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Decision By Minnesota Vikings Crushes Hopes Of Las Vegas Gamblers


You know, if you ever needed a reason not to bet on sports, there's a lesson from one of the producers of this show. Our very own Phil Harrell was in Las Vegas for Sunday's playoff game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints. And I'm going to keep this simple so even non-gamblers will get it. Phil bet on the Vikings. And for him to cash in, they had to win by 6 points or more.

The Vikings - they did win. They won in spectacular fashion - this incredible pass caught by receiver Stefon Diggs. He sprinted for a touchdown as the clock hit zero - doesn't get any more dramatic than this.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Touchdown. Are you kidding me?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: What a miracle finish.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: It's a Minneapolis miracle.


GREENE: Yeah, as you can hear, it was total insanity in that stadium. That's how it sounded on the Vikings Radio Network. Now, that touchdown put the Vikings up by 5 points. All they had to do was kick the extra point. They would win by 6, and Phil and a lot of other bettors would make a nice chunk of change. Well, we asked Phil what happened next.

PHIL HARRELL, BYLINE: They [expletive] me. That's what happened. It's [expletive] standard, man. Trot out the [expletive] kicker and let him [expletive] do his job.

GREENE: Oh, my god. Take it down. Take it down.

I'm sorry for all those bleeps. My God, yeah, Phil was probably not in any position to be trusted anywhere near a microphone. Luckily, I also talked to Charles Curtis of USA Today about this. He wrote about this game, and he told me about the pandemonium just after that touchdown.

CHARLES CURTIS: There's all these people all over the field. There's photographers. There's all the teams. They figured the game is over, but no. By NFL rule, they have to kick an extra point or 2-point conversion. And so what the Vikings did is, after all the pandemonium calmed down and all the teams and the photographers went back to the sidelines - the Vikings took a knee because it was the sportsmanlike thing to do. And it ended up costing bettors a lot of money.

GREENE: OK. We should say some people have heard a lot about taking a knee in the political sense during this NFL season. In this case, taking a knee was just sort of ending the play and deciding not to kick this extra point.

CURTIS: Right. And that's basically telling the referees, like, we're not running this play. The play is over, and we're not going to do anything with it.

GREENE: So Vikings fans who aren't bettors - they don't care about this. I mean, the Vikings win the game. They're going to the NFC championship game. They're ecstatic. But for bettors, this was absolutely crucial.

CURTIS: This happens regularly during an NFL season, I - also college football. You see what you think is a meaningless play or a last-second score that is meaningless to the actual game. And then you see bettors in Las Vegas either ripping up their tickets or cheering or jumping up and down or slamming their heads on the tables.

GREENE: I mean, is this an evil side of sports to have so much riding on something that might seem so meaningless? Or is this actually, on the flipside, make sports more fun for gamblers? I mean, if it's, like, a 19-point spread, you have what seems like a blowout of a game. But everyone can keep watching until the very end to see if it's like a 19-point win or a 20-point win.

CURTIS: I mean, some people think that gambling is evil. So if you believe that, then, yeah, it's evil. But I see it and I think a lot of people who bet on sports see it as enhancing the game and making it way more fun because now in a game - and playoff games are different because everybody's invested in that because they want to see who goes to the next round. But in a regular season game, if there's a meaningless two teams that, you know, you don't want to watch - suddenly, you have money riding on it. Like, that's a game you want to watch. So it definitely is an enhancer. And I think that's why people bet on sports all the time.

GREENE: But was this game particularly crazy because it came down to an extra point, which is so routine in the NFL after a touchdown, and a team just decides to not kick it?

CURTIS: Oh, absolutely, 100 percent. Teams have to kick an extra point. This is just what they do. So to see that kind of end that way is extra heartbreaking, I think, for gamblers.

GREENE: Well, I know you're a Giants fan. I'm a Steelers fan. Neither of our teams are still in it, so try to enjoy the rest of the playoffs as much as you can.

CURTIS: I certainly will. You, too.

GREENE: That was Charles Curtis, a sportswriter for USA Today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.