The entrance to the Haunted House at P and Red’s for Halloween last year.
And Congratulations to P and Red….they welcomed little Grayson into the world last night.
The entrance to the Haunted House at P and Red’s for Halloween last year.
And Congratulations to P and Red….they welcomed little Grayson into the world last night.
Fifteen years are a long time to avoid one person when it comes to making bets…especially when you like to bet on just about everything. But it isn’t like I never bet with Soop. We had plenty of gambling going on over these last 15 years…I just avoided sports wagers. There is one night in Superbowl Sunday where I made out like a bandit. It was a night where, with the help of some L-C-R and a great night of poker, I went from no cash to a little over $600 when I left…but that is a story for another time.
This story is about a very hot Sunday a couple of weeks back. Deb and I were invited to attend the Legg Mason Tennis Classic by Soop and Red. My immediate reaction was to turn down the offer as I hadn’t been back there since the Agassi Debacle of the late 90s. But when Red informed us that we would be in her suite I changed my mind pretty quickly. Drinking free and sitting in the air conditioning while at an outdoor sporting event will get me every time.
But Soop would not let the opportunity pass by where he could make fun of me. He immediately started sending me texts to bring cash so that we could bet. I politely told him to go fuck himself and that there was no way I was going to bet with him ever again. EVER. But he kept calling me a wuss (and other choice names) to try to badger me into betting and I think he knew that if there ever was a time to get me again it would be at this particular venue. I know he was thinking that there was no way I could pass up trying to get some redemption.
He was right.
It was oppressively hot that day and we were all grateful to have the air-conditioned suite in which we could lounge. The first match of the day was almost over when we arrived and people started trickling in throughout. By the time the second set of competitors were making their way to the court the suite was packed and we were on our 3rd or 4th drink. When I saw them starting to warm up I made up my mind that I was going to bet today.
I would love to say that it was because I took out my phone and quickly looked up the players to find out who was better. I would love to say that as I watched them warming up I noticed that one of them was clearly the superior athlete. I would even be happy with telling you that I noticed one of them was hobbling around a bit. But none of those came into play. Like the lucky chick from accounting that makes her picks in the weekly Football pool based on the “cuteness” of the uniforms…I went with wardrobe choice as my deciding factor.
You know what I mean because every office in the world has that woman. No matter how much research you do each week of the football season she would place higher than you at least a few times during the season and usually come away a winner at least once. And all she did was look at uniforms and decided that she liked the pretty Bengals helmet over the ugly Colts one. Yep, I used the tried and true method that has been my nemesis for years to try to break my curse. The guy I picked to win (Mat0sevic) was wearing a white shirt while his opponent (Delic) was wearing a black one.
There was at least some reasoning here though. The match was starting at 1 in the afternoon and the sun was mercilessly beating down on center court. i figured that by the second set the guy in the black shirt was going to be about to drop from heat exhaustion. Who wears a black shirt to run around in the sun for a couple of hours in the middle of July? That dude was going to melt. I was sure of it.
About an hour later, as we were sitting there watching the first set tie break, I wasn’t so confident. The whole first set was very evenly matched. Both guys held serve throughout and no one appeared to have the advantage. The only thing keeping me going was watching the “black” guy constantly going to the ball girl for the towel to mop up all the sweat that was streaming from him.
I jumped out of my seat and started cheering wildly when my guy made the point that ended the first set. The sense of relief that I felt when my guy, the “white” guy, pulled out the first set was indescribable. I did start to talk a little shit to Soop though because I was starting to feel good about this bet. And it had been a long time since I had a chance to do that.
The second set started off with more of the same. Both guys held their serves through the first 6 games and the second set was tied at 3. But then everything changed when my guy broke the server of the “black” guy…finally. Then he held serve to go up 5-3 and I knew the match was over.
Both players held their serve to finish out the match and my guy won.
MY. GUY. WON!!
And just like that…after 15 years 8 months and 7 days…the curse was broken.
So what that it was broken on a shitty bet based on clothing choices. Broken is broken. The fear of betting against Soop is gone.
Now, what can we bet on next?
Now it is the summer of 1997. A little over a year has gone by since I lost that $100 to Soop and it has slowly started to hurt less and less. The jokes about my trips to the blood/sperm bank to get the money to cover my losses had slowly started to wane. I was even able to watch and enjoy the playoffs while the Bulls were busy cleaning up and winning the championship.
So I never saw what happened at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic coming.
Back in those days it was great to have a mother that worked for a lobbying firm. Free tickets to events were abundant back then. We took advantage when we could too. So one day, in the middle of July, when we were offered a bunch of tickets to sit in box seats right on the court at the Legg Mason, we didn’t pass them up.
I guess I will get this out-of-the-way up front: I couldn’t care less about Tennis. I don’t know anything about the game and I honestly don’t care to learn. I mean, I know the basics of the game itself I just don’t keep up on the players and who is who.
It really takes a lot for me to get beyond the ridiculous scoring: Love, 15, 30, 40, Deuce, Ad, Game. What? Why is your first and second scoring point worth 15 while your third is worth 10? And when you tie at 40 it is called Deuce? What? This shit doesn’t make sense and when I start to even try to think about it I get all angry.
Put it this way, I would rather watch soccer. That is how little I care about tennis.
But I am a sports fan and these were free tickets…so we jumped on them.
And we were kind of excited because André Agassi was going to be playing in one of the matches of the night.
Fuckin’ André Agassi.
So here is what I knew going into that night: Agassi had won some shit. He had already won 3 of the 4 Grand Slam tournaments, (he didn’t win at the French Open until 1999) a Gold Medal at the Olympics and was a previously ranked Number 1 player in the world. Oh yeah, and earlier that year he got married to Brooke Shields.
So yeah…his life was rough. Seemed pretty god damn good to me.
So when we got to the Rock Creek Tennis Center to watch the match and I saw that Agassi (who was currently ranked #8 in the world) was going to be playing some guy named Doug Flach. It was almost laughable that the 8th ranked player in the world would be playing the player ranked #174. I was ready to watch Agassi do some ass kicking.
Not Soop though.
No, not Soop. As soon as we got to our seats he started in on me with his reasons that Agassi was going to lose:
“He has been playing all season with a hurt wrist.”
“He doesn’t look ready to play.”
“Brooke is over there and that bitch is killing his career!”
I had to look over to see if he was right and sure enough she was just two boxes over from us…and looking freakin’ fantastic too. How can someone looking that good be a jinx to anyone? And who cares about a hurt wrist? The guy he was playing was ranked 174th. I could have probably given him a run for his money. And I suck at tennis.
Seriously, I think the only times I really played tennis was with my old roommate Rob. And he would never run. EVER. He would stand in the center of the court and smoke cigarettes while we played. If I didn’t hit the ball straight at him that would be the end of that point. He would just watch as the ball bounced against the fence after halfheartedly sticking his racquet out to give the appearance that he gave a shit. And because at that point in my life I actually cared about having at least a little fun while playing tennis I would try my hardest to hit the ball straight at him everytime.
But you know what that bastard would do?
Yep, you’re right. That son of a bitch would hit the ball from corner to corner making me run my fat ass off until I would collapse. We would head home and I would be drenched in sweat and feeling like my legs were going to fall off and Rob would still be smoking and not in the least bit sweaty.
Come to think of it, that is probably why I don’t like tennis very much. Anyway….
So we have Brooke on one hand and a hurt wrist on the other. I am very confident that Agassi can phone this one in. So Soop tells me to put up or shut up. He pretended to be a nice guy and was offering me the chance to get my $100 back.
I practically jumped at the chance to make this bet. Easiest Benjamin I would ever make.
Fuckin’ Andre Agassi.
Everything started out well. Andre won the first set 6-2 and then broke serve to start the second set 2-0. This match was flying by and I could not have been more confident.
I was already counting the money.
Fuckin’ Andre Agassi.
I don’t know what happened. It was like Agassi’s body just stopped working. He couldn’t do anything right. He was double faulting all over the place and looked like a man twice his age out there. Flach was running him ragged through that second set and won it 6-4.
As the third set began I was having the “Oh no not again” feeling creeping into my gut. I started bitching about Agassi and his stupid limp wrist. I was cursing that bitch Brooke Shields and giving her the stinkeye (and I think I flipped her the bird a couple of times) from across our boxes. I just knew that this match was over.
Sure enough, Agassi double faulted 15 times that match and pretty much bent over for Doug Flach. That no-named bastard had Agassi limping around and crying his way through the third set. It wasn’t even close.
One hundred and fucking seventy-fourth in the world?
This time the money was so hard to pull out of my pocket to hand over to Soop. It was as if I was handing over a part of my soul with that cash. And Soop, like the Devil himself, was happy to collect that sliver of my soul.
How did this happen? Again? Little did I know that this was the year that Agassi decided to take up the pipe and start down the wonderful road of crystal meth addiction. Yay me for betting on a freakin’ meth head.
It was on that day, the 16th day of July in 1997, that I vowed to never bet Soop on another sporting event again. Starting with the Bulls the previous year and culminating with the Agassi farce at the Legg Mason I had just had enough.
And this lasted for 15 years, 8 months and 7 days.
Until the curse was broken last weekend at the Legg Mason Classic.
Fuckin’ Andre Agassi.
15 years, 8 months and 7 days.
That was how long the curse lasted.
And now the curse is finally over…but that is a story for later.
This story begins late on the night of November 24, 1995. A few of us had just finished watching my beloved Chicago Bulls pull out a squeaker over the Utah Jazz to start their season 10-1. It was the usual group for those days: Tommy, Rob, Soop and myself. We were refreshing our drinks and getting ready to grab our controllers to play a few games of NBA Live on the Sega Genesis when the conversation turned to the rest of the Bulls season. Soop lazily threw out a comment about the Bulls not losing more than 10 games for the entire season that drew laughter and derision from all of us.
Our little entourage was pretty well versed in sports trivia so we let Soop in on a few items:
But Soop was adamant. So much so that he was willing to lay out $100 to put his money where his mouth was. At the time we were all pretty dirt poor so $100 was almost like throwing down $1000 today. We were all pretty shocked at the balls on Soop to want to make this kind of bet on such a longshot. There was no way I could pass up this easy money.
So I took the bet. And taking a bet against one of my favorite teams is something that I do not take lightly. This wager would have to be a sure thing for me to take the bet at all. I think the only other bet I would take at that early on in a season would be one where the other guy would be taking the Cubs to win it all. Like I said, sure things only.
I was feeling good two days later when the Bulls lost their very next game. I remember calling Soop to gloat, rub it in and to make sure he didn’t spend my money. But my happiness and gloating was very short-lived.
The Bulls didn’t lose their next game for a month. And then they didn’t lose a single game in January. Not one freakin’ game in an entire calendar month? WTF!
On the 4th and 6th of February they lost back to back games to put their record at 41-5. So I wasn’t sweating it…yet. I was still confident that over the course of the next 3 months the Bulls would lose at least 6 games. The season is long. Players get hurt. There was no way, especially as Jordan and company got closer to the playoffs that they would keep up the intensity.
Then April 16th rolled around and the Bulls break the previous record and win their 70th game in Milwaukee. Looking back on all that night back in November when Soop made his prediction…it didn’t look so funny now. So with 3 games remaining in the season the Bulls were sitting pretty at 70-9
The 81st game of the season was played on April 20th in the United Center and the Bulls ended up losing 100-99 to the Indiana Pacers. With a margin of 1 point I was 1 game closer to winning the bet. So with one game left in the season the Bulls record was 71-10. One game left and one loss away from making 100 trophy dollars.
We had actually joked about this final game of the season all year-long. The last game of the season just happened to be here in DC against the Bullets (Yes, this was before they changed their name to the lameness that is The Wizards).
“How awesome would it be if the season came down to that last game here in DC?” was heard at least a few times during the season of The Bet. We honestly didn’t think it would ever come down to that last game of the season. But when it did, I really didn’t have much hope that the Bullets (whose record was 39-42) would help me out.
I couldn’t believe that I had rooted for my team to lose every single time I watched them play. I felt like such a traitor. Like Dan Akroyd and Daniel Stern at the end of Celtic Pride. I really did have some pangs of guilt over this bet and how I had rooted against my team all season long. Especially during a season that I should have ridden high and loved every minute of it.
We couldn’t get tickets to the game because the Cap Centre was completely sold out and none of us could afford the scalper prices. So we all gathered together to watch that last game of the longest basketball season ever. The first half of the game was a nail-biting and teeth grinding mess. The score at halftime was 52-51 and the Bullets had that one point lead.
But that lead didn’t last.
I could not have been more bummed to have my favorite team end the season with such a fantastic record.
I could not have been poorer at the time when I had to fork over that $100 to Soop’s greedy little hands.
And looking back on it now, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
The season of “The Bet” was probably my favorite season of any sport throughout my entire life.
And I thought that Soop couldn’t get any luckier….
….but the following summer proved me wrong.
Stay Tuned for Part 2: 8th is not better than 174th
We definitely are louder. And we have Hockey Jesus on our side!
December 26, 2010.
That is a date that I think I am going to remember for a while. It was the day that brought the news of Hockey Jesus to the world. That’s right, I am writing about Hockey Jesus on Easter Sunday….so if you are one of those people who can’t take a bit of humor with your celebration of a dude getting crucified you might want to stop reading now.
P and Red had us all over to their place that day for a little post-Christmas brunch. All of the usual friends and family were there to just kick back, eat some food, have some drinks and enjoy the day. I don’t think any of us were expecting the announcement that they were pregnant.
The Caps had just come off the worst losing streak in a while. One that was so prominently being displayed on HBO’s 24/7 and making all of us die-hard Caps fans really doubt our chances this year. With the Winter Classic only 5 days away we were already preparing ourselves for our trip and our seemingly inevitable loss at the hands of the Pens. Things just weren’t really going our way.
That night the Caps were playing the Canes on the road. The Caps ended up winning the game and we all joked about how P and Red’s new little addition might just be the luck we needed. We had no idea just how right we were.
What has happened since?
We won the Winter Classic. F U Pens!
We caught and passed the Flyers for First overall in the East. F U Flyers!
We shook off the ghosts of the past and actually closed out a playoff series (without having to go 7). F U Rangers!
Since that announcement on December 26, 2010, every game that I have watched with “Red and a half” the Caps have won. It has really been a crazy run. We have dubbed the little guy Hockey Jesus. It was on the drive home from a game late in the season when I threw that nickname out there and we started joking about it.
We joked about the image of Jesus checking someone into the boards with reckless abandon.
We laughed about the vision of Jesus giving us a Ovechkinesque gap toothed grin.
And what got the biggest laugh was picturing Jesus turning all the ice back into water so he would be the only one that could skate on it while every other player just fell down and floundered about in a couple of inches of water.
It was about then that we realized that the Hockey Jesus we were creating was kind of an asshole. So I kind of cooled it on imagery and just decided to let the little guy alone and trust in him to get us further into the playoffs.
And we have faith in him for the run for the Cup.
But that faith was tested.
For Game 4, we all went to watch the game down at the Crystal City Sports Pub. After the 2nd period, when the Caps were down 3-0, I was really down on the team. At that point I just knew that we couldn’t come back. All I wanted was to not get shut-out. But the team rallied and did the impossible. To come back and win in the 2nd overtime was one of the best wins I think I have ever seen in my 20+ years of watching this team.
But I realized that I had lost my faith in between that second and third period. I not only doubted our team but I completely lost the faith in our little Hockey Messiah. Later, I apologized to both P and Red for my loss of faith and promised to not lose it again (at least for the rest of this playoff run.)
So on this Easter Sunday, all praise be to Hockey Jesus!
On to the Second Round!
Let’s Go Caps!
WE ARE LOUDER!
Bright and early on the first day of the new decade P, Red, Josh and I all climbed into the minivan and headed up to Pittsburgh for the 2011 Winter Classic. We had been looking forward and planning this trip from the day it was announced that the Caps and the Pens would be playing outside on New Years Day. To say we were excited would be the understatement of the year (both old and new).
The game alone was enough to have us talking and dreaming about it all year long but over the last few weeks the excitement was amped up a thousand percent. With HBO’s killer documentary series 24/7 showing the “Road to the Winter Classic” we could barely contain ourselves. The series started out showing our beloved Caps at their lowest low and the hated Penguins at their highest high. That first episode was enough to make even the most optimistic Caps fans hang their heads and start to prepare themselves for the fact that playing on the biggest stage the NHL had to offer might not be the best thing at this time.
But thankfully, over the last few weeks, the Caps had started to turn the corner with wins in 4 out of the last 5 and the only loss was the shootout loss to the Pens. I think that was the first time that I had ever come away with a loss feeling great about the team. We had outplayed the Penguins for almost the entire game and losing in a shootout (which I still think has no business ending any regular season contest) was fine by me. We really looked like we were ready to take them on. The optimism was returning.
Then the weather reports started coming in. For the week before we were dreading the news and each day the outlook grew worse and worse. Weather in the 50s and rain in the forecast had all of us banging our heads against the walls. Was the game going to be able to even be played at all? After all this anticipation would the game be called off? Our hourly checks of the weather for the entire week was just getting us more and more nervous. But then, on New Years Eve, the announcement came that the start time of 1pm had been pushed back to 8pm. I know I stood up and cheered as I watched the announcement on the NHL Network. This was the first time in my life where hearing about something I was so excited about had been postponed and it was a good thing.
Not only did this mean that we wouldn’t have to get up at 5am on New Years Day to drive up to Pittsburgh but it meant we would be playing at primetime under the lights. We were all ready to be asleep by around 10 and ring in the New Year with snores but now we could drink it up and enjoy the night. We already had a low-key affair planned and we stuck to it but we did have a few more drinks than we had planned and got to see Dick Clark (poor poor Dick Clark. Dude, you really need to call it quits ringin’ in the New Year on television. It is quite depressing) pathetically count down as the ball dropped in Times Square.
We were all up bright and early and had smooth sailing all the way up to Pittsburgh. I don’t think I have ever seen P so nervous though. He was complaining about the butterflies and feeling sick for the entire trip. The anticipation inside the van was almost tangible.
We were in Pittsburgh for all of 5 minutes before the first verbal assaults started. We were just standing outside the hotel starting to unload the bags when no less that 6 cars drove by hurling insults at all of us standing around in our Caps gear. I have never been called a faggot more times in such a short period of time in my life. But we basked in their taunts and (for the most part) just let them wash over us without firing shots back at them.
It was quickly apparent that our fears of showing up and being one of a few Caps fans in attendance were unfounded. Everywhere we looked there were Caps fans. We were starting to feel like this was going to be something really special and it was confirmed when we read this article in the Post:
“For one weekend in Pittsburgh, it was hard to ignore how much progress the franchise has already made. Washington sports fans are famously thin-skinned about the never-ending fan invasions staged by opposing teams, with Pittsburgh’s Penguins and Steelers particularly enthusiastic trespassers.
On this weekend, though, the streets of Pittsburgh were thick with young Washington area residents wearing red jerseys and chanting for their team. Security employees at the Hofbrauhaus – a downtown bar – said on New Year’s Eve that they had never seen as many visiting fans, for any team, in any sport.
“You can’t turn a corner without seeing a handful of [Capitals fans], on every corner,” said Howard Frame, 38, a Capitals fan since 1986. “You walk into any bar or restaurant and it’s like the Red Army’s invaded.”
And it was so true. There were Caps fans everywhere. It was amazing. Really, it was the first time ever where my chest was puffed out with pride by the fans of my team. To see this much support for a team that could barely give away their tickets a few years ago was just something that made all of us beam.
We tried to sit in the hotel room and rest up a bit before the game but soon found out that was an impossibility. We were just too antsy to hang out and do nothing. So we packed up all our game gear and headed over to the Rivers Casino for the last few hours before the gates opened. We figured that we could get some drinks and work off a little of our edginess. P and Red both tried their hands at the tables while Josh and I wandered around with blank stares. One thing that wasn’t hard to notice though was the amount of Caps jerseys in the casino. In every direction you looked there were friendlies. It was great to be able to walk around behind enemy lines with your gear on and really not have to worry about being jumped by some drunk Pens fan. There were just too many of us…we were everywhere.
We all had a feeling that the hockey gods were on our side even before we made it into the Casino. As we were making our way up the parking garage to find a place to park they closed off the 7th level on the car right before us. So we followed behind a the Victory Security Guard up to the 8th level of the garage which just happened to be the Red level. So we followed Victory to Red 8. This game was going to be ours.
Soon it was time for the gates to open. We went back to the van and packed on our winter gear in anticipation of the falling temperatures and then headed over to Heinz Field. The walk over was filled with good natured banter back and forth between the fans from both teams and everyone was in a great mood. It was actually quite impressive how well everyone was behaving. For the most part the Pens fans were cordial and the Caps fans weren’t as “dicky” as most of the visiting fans are when they come to DC.
Game time was so close we could taste it.
We made our way to our seats and could not have been happier. They were really great seats and as we looked around we noticed that our section was dominated by Caps fans. Awesome. As the crowd slowly made their way to their seats we could see Red everywhere. Every section had big red blotches mixed in among the black and blue Pens fans. And when the National Anthem was being sung it was readily apparent that we were there in force. The “RED” shout seemed louder than it ever does at Verizon.
I think that my voice was already starting to go before the first period was even half way gone.
When Erskine and Rupp dropped the gloves, all 68,111 screaming fans were on their feet. When Erskine beat up on Rupp and made him quit the fight by calling in the linesman the entire Caps contingent exploded. But when Malkin scored so quickly into the 2nd period the Caps fans were quickly drowned out by the bloodthirsty Pens fans.
But scores by Fehr and Knuble before the 2nd was out had the Caps fans going absolutely nuts. And we never looked back.
What we really couldn’t believe was that Styx was playing between the 2nd and 3rd. Styx? Really? That is the band that Steelers fan’s use to get pumped up on game day. Wow. I mean, I guess it works but Wow.
When Fehr got his second of the night in the 3rd period on a breakaway the game was pretty much over. The only thing left to do was wear out what was left of my voice cheering as loudly as I could. It was great to look around and see all of the Pens fans with that dejected look that we are so used to when playing these guys.
Can’t wait to watch that final episode of 24/7 on Wednesday. Even if I wasn’t a fan of the Caps this would have been such a great series. The team that was just painful to watch in the majority of the first two episodes comes back to beat up on the NHL darlings in the final episode. This is what great sports movies are made of.
Even the food tasted better after that win. My Steak, Potato, Eggs and 2 orders of Bacon were just delicious at the Cracker Barrel as we drove home.
Here is to hoping that this New Year is as good as that first day. Let’s Go Caps!
Last minute changes in plans last night lead Deb and I to a whole lot of fun at the Verizon Center. P and Red called me up and let me know that he had a couple of extra tickets if we wanted to go to see the Caps play the Flyers last night. We weren’t all that sure if we wanted to ditch our existing plans and go at first… that was until P explained the tickets to us. The tickets that he had were for a suite that were given to him from Mrs. Boudreau (the coach’s wife for those of you who don’t know). So once we heard about the suite we decided that going to a Caps game and having our own little box was a chance that wasn’t going to come around every day so we had to go for it.
P’s job as a bartender at one of the better restaurants in DC pays off so many times and I have no qualms with enjoying the fruits of his labor. I really do think this was the night where I became to spoiled to enjoy going to a hockey game in any other way. Being able to stand up when you want to, walk around when you want to and have our own bathroom was just too good. Seriously, the Caps scored a goal and I just had to run to the can and I was back in my seat in about 45 seconds. That is priceless.
The game was an incredible one even though we didn’t come away with the win. But the Caps were on the backend of back-to-back nights and they looked pretty sluggish for most of the game… especially Ovechkin. I don’t think I have seen him look much worse. Usually leaving a game with a loss feels bad but in this case I was actually happy that we left with at least a point. And you don’t get many more exciting games. Coming back from down 3-1 to tie it and then coming back to tie it again at 4…it was crazy, crazy stuff. I still haven’t regained all of my voice. We didn’t look particularly good in the shoot-out but hey, a point is a point and we are still in First place…so it isn’t all bad.
But we really had a great time at the game. So thanks for having us hitch a ride for the fun, P. Hopefully there will be at least one game this season where there isn’t a kid sitting right next to us so you can let all of the F-bombs fly without the dirty looks that accompany them.
Lets Go Caps! Only 41 days until the Winter Classic.