Sixteen-Year-Old Sam Chimenti Talks Sports
● By Kerri Regan
Sam I AmBy Kerri Regan
Photos: Kara Stewart
For the past two years, a North State sports wizard has correctly predicted the Super Bowl winner on the first day of football season - and he’s still five years too young to place a bet in Vegas.
Sam Chimenti, a 16-year-old junior at University Preparatory School in Redding, has been a scholar of sports since he was 8. He’s done numerous sports talks on local television and radio stations.
In September 2012, Chimenti predicted on the radio that his beloved 49ers would reach the Super Bowl, but that Jim Harbaugh would ultimately lose to brother John’s Baltimore Ravens by three points. The week before the big game, radio personality Don Burton asked Chimenti if his prediction would stand. “I wanted to change my pick and hop on the Niners bandwagon,” Chimenti says, “but I said the Ravens at the beginning of the year, so I decided I was going to stick with the Ravens and see how it goes.”
The final point spread? Three points, just like he’d guessed. Then in September 2013, Chimenti’s analysis put the Broncos and Seahawks at the top of their conferences. It’s rare for both number one seeds to end up in the Super Bowl, but “I couldn’t see anybody that could stop them,” Chimenti says. He predicted the Seahawks would take home the rings.
“You can’t beat the Seahawks at home,” he says. “They were my team from the beginning, like the Ravens were the year before. Everyone was big on the Broncos, and when I’d predict the Seahawks, people would say, ‘No, the Niners are going all the way.’ But defense wins championships.”
Before the game, he reaffirmed his prediction on the radio. “I stuck with my gut, and sure enough, they blew them out. It was the best defense against the best offense, and the Seahawks held the Broncos to eight points,” says Chimenti, who was so confident in the outcome that he napped through the fourth quarter. “I should have gone to Vegas and maybe gotten us a bigger house.”
This year, he thinks the NFC championship will pit the Arizona Cardinals against the Seahawks, and the Indianapolis Colts will face the Denver Broncos for the AFC. “The Seahawks have the best defense, and the road to the NFC goes through Seattle. The only team to beat Seattle, in Seattle, in the last two years was the Cardinals,” Chimenti says. “How good are the Cardinals? Pretty good. The defense is stellar. Right now they’re really banged up and hopefully they can power through it.” His pick: Cardinals. And the AFC? “It’s the same old story,” he says, words flowing off his tongue like a seasoned broadcaster. “The Broncos’ defense is better than last year, and that’s what killed them in the Super Bowl. Who will face them? The Colts. Andrew Luck is going to have a monster year. It would be a great story – Andrew Luck and the Colts face Peyton Manning, and Peyton goes out on top with the win.”
Finally, for the big game, he’s made a bold prediction: “It’s not going to be a blowout, but the Cardinals have better defense. That’s why, at the end, the Cardinals win the Super Bowl for the first time in their history,” Chimenti says. “The Cardinals can’t seem to stay healthy early on in the season, but I’m faithful that they’ll do work and they won’t let me down.”
His predictions center on a number of variables, starting with “my general opinion of how the team looks,” he says. “I usually wait until their rosters are set and they’re ready to go into the regular season. Who’s their quarterback, who’s their head coach - who you have at the helm is a big thing.
“It also takes a lot of luck,” he admits.
Football is “the best sport in America,” he says. “It’s my favorite sport to analyze and watch, even being a Raiders fan and not having a lot of good Sundays. Basketball is all about the superstars, so it doesn’t hold my attention as much. Baseball is such a long, long season - so many things can happen. I had the Rangers in the playoffs, and they ended up being one of the worst teams in baseball - almost the entire team was lost to injury.”
He’d like to pursue a sportscasting career after getting a communications degree, and he’s gotten some solid experience already - in addition to speaking on local TV and radio, and he presents the daily bulletin at school, adding his own flair. “It’s good practice,” he says. “There are days I’m perfect, and days like today where I get something wrong or talk too fast.”
He has also announced football and basketball games at U-Prep, but the fourth and youngest son of Joe and Debi Chimenti has stepped down from the booth and onto the turf for the first time this fall. He started doing the school’s football workouts just to get into better shape, and is now a wide receiver for the Panthers. “We ran routes and I realized I had a little knack for it,” he says. “I convinced my parents to let me be the first Chimenti to play football.”
One recent evening, after a full day of school and football practice, he glances at the TV to check the Monday Night Football score. “The Chiefs are killing ‘em,” he says. “I predicted they’d win, so that’s good.”