Does anyone reading this actually bet on sports? Absent the possession of “Grays Sports Almanac” from the movie “Back to the Future Part 2,” I just don’t see how it’s worth the risk unless you have more money than you need and feel like getting a rush.
When the calendar turned to August, I thought back and wondered how close I was to the one-year anniversary of the Pearl River Resort offering sports betting. Sure enough, a quick search through our archives revealed that I visited the Golden Moon Hotel and Casino’s Sportsbook at Timeout Lounge on Aug. 30 of last year.
Time sure flies. If you need a refresher, a Supreme Court decision in May 2018 struck down a 1992 federal law that prohibited sports gambling in most states. Seeing the opportunity at increased revenue, the Pearl River Resort naturally decided to offer sports betting. I was there for the opening day of the Timeout Lounge, and the first person in line, Eric Johannsen of Hickory, bet on the Saints winning the Super Bowl.
Were I in possession of “Grays Sports Almanac, 2018-19 Edition,” would I have had the heart to tell Johannsen about the no-call that denied New Orleans a trip to Atlanta? Probably not. I wonder if that experience will keep him from sports gambling the way my experience as a senior in high school has turned me off to the idea.
First, some important background information: My first two years of high school was at Central in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Central was the, ahem, central high school for everyone in the Tuscaloosa City School District at the time. Ironically, the school was so big there were actually two campuses: the Western campus, located on Tuscaloosa’s west side, and the Eastern campus, located near downtown Tuscaloosa. Kids in ninth and 10th grade went to the Western campus; the 11th and 12th graders attended classes at the Eastern campus.
During the 2002-03 school year, the school district decided to split the Central student body into three smaller schools, a decision I still resent to this day. Central remained but was now host to only a third of the school district’s high school students, which all attended what was the Western campus until the Eastern campus was torn down and replaced with a new building. The other two schools were Northridge High School, located on the north side of the Black Warrior River, and Paul W. Bryant High School, located on Buttermilk Road near Cottondale.
I was zoned for Paul W. Bryant and attended my junior and senior year there. As the two newer schools in the Tuscaloosa City School District, Bryant and Northridge became big rivals almost immediately. My junior year at Bryant saw the Stampede (cool nickname, right?) defeat the Northridge Jaguars in football twice, as the teams were forced to schedule each other twice in their inaugural seasons. Fast-forward to my senior year, and Bryant was favored to beat Northridge again.
My introduction to journalism didn’t come by newspaper writing, but rather, from Mark Raines’ TV production class at the Tuscaloosa City Schools’ Center for Technology. Students who took classes like TV production were bussed to the technical school, or drove if they were old enough. Anyway, long story short, during my senior year I was one of the sports anchors on the class’ TV news program, and I may have run my mouth leading up to the Bryant-Northridge game.
With 20/20 hindsight, declaring my confidence to the point of getting painted in Northridge Jaguars blue face paint on the following week’s sports broadcast if Northridge were to win wasn’t one of my brightest ideas. To provide more context, this 30-minute news program we put together in the TV production class each week aired on WVUA each Friday at 8 a.m., and every high school class in the Tuscaloosa City Schools was encouraged to watch the program.
I caught up with an old friend of mine last week, Rob Herndon, who went to Central with me our first two years of high school but attended and played for Northridge following the split. He remembers every day of summer workouts featuring a declaration that they wouldn’t lose to Bryant in 2004 after the repeat defeat in 2003. To add to the motivation, apparently a Bryant student had done something to mess up Northridge’s field the week of the game.
Oh, and there was also a playoff spot on the line.
Part of my duties as sports anchor was to film the game so we could run clips the next week during the sports portion of the broadcast. This meant I had to watch a highly motivated Northridge team play well and hope Bryant could pull out the W, as the expected Stampede blowout wasn’t happening. A late touchdown by fellow Bryant senior Courtney Williams gave me hope, as it put the Stampede on top, but those hopes were soon dashed when the play was called back for holding.
Williams told me last week he never watched film on the game, so he doesn’t know if the holding call was good or not, though his coaches said it was a bad call. To be fair, Herndon said he had no idea if the call was correct either, as he also never went back and watched. Northridge went on to win 28-24, and a week later, I could have easily fit into the Northridge student section decked out in Jaguars paraphernalia and blue face paint during the sports segment.
I’ve since sworn off gambling on sports, of course. If I was willing to gamble my pride and lost, I figured I should take it as the universe telling me not to press my luck with actual money. Of course, I’m kind of glad my father didn’t do the same during Super Bowl XLVI in February 2012. A Giants fan all his life, he bet on Eli Manning coming out on top against Tom Brady a second time and got several thousand dollars out of a group bet as a result.
Based on my experience in October 2004, his luck didn’t get passed on to me, and I have no desire to increase the sample size of that experiment. I have nothing against people who bet on sports and think the Supreme Court decision legalizing it was the correct one. It’s just not my thing, as I can still feel the blue Jaguars paint all over my face, substituting for the egg in the metaphor.
Drew Kerekes is the sports editor at The Meridian Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.