National Football League picks are kind of a bone of contention around the VillageSoup sports department. Our staff even debated having weekly guesses, as well as a guest picker’s picks, appear in the paper this year, as has been tradition for years.

Sports assistant Holly Vanorse did not much care for them, while sports director Ken Waltz had mixed emotions and associate sports director Mark Haskell said, “Yes.”

Since I, to toot my own horn, finished as the best overall football guesser last year, I was certainly OK with doing this dance again. I think Ken likes it because it shows readers what the “professionals” think about what will happen and I like having a guest picker too; it brings the community into the newspaper.

Ken eventually decided to hold the fun, weekly competition and, again, here we are. As of this week, I was ahead by two games with Ken right on my heels.

I’m not sure I know where Holly ranks (she is third among five guessers) but I don’t get the impression she cares too much. “No. I vote nooooo,” she wrote in an e-mail when asked if our group wanted to make the weekly football picks again this year. “Two thumbs down,” she wrote.

And Mark, well, we don’t like to talk about where Mark currently is in the picks (hint: fifth of five guessers). It is kind of ironic because he was a big supporter of the friendly competition in the beginning.

Needless to say, Mark and Ken, who have watched and played football since they were young children, are none too pleased about what has happened this year. Or, for that matter, last year.

Let us review.

Mark Haskell has been an avid football fan for about 20 years and a sports journalist for three. Ken Waltz, on the other hand, has been following the pigskin since before either of us were a twinkle in our fathers’ eye and has been covering sports for the media for nearly three decades.

Then there is me. I watch the Super Bowl … sometimes. I know who Michael Vick and Brett Favre are only because of the dog fighting and the movie There is something about Mary. I also like the Green Bay Packers because they were cool when I was growing up.

I am probably the least sporty sports reporter in New England and, for those who know me, that’s nothing new.

But, I guess, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while. But I seem to do it on a more consistent basis, much to the dismay of both Ken and Mark.

I am not even that competitive, really. I normally wouldn’t care about the picks but, let’s face it, I like winning. I especially like winning at something I’m not supposed to.

Normally a day at the office consists of me asking Mark or Ken what a nose tackle does or what does this mean in basketball. Sometimes they have conversations about teams trading players and how X is going to do in Y game. I usually go back to writing because, as far as I know, they are speaking Russian.

They also make fun of associate editor Dan Dunkle and I for talking about nerdy things such as video games and movies.

But, aha! This is my one chance to excel at something sports-like. It is all part of friendly office competition.

That does not mean Ken and Mark like it. Often Ken gives me a hard time. For example Here are a few select e-mail quotes:

“There is little that escapes Fritz’ eye when it comes to pro football. Except when the defending VillageSoup football champ asks: Does Dallas have a team? If I lose to Fritz again this year, well, I’m not responsible for what I will do.”

Also, this:

“Just to get everyone off on a positive note this fine Monday, be aware the best weekly record so far in our NFL picks is by Fritz, the man who knows more about football than Jaws (no, not the shark), the ESPN NFL analyst.

All I can say is: I’d jump out my first floor window, but I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt when I landed. Anyone got a ladder?”

Also, I often hear Mark, who plays Fantasy Football and knows every team’s injury report and every statistic known to mankind, getting mad at his desk. He grumbles around and I think about three weeks ago he just gave up. I remember him flipping a coin for one week’s selections.

I don’t even think I have a good record compared to the general public. I certainly don’t have an elaborate method.

I simply look up the betting odds on the teams. If the odds are high enough in their favor, I usually like -5, then I just pick them. If not, then I go to blogs and other sites and see what fans have to say. I especially like a website called, mostly because it has predictions ready by Tuesday, my deadline. Other sites don’t pick until later.

I figure if the other guys have years of experience under their belt I might as well have some tools to use.

That’s not to say it’s all my skill, there is some luck involved. Mostly luck, that is. About 80 percent luck, I would say.

However, I think I should tread more lightly here. It is a friendly competition, but just as you want your girlfriend to win at bowling, you probably shouldn’t beat your bosses at their own game.

I don’t know if that is true, but I thought of it while writing this and I should give it some thought.

Nah, I’ll just take the lead while I can.

*For reference: I had to spell check the football players names and teams with Google.”

Winning never gets old. Even if you do not know how you are doing it.