I am here to tell you that betting on sports is a bad idea. Betting on sports is akin to being told to sit in front of your television set for three hours under the premise that at the end of that time someone will give you fifty dollars. Except that when you are betting on sports, at the end of the three hours, more often than not, you fork over sixty dollars to that somebody.
In between marriages in the early Nineties, I was betting on sports. I always thought that it would be an easy way to pick up some extra cash, so I picked up the phone night after night and betting on sports became a way of life for me for about one year. Looking back now, I can honestly tell you that although I did win sometimes while betting on sports, I do not remember a single one of those occasions. But I can recite chapter and verse the losses I incurred while betting on sports, so fresh in my mind they remain.
The only betting on sports terminology I am going to introduce you to are the words used to describe a horribly gut wrenching loss. This term is “bad beat”, and if I am not the poster child for this phrase, then God help the fellow who is. I took some of the baddest beats you could possibly imagine while betting on sports, so many in such bizarre fashion that it completely broke me of the will to ever do it again.
I tried betting on three sports. Basketball was my favorite at first. I would usually take the favorite to cover the point spread, or in other words, the team I chose had to win by a certain amount for me to win my wager. Quickly, I realized the importance of a half point in the game of basketball while betting on sports. If my team needed to win by four and a half, they would win by four. I learned there is no such thing as a meaningless shot at the buzzer while betting on sports. This lesson was learned in the hardest manner you could ever imagine.
Before Connecticut was winning national titles in college basketball, they were an up and down team. They had some great players, but were usually in that second tier of teams in the Big East Conference, the ones that could spring an occasional upset of the established powers. Being from the Nutmeg State, and getting into betting on sports, I decided that UConn would be a great team to back one evening as they played St. John’s. The Huskies were getting eight points, and as I watched them go down to the wire trailing only by three with seconds to go, I knew that betting on sports was going to be a great way to supplement my income.
Then, at the buzzer, UConn’s Tate George hit a three pointer. The significance of this was that there is no payoff for being correct in regulation. If I am telling this particular betting on sports tale, you know that UConn proceeded to lose by double digits in overtime, and my good feelings towards the state’s collegiate team suddenly turned to contempt. I tried to regain my lost momentum in the next few weeks by handicapping the Atlantic Ten Conference. This betting on sports experience soon made me hate my neighbors to the north and east, as both Massachusetts and Rhode Island betrayed my trust on a continuous basis. I went all the way to the Left Coast in an attempt to be successful while betting on sports, but all this did was convince me that Jason Kidd was owned by the mob as he ran the point for the Cal Golden Bears.
Betting on sports had not been kind when the sport was basketball, but I reasoned that baseball was something I knew more about and besides, my team only had to win the game; there were no point spreads to get in the way. I found out one thing in a hurry though. There is no such thing as a safe lead in baseball when you are betting on sports.
I watched the San Francisco Giants blow a big lead to the now relocated Montreal Expos; if I had my way they would have been relocated to Death Valley. I vividly recall the run that would have tied one game for me being thrown out at the plate by a man backing up a base on a wild throw who had no business even being at that point on the field. But perhaps my worst “beat” while betting on sports was my Yankee-Royals bet, where in the bottom of the eighth inning, with the Yankees up by nine runs and with the bases loaded, the Royals’ Brian McRae made what had to be the best catch I ever saw. He sprawled out on the warning track fully extended to rob a Yankee of extra bases, and prevented three runs from scoring. At the time, since I just needed New York to win the game, I didn’t realize that my all-time low while betting on sports was about to occur; remember, the Yankees were still up by nine runs, needing but three outs for me to reap the benefits of my wise decision to go with the Bronx Bombers.
However, they soon became the Bowery Boys, as Kansas City mounted a furious rally off two Yankee relievers. When the late Steve Howe could not quell the Royals’ bats, Steve Farr was called upon to do the job. When the dust cleared, betting on sports seemed like a good way to supplement a heart attack or stroke, and I had new meaning to the expression “how far”. As in, “The Royals just hit another home run. Howe Farr?” When the Bronx Bumblers’ Don Mattingly left the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth and my “bad beat” was sealed, I launched a campaign to make sure that he is never elected to the Hall of Fame. This was new meaning to the idiom “a Royal flush”.
But even a loss like that didn’t shake my urge to keep betting on sports. After all, I hadn’t tried the NFL. I came though to understand that these initials did not mean National Football League. They either meant Not For Lindell, or No F – – – Luck! I tried every which way there is available in the world of betting on sports to win a bet on one of these games. I lost because my team failed to cover the point spread on numerous occasions, but then I discovered the concept of total points. Here was a way of betting on sports where it didn’t even matter who won the game. What a silly loophole to let me slip through and make my fortune I thought as I sat down to watch the Steelers and Bengals play, with the only worry I had was that these two offensively challenged squads didn’t combine to score more than 43 points. Three hours later, I was a bit concerned as the Steelers kicked off to Cincy with under a minute left. Although the Steelers had the game in hand, a late touchdown would make the point total 46, and make me a loser once more.
When the Steelers kicked off and tackled the return man inside the ten yard line, I never felt better about betting on sports. Wait a second, there’s a flag down. It was offsides on some nameless Pittsburgh special teamer. A re-kick, five yards further back yielded a bit better field position for the Bengals. Another flag though. It’s the same gentleman offsides again. Oh my, I’m thinking. Betting on sports sure is thrilling. Another re-kick, this time from even further back as the penalty is assessed against Pittsburgh. Cincinnati returns it, but not too far as to make me squirm, but there is yet one more flag. It is against the same stinking rotten individual, who I am now convinced is betting on sports like me but with the opposite aim; he needs the Bungles to score to cover the total. By now the Steal Curtain is kicking off from about their own end zone, and when the Bengals return it deep into Putzburgh territory and score as the clock expires, my career of betting on sports officially ends.
Over the years I have forgotten the name of that Steeler who kept going offsides on a meaningless kickoff. I don’t remember the names of the referees who kept calling it. I only remember the feeling of triumph turning to defeat. I have never delved back into betting on sports since that beat. I know how James Caan’s character Axel Freed, in the film “The Gambler”, felt when he needed Laker’s legend Jerry West to hit one of three free throws to make him the winner of a huge bet he needed to hit to get back to even. West missed all three, and Caan lost. Had I paid more attention to that movie, I would not have needed to find out first hand that you cannot ever get back to even once you start betting on sports.