Dethroned by Alabama 26, Georgia 23 in overtime, Super Bowl XVIII is no longer the worst wagering beat on a personal list.
The long-time leader involved a friend and a one-game investment; recently victimized was an opponent in a season-long contest. Weird happenings deprived both of a tidy return.
Prior to the Jan. 22, 1984, Super Bowl in Tampa, a popular home cooking restaurant near the Little Rock airport offered $100 squares on the Washington Redskins vs. Los Angeles Raiders and two long-time buddies split a square to chase the $2,250 per quarter payoff.
Sportscaster Jim Elder and his friend drew decent numbers — Los Angeles 4, Washington 3 — and Elder watched from home as the Raiders opened a 14-0 lead and the Redskins’ did their part with a 24-yard field goal late in the half. He sweated the Raiders’ next possession that lasted 41 yards and reached the Washington 39, but that was a stretch for field goal kicker Chris Bahr and Los Angeles opted to punt. Recalling the many bad things that can happen on a punt, Elder exhaled when the Redskins’ return man made a fair catch at his 12 with seconds to play.
One conservative running play and Elder and his partner were home free. Instead, coach Joe Gibbs called “Rocket Screen,” and linebacker Jack Squirek returned the interception five yards for a touchdown with seven seconds remaining.
Sort of a strange call, opined Elder’s wife, unaware of her husband’s investment.
“Yes,” he said through clenched teeth. “Yes, it is.”
Moving on to the Poolsville competition — five college games per week, plus 26 bowl games — for a one-time entry fee of $10 and a first-place prize of $800.
With only the Alabama-Georgia game remaining, Richard Diamond led with 144 points, Chris Patterson had 142, Mat Stewart 140, and Maumelle’s Ben Baldwin 138. Nobody else was close. In fact, one embarrassed contender from years past trailed by 39.
Obligated to pick all the bowls in mid-December, Diamond had Georgia winning it all while Patterson and Stewart had tabbed Oklahoma and Baldwin had circled Alabama. Being correct was worth six points so, even if Alabama won, the worst Diamond could do was tie with Baldwin and Diamond held the tiebreaker since he picked more winners during the season.
Unless … Baldwin earned an extra point for an OT victory by Alabama. Final score: Baldwin 145, Diamond 144.
Not only did Diamond lose on the final play for the second year in a row — remember Clemson’s DeShaun Watson throwing 2 yards to Hunter Renfrow — but the president and CEO of Goodman Decorating in Atlanta is a Georgia alum who was at the national championship game. And, the man who persuaded him to join the college football picking competition is Brad Ramey, a Goodman employee. Reports that Ramey’s trophy for his 2013 Poolsville championship is prominently displayed in the workplace are unconfirmed.
Meanwhile, results from the recent bowl season should be viewed with trepidation when attempting to project the 2018 season. Based on a review of recent bowl results, it is clear that carryover from a bowl game is not all that it is cracked up to be.
Often, earning a bowl bid is framed as a springboard for programs on the way up and habitual bowl participants who win in the postseason are deemed to be on the way to bigger and better.
Arkansas was among 23 teams that participated in the 2016 bowl season but did not win the minimum six games to be bowl eligible in 2017. That list also included nine-game winners Tulsa and Air Force and eight-game winners North Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee.
Plus, Western Michigan, 13-0 until the Cotton Bowl a year ago, finished 6-6 this year, and was left out of the postseason.
Almost half the winners of the 39 bowls regressed this year. A dozen, including Florida and Tennessee, did not qualify for a bowl and six others had worse regular season records than in 2016.
Sports Columnist Harry King can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org