The game ended with the unlikely score of 11-10, the Steelers on top. Pittsburgh had scored a safety early on, then kicked three field goals to arrive at 11. With the Chargers down to their last play, the stats guys reported no NFL game had ever ended with that score (in over 12,000 games). San Diego then tried a trick play involving multiple laterals, ended up botching one and Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu scooped it up and ran it in the end zone as the clock ran out, making the score a much less unusual 17-10.
But the refs conferred for several minutes, decided there had been an illegal forward pass earlier in the play which meant they were ruling the play dead. Game over. 11-10. However, the refs botched this one, too. As ref Scott Green admitted after the game was over, the play shouldn’t have been ruled dead at all since the illegal pass had never touched the ground. “It was incorrect to have killed it at that point,” said Green. “The ruling should have let the play go on.”
Now none of this really matters as far as the outcome of the game goes. However, as I was watching, I was thinking of the screams of agony that had to be filling the air in the Vegas sportsbooks. Pittsburgh was a five-point favorite yesterday, see, meaning that final, nutty play had a lot of significance to anyone who had bet on the game, regardless which team one had picked. For the guy who had bet on the Steelers to cover the spread, he became subject to an incredibly unlikely slowroll, thinking he’d won, then learning he’d lost, then learning he’d lost only because the refs screwed up!
Speaking of unlikely outcomes, I had found myself a little earlier in the afternoon flipping the channels once the Titans had appeared to have taken control of their game with the Jaguars, and at one point landed on ESPN where they were replaying the World Series of Poker Main Event final table. Now I had seen the entire show last week and really there wasn’t much compelling me to watch it again. However, I realized there was one moment I knew I wanted to see one more time -- that hand in which Peter Eastgate rivered Scott Montgomery with the case six to knock Montgomery out in fifth place. Talk about unlikely. There was only one card left in that deck that could’ve ended Montgomery’s day, and out it came.
The reason why I wanted to see that hand again was not because I enjoyed seeing Montgomery bust out in such wicked fashion, nor that I particularly liked seeing Eastgate win the hand. No, the reason I wanted to see it again was to see Montgomery’s reaction -- that wonderful mix of self-effacing humor, quiet acknowledgment, and good sportsmanship. We’ve all suffered bad beats, but this one was about as brutal as it gets. And Montgomery’s response was a model of grace.
It was also a pretty cool “sports” moment to watch again, too. To remind you, Eastgate had made it 1.25 million from middle position. ESPN then shows Dennis Phillips checking his hole cards -- which indeed included the -- before folding. Montgomery then reraises all in with his last 7 million-plus from the small blind, and Eastgate calls, showing to Montgomery’s .
The flop comes , and Phillips is heard saying he had folded a black six. Montgomery quickly estimates that the on the turn would leave Eastgate drawing dead. (So would a few other diamonds, I suppose.) He also smilingly says something in there about how “that will make it that much worse when the six comes on the river.” (I’d check on PokerTube, but it is currently down for maintenance.)
The turn is the , which gives Montgomery trips but actually is a meaningless card. I know ESPN dubbed in the commentary later, but they did a nifty job here with Lon McEachern’s call: “And now the riverrRROHHHHHH!!!!!” -- his cry matching the crowd’s uproar at the appearance of the . Phillips immediately backs away from the table in horror. “A one-outer,” you can hear him say.
Montgomery just sits there for a moment smiling, as if he knew it was coming. I’d see his funny spot on the earlier ESPN telecast, as well as heard him interviewed on Pocket Fives (the 10/30 episode), and so was already inclined toward liking the guy. But this reaction -- see the above screen shot -- was just simply terrific. With a big grin he stands up and shakes hands, makes a joke with Ylon Schwartz (it appears), and ambles off. Such is life. Would that we all were able to understand and accept it so well.
I’m guessing those poor saps who bet on the Steelers to cover yesterday probably reacted a little differently.