Pointless Mayoral Sports Betting: Surely We Can Do Better Than This
On Wednesday the Denver Post reported that Mayor Michael Hancock was too injured to hold up his end of a bet made with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake over the playoff game between the Broncos and Ravens last weekend. Hancock, whose Broncos lost, had agreed to perform the elaborate pre-game dance moves of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, but claims to have strained his quad at a public dinner before he could bust out the moves.
"Our mayor is headed to the doctor now to find out when he will make a recovery and be able to fulfill his bet with Baltimore," said a spokeswoman for Hancock.
Pointless mayoral bets are made every year before major sporting events, but the vast majority of them are just so vanilla. Many still involve the predictable exchange of local cuisine (like the bet between Rawlings-Blake and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino for this weekend's Ravens-Patriots game). Others resort to hoisting the winning city's flag at the losing City Hall (as Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed wagered before Reed's Falcons beat McGinn's Seahawks last weekend).
Once in a while the sides will up the ante a bit and, as in Hancock's case, stake something that requires a bit more effort, at the risk of a bit more public humiliation. Here are some of the best (or worst, depending on your perspective) moments from mayoral sports betting over the years.
Boston Red Sox v. New York Mets, 1986
A simple flag exchange turned bizarre after the '86 heartbreaker for the BoSox. First New York Mayor Ed Koch asked Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn to fly a special flag that read: "I Love the New York Mets. Don't Tread on Me." Flynn flew a regular flag instead, but it was stolen by the so-called Red Sox Revenge Squad, who demanded that Koch dress up in a bunny costume and shout that he was twins with Mets third baseman Ray Knight. When asked about the episode, Flynn said the perpetrators were obviously New Yorkers masquerading as Bostonians, "since no true Boston Red Sox fan would engage in such thuggery."
(Thanks to Scott Allen at Mental Floss for this and another pick.)
Oakland A's v. San Francisco Giants, 1989
Before the 1989 World Series, San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos told a television station that he didn't want to bet on the series with Oakland Mayor Lionel Wilson, because there wasn't anything in Oakland he cared to win. Wilson saw the interview and sent Agnos a furious note, then refused to return his calls. Finally Wilson told reporters he'd thought of something he was willing to bet Agnos: "Maybe I'll have a plastic foot made he can put in his mouth."
Detroit Red Wings v. Carolina Hurricanes, 2002
In one of his many infamous acts as Detroit mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick called opposing mayor Pat McCrory before the 2002 Stanley Cup finals to make the typical intercity wager. Only problem: McCrory was mayor of Charlotte and the Hurricanes played out of Raleigh. Eventually Kilpatrick's office reached Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker and the cities staked a North Carolina oak tree for a Michigan cherry tree. "Maybe by the time the series is over, perhaps the mayor of Detroit will know where the Hurricanes are based," Meeker said.
Los Angeles Lakers v. Boston Celtics, 2010
Before the 2010 NBA finals, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa offered up Lakers fanatic Jack Nicholson to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino in exchange for Beantown's own Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Villaraigosa proposed that, if the Lakers lost, Nicholson would wear Celtics green and film a commercial in Boston, but if the Celtics lost, Damon and Affleck would have to shoot a public service announcement for Los Angeles. The Lakers won, but it's unclear whether Damon and Affleck ever handled the truth.
New England Patriots v. New York Giants, 2012
Leave it to a billionaire mayor to make a friendly wager that looks like a showcase showdown on The Price Is Right. Before last year's Super Bowl, Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered to give one Boston family a trip to New York with a complimentary two-night stay at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan, plus airfare, meals, Broadway tickets, a tour of the Statue of Liberty — topping it off with a photo with Hizzoner. Boston Mayor Menino matched the stakes, to his credit, only to watch the Patriots lose. Let's hope the remaining members of Boston's old Revenge Squad left the winning family alone.