With sports betting becoming more accepted and legalized in states from coast to coast, it seems fitting that the winners of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest, the biggest and longest running pro football handicapping contest, would be won by two friends literally near the geographic center of the United States.
Eric Jensen, a 38-year-old water well driller from Grand Island, Neb., and Matt Kucera, a 36-year-old territory sales manager for an insurance company in Omaha, Neb., teamed to win the SuperContest’s record $1.469 million first-place prize by topping a record field of 3,328 that put up the $1,500 entry fee and made five NFL picks a week against the contest spread with wins worth 1 point and pushes worth half a point.
Playing under the alias “It Aint Breezy,” they were leading by 1.5 points over “Crispr” entering Sunday’s final day of the regular season, clinching when they won their first play Sunday on New Orleans -13 (fittingly as their alias is partly a tribute to QB Drew Brees in addition to being a tongue-in-cheek nod to the fact it’s always breezy in Nebraska) and the three contestants who entered the day mathematically alive for the title all lost with New England -15.5 at Miami.
“I knew we were in good shape when ‘Crispr’ had four plays in common and couldn’t catch us,” Jensen said. “[Longtime leader] ‘Tuco’ was on Carolina, so the Drew took care of him for us, but we didn’t know we clinched with New England losing until we saw your Tweet [@ViewFromVegas].”
It Aint Breezy ended up going 3-2 Sunday to finish with a record of 58-25-2 (69.9 percent). Crispr held on for second place, 1.5 points behind the champs, to earn $505,190.40 as the runner-up. Pro’s and Con’s finished third, worth $275,558.40 in the contest that has seen explosive growth like the poker boom of last decade.
Interviewed Sunday night, the It Aint Breezy tandem sounded like regular Midwest guys. They played baseball together as kids, were high school friends and both went to University of Nebraska-Kearney, where they were industrial distribution majors. They describe themselves as recreational gamblers who first took a shot at the SuperContest last year (finishing a middle-of-the-pack 42-40-3) who are keeping their day jobs.
What did they do to celebrate their accomplishment? Jensen delayed our phone call to help his family dig out of a blizzard. Kucera built a Lincoln Log house with his daughter. Yep, salt-of-the-earth guys.
But they also have their differences.
“Eric loves underdogs and I love favorites,” Kucera said. “We would spend 1.5 to 2 hours on the phone every Friday night going over all the games to come up with our five strongest picks.
“Eric was telling everyone about it; I didn’t want to jinx it. I wasn’t sure we had a shot to win it until we went 5-0 in Week 15 and 4-0-1 in Week 16 when we took the lead.”
One person Jensen boasted to in advance of their victory was Kelly Stewart, whose KellyInVegas proxy service put in their plays every week.
“Eric called me about a week ago and said, ‘Can you believe two hicks from the sticks are going to win it all?’” Stewart said. Jensen confirmed the conversation, though he hinted the language was even saltier.
Jensen and Kucera weren’t quite as confident when the season first started. They went 2-3 in Week 1 and were only 5-5 before going 5-0 in Week 3. After going 3-2 in Week 4, they went 5-0 in Week 5 to improve to 18-7 (72 percent) and into the Top 100 for the first time.
“We felt if we could just pull it together and keep being consistent, we could stay in contention and get’r done,” Jensen said.