A replica of this jersey awaits my friend Brian... Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Gremlins, vicious dogs and Desmond Howard: A gambler's tale of woe

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Never bet on your team.

I received that advice many years ago by a jaded old man at a sports book in Wendover, Nevada…feeling froggy that my New England Patriots had run the playoff table and were staring down a Brett Favre led Green Bay Packers team that was a 14 point favorite heading into the teams meeting in Super Bowl XXXI.

I had actually gone into the casino to play a bit of blackjack and to put some money down on the horses, but seeing that 14 point bulge displayed on the digital signage was like taking a slap in the face, and I was ready to avenge my team’s honor…

…of course, I had nothing but anger to back up my feelings and was ready to leap blindly into the maw of a Green Bay Packers’ defense that ended up dominating the Patriots to the tune of that 14 point point spread.

I lived just north of Salt Lake City, Utah at the time, and it was a long drive across the desolate Bonneville Salt Flats to the Stateline Casino just across the border into Nevada – but would have gleefully driven the two hours to collect my earnings…

…but there was no way that I was going to go anywhere near the place now.  My money was gone, eaten up by the gambling gremlins, so there was no reason to go back, except of course for the blackjack and poker tables and the horses…it was quite an Odyssey to take the Wendover trip back in the day.  Gambling of any sort was strictly forbidden in Utah – still is – and so if you wanted to gamble, it was a road trip to the devilish desert state…

But now I’m in New England where I can walk two minutes to the corner market to buy a lottery ticket or drive 5 minutes to the off track betting facility in Lewiston to put down a few bucks on the ponies – and if I want to get really hardcore I could drive 25 minutes to Oxford where a fine new Casino and the Gambling Gremlins await my money.

There’s a difference now.  Driving to Wendover from Salt Lake was a novelty that required most of the day, and there was no guarantees that that my Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme would survive the trip across the flats – it was an event…

…going to place a wager here is a quick stop by the OTB on my way to pick up the wife from work.  The challenge isn’t there, so I don’t bother.

So when my friend Brian suggested a wager for tonight’s AFC Championship game between my New England Patriots and his Baltimore Ravens, I scoffed.

I recanted my tale of woe to him, of how Desmond Howard broke both my bank and my heart, as his kick return for a touchdown in Super Bowl 31, plus the ensuing Mark Chamura from Brett Favre two point conversion supplied Green Bay with the 14 points to cover the point spread and send millions of hopeful dreamers to the figurative bread lines…

…but he handed me a tissue and waved off my weak reasoning as a pile of bad paranoia.

“Besides,” he said, “We’re betting straight up.  You’d never be able to cover that point spread.”  I thought quickly back to my reasoning for placing that bet 17 years ago and realized he was trying to sucker me into a little point spread action.

A brief scuffle ensued until his Borg-like dog decided suddenly that I was a threat and came after me.  He had always liked gnawing on me like I was his personal chew toy whenever I would visit anyway, nothing big, just long red streaks up and down my forearms that would disappear by the next morning…

After several minutes of ugliness, order was restored and we finally agreed on a standard Facebook wager:  Whichever team lost, one of us would have to wear the other’s jersey, take a prison-like photo and make the loser’s Facebook page wear the damned thing like a badge of dishonor until the Super Bowl.

In many ways, that would be worse than losing a paycheck.

My Tom Brady Jersey awaits you, Brian.  It’s bright red and smells like your dog’s favorite chew toy, so he’s going to go nuts on you

And of course, I’ll be taking pics…and you should make sure that that vicious mutt is securely leashed – wouldn’t want to see my Brady throwback jersey get ripped or stained…

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Tags: Atlanta Falcons Baltimore Ravens New England Patriots San Francisco 49ers

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