🏈 The joy and pain of chasing the parlay

The Daily Reader

Slouching on the couch on Saturday night, half-watching Eagles vs. Giants (a blowout football game) when—ping! A text comes in.

From Nick, an old friend with a serious gambling jones. Nick tells me . . .

“Man, Ben, I’m two legs away from 35k on my parlay.”

Translation for the uninitiated . . .

A parlay is when a bettor strings together several bets in a win-all-or-nothing wager. So in Nick’s case, he bet the Eagles to win. And they were up big.

He bet a guy named Dallas Goedert would score a touchdown. And Goedert had scored a touchdown.

He bet another guy named DeVonta Smith would score a touchdown. And he had done so.

He’d bet a third guy, Richie James Jr., would score a touchdown. Which he hadn’t. But if he did, Nick would win $35,000. 

Suddenly, a meaningless game took on meaning. As in $35,000 worth of new meaning.

I snapped awake. Openly cheering for the Giants to get back the ball. Which they did.

Then I started screaming at Daniel Jones, the Giants quarterback, to throw the ball to James. Which, eventually, he did.

A perfect pass, too. Right to James, who was wide open. I mean, no one near him.

All he had to do was catch the ball and he could practically walk into the end zone. Cause, folks, let me tell you . . . I was as close to James as the nearest Philadelphia defender.

James reached for the ball. It dropped into his hands. $35,000 was Nick’s! And then . . .

The ball clanked off James’ hands and hit the ground. Incomplete pass.

Ping! Text coming in from Nick—who else?

“Right off his hands.”

What could I say?

After that, James never even came close to scoring a touchdown.

Nick was one easy catch away from $35,000. And instead he lost . . . oh, I don’t know how much he lost. Didn’t have the heart to ask. Point is, he lost.

That’s the thing about chasing the parlay. No matter how fast you run, you almost never catch up.

The next day I read various accounts of the game. Not one writer mentioned James dropping that pass. They were spectacularly unaware of its significance.

But, really, why would they be anything but unaware?

There are millions of guys like Nick, making millions of dollars worth of bets that are set up to pretty much guarantee they’ll lose. And they lose.

But this one could have been different. The ball was right there in James’s hands. All he had to do was catch it.

Alas, to quote Frankie Valli, “So close, and yet so far.”

Listen to The Ben Joravsky Show

What Ben's Reading

  The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, a novel by Heather O’Neill. A quirky tale of teenagers romping around Montreal in the 90s, smoking reefer, having sex, and enjoying life. Sounds good to me.
 Jennifer Bamberg on the strike at the Howard Brown Health Center.
 Ben Joravsky on the early days of the mayoral election.

Best of the Ben J. Show

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 Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth on running for alderwoman in the 48th ward.
 Oh, What a Week: the great mayoral debate!


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 🎭 Two weeks away! 🎭

On February 6th, join the Chicago Public Library, the League of Chicago Theatres, and the Reader for a discussion on Chicago’s first full season back in the theatre. 



Issue of
Jan. 12 – Jan. 25, 2023 
Vol. 52, No. 7


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