The worst recent gambling bad beats 

February, 25, 2011

The second semester of my junior year in high school, I dated a girl who was a year older than me. I'll call her Jennifer because, well, that's a close enough approximation of her name. She was great-looking, liked bands that played music a shade darker than The Smiths and had an attitude that was the right combo of aloof at first followed by complete and total dedication. At least right up until she decided to crush your spirit. And by yours, I mean mine.

A week after we went to her prom, she blindsided me with the news that she was thinking, considering, contemplating, breaking up with me. Turns out the guy she had wanted to date all through high school had broken up with his girlfriend and set his sights on my gal -- his name I still cannot speak. Or write. She told me this on a Friday afternoon. I was, well, stunned. I thought I was about to close the deal. She was stripping me down, for sure, but in a decidedly unpleasant way.

I was desperate and sad and decided I could avert the crisis while still getting her back on track by playing nice. So I told her, "Sure, I get it, totally understand. Let me know what you think." I cringe thinking about it. That night I went to Hoagie Hut in Highwood, Ill., with my boys, ordered a cheesesteak and listened to them tell me what a weak, pathetic, sackless loser I was. They told me I had to go home, call her and walk away. Good advice. And to this day they are still my best friends.

But I didn't follow their advice. Instead, Jennifer and I went to see "Funny Farm" together the next night. Midway through the movie she stopped holding my hand. Uh-oh. On the way home, we didn't speak. And finally, when I dropped her off at home, she flattened me. I didn't even make it out of my black-and-silver Chevy Blazer.

Anyway, that night Jennifer drop-kicked me I felt helpless, sick to my stomach, lost and unsure what I had done to deserve this. Basically, I felt exactly the same way as when I suffer a bad beat.

A couple of weeks ago my buddy Ilan Ben-Hanan, who is a programmer for ESPN based in LA, told me I should do a bad beats video for my "Right Angles" series. I tweeted looking for some bad beat stories and the responses were so heartbreaking I did the video (at the top of this page), and had plenty left over for this column.

One of the all-time classics is the New York Mets-Atlanta Braves game in the 1999 playoffs. The total on the game was 7½, and the game went deep into extra innings tied at 2. Even when the Braves went ahead 3-2 in the top of the 15th, the overs had no reason to think they were going to win. But then, in the bottom of the inning, the Mets' bats came alive. A bases-loaded walk tied the game at three. Then, with the bases still loaded, Robin Ventura came up to the plate. I was in Vegas that day, hanging at the Stardust and doing reporting for my book "The Odds." I remember the buzz of the crowd sawing its way through the smoke. Even the lovely ladies selling cigarettes and candy from the boxes swinging around their necks stopped for a second to watch the game -- they could sense that something special was about to happen.

On the next pitch, Ventura grooved a 2-1 pitch over the right-field wall. Grand slam! Mets win! Overs win! I'll let David Bridgforth of Memphis, Tenn., who suffered a bad beat from the game, take over from here: "The only problem [was] that while rounding second Ventura [was] mobbed and never touched home plate."

I remember chaos in the book. On the screen the score flashed as 7-3. But my man Scooch, running The Orleans these days, was the second in command at The Stardust back then and he didn't know if they should cash in the overs or the unders. It took hours to unspool the confusion. Ultimately, the unders ruled.