As we move from 2008 into 2009, many people find themselves looking forward. Commentator Bill Littlefield, on the other hand, looks backward and thinks about what might have been.
It is late summer, 2007. I take the luxury flight to Las Vegas…the one reserved for high rollers bound to lose vast amounts, the absence of which they will consider unremarkable. I stroll into the strip’s most opulent sports book. I suppose it has red flock wallpaper. In the background, I hear the gentle hum of televised horse racing. I can tell it is a class joint, because the wailing of losers is muffled. Having remortgaged my house, cashed in my life insurance, rifled my children’s college funds, and pawned my watch, my pockets are bulging with large bills. Still, I manage a nonchalance that suggests that I know exactly what I’m doing. I remind myself a little of James Bond as played by Sean Connery. A padded door toward the back of the room opens silently. Having recognized a potentially important client through his surveillance system, the manager of the book-making establishment advances toward me with his right hand extended. His fingers are encumbered by rings even bigger than the ones given to men who win the Super Bowl. I catch the man’s hand in both of mine just before he would have tipped over on to the plush carpeting. “Thank you,” he says. And then, “How can we be of service?” We step into his paneled office, where I begin piling cash on his enormous mahogany desk. His eyes grow wide. “I want to bet this on a two-part proposition,” I tell him. “For the first time since the NFL began playing sixteen regular season games, one team will go undefeated.”
The manager tells me the odds he can give me on this development. They are exceptionally attractive. “But wait,” I tell him. “There’s more.” His wide eyes begin to shine. “In the next season, for the first time ever, another team will go 0-16.” The odds that this parlay will hit are, of course, preposterous. The man with the wide, shining eyes rapidly calculates that if he takes my bet and loses, he will be working for me. He dabs his forehead with a white handkerchief, but he takes the money. How can he lose? Fast forward two NFL seasons. During one, the New England Patriots go 16-0. During the next, the Detroit Lions go 0-16. The headlines tell of falling markets, evaporating retirement funds, fortunes lost in a Ponzi scheme. This news does not lay a glove on me.
This program aired on December 31, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.