before the games were even played. A third contestant in fourth place trailed by five points and needed to go 5-0 and have James go 0-5 to win it.

A 30-6 victory for the Houston Texans as 6-point home favorites against the Jacksonville Jaguars clinched the AFC South title for them and the SuperContest for James, much to the delight of his family and friends who joined him in watching the games at his home on Sunday. The financial aspect of winning it still has not sunken in for him, although he said he will not have a problem putting his winnings to good use.

“We indulged and had a good time (Sunday), and I’m feeling the repercussions from that,” said James, who describes himself as a recreational bettor and entered after he found out he could use a proxy to submit picks for him. “I wasn’t nearly as anxious or nervous as what thought I would be. I was actually more anxious and nervous in the weeks prior to (Sunday) because it was going to be such a longshot to not take it down.

“It’s still kind of stunning, it’s kind of humbling. The money, that part hasn’t really hit me yet. We tried not to get too far ahead of ourselves. Realistically, I have a mortgage, it would be nice to pay off the whole house and be done with that. We’ve got two boys in college, they’ve got student loans. Once they graduate, I can write a check to pay off their student loans. Those kind of things. Outside of that, nothing too extravagant. Have a little bit of fun with it, and then put the rest of the money to work for me.”