LONDON – Two years after arriving in Canada in the late Sixties, I joined The Windsor Star newspaper just across the river from Detroit and discovered American football. In the office, aside from the sportswriters, the most avid sports fans were sub-eidtors on the copy desk, which was known as the rim. The most avid was a dimunitve chap named Benny Grant who also was a devoted gambler.
When the NFL season kicked off in 1969, I asked Benny if he would accept a bet on the NFL season. We’d each pick a team and whichever got closest to the Super Bowl was the winner. Benny almost choked. What did a Limey know about American football?
He said he didn’t want to take my money. I kept pressing and in the end he relented and named the Buffalo Bills.
I chose the Cincinnati Bengals.
Three things influenced my choice. First was that Doris Day, my youthful crush, was born there. Secondly, Bengals uniforms and helmets were orange and black, not much different from the black and old-gold of Wolverhampton Wanderers in the English football league, the team of my childhood.
Mainly, I went for the Bengals because Playboy’s ace sportswriter Anson Mount said gamblers should keep an eye on the team. He explained that it had been an expansion team the year before and went into a detailed analysis none of which I understood. Still, Mount had a great track record and he said the Bengals could do well.
At the end of the season, the Bills had lost ten games. The Bengals lost only nine. Benny, shaking his head at the absurdity of it but smiling, handed me a crisp $20 bill. He died several years ago but were he around today to see the Bengals in the Super Bowl, his head would still be shaking and he’d still be smiling. That’s why I’m rooting for Cincinnati today.