Pine Nuts: Confessions of a recovered sports gambler

And oh, did I ever love to bet on sports. My specialty was the over-under bet on the National Anthem prior to the Super Bowl. Below average on the Super Bowl outcome itself, I hardly ever misfired on the length of the National Anthem. Fellow gamesters from around the country would call me up prior to the game to get my prediction, and then place a five-spot on it. You might say I had a feel for musical rhythm that was held in the balance of a single note, the last note.

In 2005 the NFL went with a combination of military choirs and the Army Herald Trumpets. Well that last note was predictably short, and sure enough, most Americans were still holding their hands over their hearts for five seconds after the Star Spangled Banner ended that year. I remember being a hundred dollars ahead before the game even kicked-off, and buying drinks for people I didn’t know.

But 1991 might have been my favorite. The incomparable Whitney Houston saved herself for that last note. She sang the Anthem in an endearing effortless manner, building all the while on the pressure it would take to bellow that last note so it might be heard in the deepest Jungles of Borneo. And when she let go that last note, well, she held that note like a grudge, and ran it right into the ‘over,’ where as we like to say in Nevada, “Winnah, Winnah, Winnah, Catfish for Dinnah, set the house up with a round!”

I bathed in being ahead in the sports book before the silver dollar had been tossed, and found other props to bet on too. If you believe it will be a defensive game just take the over on the number of punts, sacks, safeties, interceptions and field goals. If it turns out in fact to be a defensive game you can then book yourself on a Princess Cruise.

But I’m done with betting on sports myself, I guess the pandemic has cured me. Nowadays I prefer to buy a meal for someone I don’t know than buy a drink for somebody I don’t know. I have a friend who supports a single mother of six in Nigeria, a woman she has never met and most likely never will meet. I’m betting on my friend now, and feel a gratification that I never felt while cheering-on that last note of the Star Spangled Banner.

As a wise person once told us, “A dollar picked up in the road is more satisfaction to you than the ninety-and-nine which you had to work for, and money won at faro or in stock, snuggles into your heart in the same way.”

If you still bet on sports, place a futures bet on the Bucs to repeat, but if your heart has taken a swing toward the magnanimous, well, put your money on that mother of six in Nigeria …

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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