Behind the Lines: I’ll take that bet

It was the best World Championship I’ve ever seen, not in person, but as close as you can get without being at Fenway Park or Riverfront Stadium. I was eighteen, away from home for the first time, and in the midst of a few dozen knuckle-pulling bastards, many of whom would become lifelong friends.

Our friend John, from Knoxville, Illinois, had the largest TV on our stand, a 25-inch Curtis Mathis monster from a set.

His room didn’t get a great reception but the corner room down the hall on the west side of Crane Hall picked up the Denver stations just fine. We moved his television into that room and packed about 25 people into the 16×20 door room. The men on the bed upstairs, downstairs, on a few chairs, and on the floor cheering, babbling, placing side bets, thoroughly enjoying what is often considered the greatest An all-time world championship between the Reds and Red Sox.

I was a fan of Cesar Geronimo, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, and Pete Rose, but was amazed by Jim Rice and Fred Lane’s play, and who among us couldn’t be a fan of Karl Jastrzemsky?

I found it interesting that during the last MLB players strike, ESPN began rebroadcasting the 1975 World Series and had higher ratings than the previous year’s regular season games. why not? A series of seven games marked by easy wins for both teams, but five games decided by one game and two of those going into extra innings are hard to beat.

Later that same year, we repeated the event in the same room with the photo gallery of the mostly rogues themselves, (apart from a handful who had already failed) watching the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 at Superbowl 10. Someone had a bet On almost every game, bet on whether Jack Lambert would step in or Roger Staubach would complete a pass among hundreds of other bets. Although I was a Dallas fan, it was great.

My friend Casey Lohmann from Pittsburgh brought back five cans of Stroh’s and Iron City beer from Steel City after the Christmas holidays. Casey was smart, always filling his car with Coors on the trip home where he wasn’t available and making mints. The Pennsylvania brew, along with smoked trout and wild game magically popping up before kickoff, was also memorable.

But adulthood is looming and watching sports on TV is more than a one-on-one hunt, perhaps with my parents or son, or in the case of a paid boxing match, a few friends who come in to buy streaming.

ESPN made things easier when The Great Sports Network came out in 1979. We didn’t get it in Laramie, but it arrived in the fall of 1980 in Lusk, where I had my first teaching and coaching job.

The Lusk Cable Company only had a dozen or so channels. They added ESPN during their high school football season sometime in October.

It was expensive for a first-year teacher taking in only $788 a month after taxes, so I didn’t buy it right away. My friend and fellow coach Mike Hart was better grounded and just right in his house.

One Thursday in February of 1981, Mike invited us all over to his spot to watch the good Wyoming team play Brigham Young.

I was only eliminated for a year from the University of Wyoming and had some friends and some acquaintances on Coach Jim Brandenburg’s team.

Chris Engler was sitting a year after he transferred from the University of Minnesota when I met him. My roommate Frank knew Job 6-11 from Stillwater, Minnesota from high school when they played each other on the Minnesota State High School course. We had a basement apartment with an upstairs room that was converted from a garage. The garage room ceiling was only 6-8, but the owner put a skylight in the middle of the room. At parties, Chris was standing inside the skylight, so he didn’t have to bend over.

I can vividly remember him saying “Bernie” as he reached out his big hand and waited for someone to put a can of foam in it.

Charles “Top” Bradley was the star of the team. Tub and I have had a lot of classes together and sometimes we share a study table at the Coe Library. He later played for the Boston Celtics.

Mark Rabe was 6-8 years old, a freshman who sat next to me in an accounting class. Wrapp had trouble getting up early and wasn’t interested in accounting. I helped him during class as much as I could.

I knew Coach Brandenburg so well, that he allowed me to attend closed training sessions.

I knew the Cowboys better than anyone else in the house that night when we gathered to watch them play the fearsome Cougars from Provo.

Two of the guys, including Mike, were smokers and periodically quit the game to quit and indulge their addiction.

We started betting on playing and possession in the game. This time it was a five, ten or twenty dollar bet, which is a lot for me on my hungry paycheck.

The match was tight from the start. Early in the second half, Mike came back inside and said I’d bet $5 that Engler make a hook off the top of the key.

I played mini games with Chris. I knew he couldn’t hit that shot and jumped on the bet. Sure enough, about a minute later, Engler hit a hook from outside the free throw line. Five dollars out, I was suspicious.

The next time Mike came out, I waited a few seconds and then followed him through a side door. He had the game on the radio in his truck. There was about a 90-second delay between the radio broadcast and the ESPN program. He bet all night, and he won it all because he already knew what was going to happen.

He didn’t see me while I was listening while Tub Bradley dunked the ball on a quick break.

“I’ll bet five bucks, Tub one will dip into the break,” I said to the stunned Mike.

“Listen, I’ll give you back five bucks,” Mike said. “Just don’t tell others.”

I didn’t tell anyone, I took my bet, and watched Mike keep running from the other coaches for the rest of the match.

It’s sad what happened to ESPN. Instead of the crisp, fun dialogue of Chris Berman, Hannah Storm, and Roy Firestone from the early days, the network took over the character cult and spent a lot of time talking about what some of the other clowns had to say. Court or on “I woke up” cases not related to sports.

But there was a time when Grid was shining.

It might have been the company, not the broadcast, that long ago made these games so special, but it would be more fun if they limited coverage of trends and politics and focused only on the pure fun of athletics.

This is a sure bet that will never pay off.