Fittingly, the wind was howling in America’s heartland Sunday when a pair of childhood friends from rural Nebraska using the alias It Ain’t Breezy teamed up to win the Westgate SuperContest and $1.47 million.
It also was fitting that the duo of Eric Jensen, 38, of Grand Island, Nebraska, and Matt Kucera, 36, of Omaha, Nebraska, clinched first place when quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints breezed to a 42-10 win and cover vs. the Panthers as 13-point favorites (and their challengers lost on the Patriots).
They topped a record field of 3,328 entries that paid $1,500 apiece and made five weekly picks against the spread.
“We owe Mr. Brees a thank-you,” Jensen said. “With our name and taking the Saints, it was kind of our destiny, I suppose.”
It Ain’t Breezy, an alias that partly alludes to the wind always blowing in Nebraska, finished 58-25-2 ATS (69.9 percent). The duo went 5-0 in Week 15 and 4-0-1 in Week 16 to take the contest lead by 1½ points (one point for win, half-point for push) over Crispr., who was mathematically eliminated from title contention Saturday when the contest picks were posted.
Crispr., who earned $505,000 for second place, had four common plays with the leader in the Titans (-3½), Colts (-3½), Giants (+4½) and Rams (-3).
“I couldn’t sleep on Friday,” Kucera said. “It was 2:30 (a.m.) by the time I got to bed and I was up at 6. Once I found that out on Saturday, it was a relief.
“We knew he was a sharp bettor so we kind of knew what he’d pick. All the games that moved.”
Jensen was so confident they’d win, he sent his proxy, Kelly Stewart, a self-deprecating text during the week that said, “Bet you never thought two (small-town guys) from Nebraska could win this.”
He used salty language to describe himself — a water well driller — and Kucera, a sales manager for an insurance company.
“Two Midwesterners usually aren’t the guys that are going to win it,” said Jensen, married with two young daughters. “It’s the guys from the East Coast and West Coast where all the real gambling takes place.”
Kucera, who has a 2-year-old daughter, grew up in tiny Litchfield, Nebraska.
“To tell you how small and rinky-dink we are, I grew up in a town of 238 people and a graduating class of 15 in high school,” he said.
The duo grew up playing sports together and were college classmates at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. The recreational bettors finished around the .500 mark last year in their first foray into the SuperContest and signed up again in March during a trip to Las Vegas to watch the NCAA Tournament.
No bad weeks
After going a season-worst 2-3 in Week 1, they reeled off a steady string of 3-2s, 4-1s and 5-0s.
“We were consistent more than anything,” Jensen said. “We didn’t really have a bad week.”
After putting their kids to bed each Friday night, the friends talked on the phone for an hour or two to hash out their picks.
“We’d go through the card one by one. We’d argue a game here and there, but it was more fun than anything,” said Jensen, aka EJ. “He’s a favorite bettor and I like the (underdogs) more.”
They also adhered to a few rules, such as not betting against Tom Brady at home.
“I guess that would’ve worked out (Sunday), but usually that’s a no-no,” Jensen said. “The key thing for us is we play better quarterbacks and better coaches.”
Kucera said they each picked their “lock” of the week before reviewing the rest of the games and finalizing their five picks.
Coin don’t lie
To break a tie on the fifth pick, they flipped a coin given to them during their March trip to Las Vegas.
“We were at a bar at the MGM and there were some military guys at a table next to us,” Kucera said. “We bought them drinks and at the end of the night, one of them gave me an Air Force medallion and said, ‘Thanks for doing a good deed and taking care of us.’
“That coin, in every week but one, was accurate.”
Kucera and Jensen were back at work Monday and won’t be quitting their day jobs anytime soon. They’re also waiting to celebrate their win in Las Vegas.
After clinching their $1.47 million payday Sunday, Kucera built a Lincoln Log house with his daughter and Jensen shoveled snow.
“We had 11 inches of snow the night before and the wind was blowing,” Jensen said. “I was actually scooping my father-in-law’s driveway when the games were going on.”
More Betting: Follow at reviewjournal.com/betting.