by Mike Hayes - 05/24/2006
If Simon Cowell and the oddsmakers have this one right it's a foregone conclusion that Taylor Hicks will be crowned the next American Idol. If they are proven wrong, however, bettors can still get a nice price on Katharine McPhee.
The outcome will likely depend on who was more aggressive on the telephones following Tuesday's performances, those aligned to Hicks and his "Soul Patrol" or McPhee's, "McPhans", as they are dubbed, and if recent history is an indication the vote might be closer than the odds suggest. Just last week a record 50 million votes were cast with a difference of just about 300,000 votes separating the top and bottom vote getters.
Hicks, the prematurely grey 29-year-old out of Birmingham, Alabama, entered Tuesday's final competition as a solid -160 favorite over McPhee, who was a shade better than 2/1 to emerge as the fifth American Idol. Immediately following Tuesday's performances the odds on Hicks to win it all went to -500 at Pinnacle Sportsbook, with McPhee soaring to better than 4-1.
After each contestant performed two songs Tuesday, Cowell said that based on the performances he felt the competition was dead even. McPhee, the 22-year-old beauty from Los Angeles then performed an original song dubbed "My Destiny," which was followed by Hick's singing "Do I Make You Proud," also an original tune, which prompted the usually surly Cowell to declare that Hicks had just won the competition, quite an admission from the man who voted against the 29-year-old crooner at his initial audition in Las Vegas.
In fact, at the beginning of the competition Hicks seemed like the unlikeliest of winners, not because of his singing but because of dancing that prompted Cowell at one juncture to remark that Hicks looked like the average drunk father at his daughters wedding.
No one ever doubted this guy could sing though, especially when in his own bluesy soulful element, singing the likes of Elvis Presley and Elton John's "Levon," and as the weeks went on his popularity gained steam and if you noticed he no doubt by design kept the dancing to a minimum.
Regardless of who is crowned the winner tonight bettors savvy enough to wager on either finalist are looking at a healthy payout as both were double digits to win when the field of 12 finalists was announced. One reason for the fat odds was the belief that Chris Daughtry, the favorite throughout, was a shoe-in for the title.
Simon Noble of Pinnacle Sportsbook said American Idol has gained more interest among bettors than any other offering and based on the continuing popularity that is a trend that is unlikely to reverse anytime soon.
This season, the Tuesday performance shows averaged better than 31 million viewers, according to data from Nielsen Media Research. The Wednesday results show, in which the results of the phone vote are revealed and a contestant eliminated, attracted more than 29 million viewers on average.
It was expected that last night's show would attract as many as 35 million viewers, a number bettered on just two occasions this year - the Academy Awards and the Super Bowl - not bad company.
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