This is why we drink.
Washington is at Kansas City. Dying moments of a game the Chiefs have clearly won, 23-20. Washington has the ball at its own 25 with four seconds left – time for one desperate gimmick.
In other words, if you bet Washington to cover the 6 1/2 point spread, or if you bet the under on the 47 1/2 point total, you’ve won your bet. And if you bet both, you’re a genius.
Except that Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins throws a ball toward the sideline to Jamison Crowder, who throws it backward from whence it came to Cousins. He promptly fumbles it, and after failed attempts by Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson to regain possession, the ball is collected by Kansas City’s Justin Houston and run into the end zone for a meaningless touchdown that only made everyone who bet Washington and the under bitter losers.
It’s a bad beat to match the worst of them, and it’s a great story you can tell your grandchildren when they ask you why you don’t watch sports any more.
And yet it is the new lifeline for a sport which is coming to grips with slowly shrinking ratings and public relations agonies at every turn. The NFL cannot acknowledge this, of course, given its stance that gambling is wrong wink-wink-nudge-nudge.
But it is sending the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas because there is new money to be made there from people who watched Monday’s game and will remember the bad beat a lot more readily than the game itself. It is why the next innovation in the league will be separate standings for games straight-up and games against the line. It is how you keep people interested in bad teams who lose close games.
It may even be how the league saves the Los Angeles Chargers, as long as the bookmakers don’t keep making the Chargers favorites, as they did Sunday. The Chargers are the undisputed masters of the close loss, and they might be far less repellent if they could make the playoffs via the gambling standings.
(Right now, they stink across the board, but you never know when that can turn around. Betting is funny that way).
That day is coming, though, and games like Washington-Kansas City would be instant classics that would fill the NFL Network on slow summer weekdays forever.
That is, unless you had Washington and the under. In that case, you hate football forever – until Friday, when you start to drink again.