Sports wagering has come to Louisiana and it will have almost zero effect on my life. For those who have been counting down the days, I’m happy for you.
Good luck, we’re all counting on you.
There are a lot of unknowns on the future of sports betting, but there is one certainty – if you bet long enough, there will be a game or an event in which you will never, ever forget. And I can promise you this: It won’t be because you won a game. You might remember a sweet out-of-nowhere victory for two weeks. A tough, gut-punching loss? That will stay with you forever.
Consider it a badge of honor. One day you’ll be with your friends and they’ll start taking about how they got hosed on 3-pointer by Sacramento at the buzzer to uncover. “Let me tell you what happened to me a few years ago,” will be your standard response.
Scott Van Pelt of ESPN has a SportsCenter segment called “Bad Beats” that is as watched as anything on the entire network. It’s based on scenarios in which a betting loss was snatched from the jaws of victory. The unluckier it is, the better the story.
Of course, I’ve got one of those. And it is at least more than 30 years old. (See how you don’t forget?)
First, a little perspective. For the better part of 20-25 years, my sports wagering has basically been confined to college bowl season ($10 per game) and the occasional March Madness pool. I just don’t have the interest because, to be honest, it’s a lot of work.
Back in the day, I could tell you which teams hit left-handers in their home park (Cleveland!) or why you should bet the over on NBA games played on a Friday night (because they played even less defense than normal with the weekend coming up.)
All of that left me many, many years ago … but this story didn’t.
I don’t know the year (but it had to be in the late ‘80s) and I have forgotten all but the necessary details. The New York Knicks were at home and were favored by 2.5 points. I had the Other Team.
The Other Team put up a great fight, but as the seconds were winding down, the Knicks made crucial baskets and key free throws to go up by one point. The Other Team was going to play for the last shot and either win it or lose it at the buzzer. 5 …4 …3 … 2 and then the shot went up. Missed it! The Knicks’ Mark Jackson got the rebound, buzzer sounded, ball game!
Knicks win, Other Team covers the +2.5, everybody’s happy!
Knicks’ coach Rick Pitino started to walk to the dressing room and was halfway down the tunnel at Madison Square Garden when he was stopped and told to come back. I can still see the look on his face which basically said “why?”
Now, this was back in the days when referees and the NBA weren’t worried about every tenth of a second. Especially in a game like this where there was NO WAY the Other Team could win.
But it was ruled that Jackson had been fouled on the rebound and – I’m not lying – they put 0.1 second on the clock.
The teams had to come back out and Jackson had to go to the free throw line. You probably don’t remember, but Jackson had this unusual free throw ritual in which he would point at the rim and then take about a week and a half to shoot. You’d think that he’d go out there and spare us the histrionics.
You’d think wrong.
But he still had to make BOTH for me to lose. First one? Good. Here we go with the ritual again … second one … good. Knicks win by three and cover.
Pitino never even returned to the bench; he just stood in the runway and watched.
If I ever meet Mark Jackson, I’m going to ask for my $27.50 back.