There’s a general rule of thumb amongst superstitious gamblers that you don’t talk about wagers while they’re still in play. Of course, logic would tell you that the wager you’ve placed (or for heaven’s sake discussed with others) has nothing to do with the outcome of the game, for countless others assuredly bet the opposite side of it. No matter how hard you try, however, you’ll never convince a gambler that once you put those thoughts, words, texts, Tweets, or sentiments out into the universe, the game you wagered on isn’t adversely affected. The jinx is, has always been, and will always be, undeniably real.
Derrick White’s ever-intuitive, career-defining three seconds is living proof of that.
As of Saturday night, I was all set to wax poetically about my new favorite wager, not because of how much I had gambled on it (I’m not really one for high stakes) but because of how far-fetched the underdog I’d hand-selected was, and how close it came to barking. ‘Twas a lonely and unforgettable, three seconds that made the difference in a cash.
I’d put sound logic and reasoning behind this wager. As it inched closer to maturing with win after unexpected win, surprisingly without ever having to make me sweat, I’d discussed it at length with friends, via text, on this very website, throwing caution into the wind on a simple $10 wager that appeared destined for fruition.
Boy, was I mistaken.
At the beginning of the post-season, I perused the NBA futures market, particularly in the Eastern Conference. With the three top seeds listed as heavy favorites, I thought I might find a lower-seeded team with value. I felt Milwaukee, Boston and Philly could all be beaten. After losing their first play-in game, one loss away from calling it a summer, Las Vegas listed the Miami Heat as 48-to-1 underdogs to win the Eastern Conference. Who was I not to place a small wager on them? After all, this was a team that only a few years ago was in the NBA Finals. In my mind, 48-to-1 brought incredible value for a team featuring one of the most cutthroat players in the game.
And it did.
Until it didn’t.
The Miami Heat ran through the Milwaukee Bucks in the opening round, beating them in five games. It was an upset nobody expected. Miami then took care of the Knicks. Afterwards, the heavily favored Boston Celtics came calling, rather meekly to start. Before long, the Heat seemed destined for another Finals appearance, having taken the first three games of this series, the first two of those in Boston. I was a genius. No team had ever erased a three-games-to-zero deficit. History was on my side. My wager was all but cashed.
Again, until it wasn’t.
There comes a point in time when a $10 wager no longer becomes just a $10 wager, especially when it is three, historically significant seconds away from turning into $480. $480 won’t begin to pay for the all the broken hearts in Miami on Saturday night as this game, and series, devolved into a loss South Florida will not soon forget.
The superstitious gambler in me knew this series, and far more importantly my wager, was cooked as soon as Miami could not close out Boston, in Miami, in Game Four. The jinx had been rudely awoken from his slumber. It wasn’t that the Heat lost Game Four but rather how they lost Game Four. After shocking Boston in Boston, the Heat won Game Three handily. Win one more game at home and a trip back to the Finals was in order. Instead, the Celtics flipped the script and torched Miami by double-digits in Game Four. They did so again in Game Five, back in Boston. Momentum had been built and it was wearing Celtic green.
Then came Game Six and the most brutal loss Heat fans have experienced since LeBron took his talents back to Cleveland.
The jinx took a month to rear its ugly head but rear it did. It had been bubbling under the surface all along, convincing me he didn’t exist. I had all but defeated him, wondering how he’d manage to find a way out of this one. Over the past six weeks, I had hash-tagged Jimmy Butler so much on Twitter, I single-handedly made him trend. Alpha Buckets had carried his team this post-season. Despite hitting three of the most clutch free throws you’ll ever see, Game Six finally saw Butler hit a wall. He was two assists shy of a triple-double but had missed 16 of 21 shots after playing 47 out of a possible 48 minutes. In this series, Jimmy Butler has accounted for 22% of the Heat’s scoring, 33% if you include his assists. The one they call Buckets deserved every hashtag I threw his way. I even found a pair of Jimmy Butler work out shorts I had to buy because… why wouldn’t I?
For six weeks, I was calling myself the smartest man alive for picking Miami to win the East and doing so at 48-to-1… and then someone forgot to box out Derrick White and the jinx vomited all over my futures ticket.
The Game Six loss was so devastating, it would shatter lesser franchises. It was the kind of loss that gets players (are you listening Max Strus?) exiled forever. Lesser crimes have seen Colombian soccer players disappear. Game Six was the kind of loss that convinces superstars to leave town for fear that teammates don’t have their backs. Losses like this get coaches fired. Of course, Erik Spoelstra is in no danger of having his job taken from him, nor need he remind players to box out offensive rebounders and for God’s sake GUARD THE PLAYER INBOUNDING THE BASKETBALL. With the game, and the series, and the season, and a trip to the Finals on the line, this is just something you should know.
Until you don’t.
An epic meltdown over a month in the making is the only appropriate way to have a wager so close to maturity fall hopelessly apart, a slow-simmering tragedy that ends up smacking you in the face when it’s all said and done. My Heat future that wasn’t now holds an especially historic place in my treasure chest of career crumpled up tickets, rocketing up the charts with a bullet. I’d say it was the best $10 I ever spent, for it kept me entertained for six solid weeks, but you know I’d be lying.
In the end, I suppose it’s not the worst thing in the world to have your losing wager tied to one of sports most historically devastating losses. But it sure ain’t the best either.