One of my best friends went to University of Portland. Like a good college fan, he roots for his own alumni and he despises the Gonzaga Bulldogs. This conflict of interest has appeared in our lives before, but it is something we can always work through.
The one thing he enjoyed about Gonzaga is that when the Pilots played, it provided an opportunity for him to watch his team on TV twice a year (this was before streaming on the internet was a thing).
We would trot over to our local bar (shoutout to the Roanoke in Seattle), settle in with our pitchers of cheap beer, and watch Gonzaga usually obliterate Portland. Each game, we made a good natured bet: a beer on the game. I always won the beer.
We had to up the bet eventually, because it was very clear that he was just buying me beers on game night, even though he was always on the losing side. We incorporated beating the spread into it. Gonzaga continued to do the Lord’s work. Eventually, the bet became a bit more serious. If Gonzaga didn’t beat the spread, I’d buy him a pitcher of beer. That still never happened.
Then, at some point, the bet turned into one of more financial gravity: If Gonzaga won, he bought me a beer. If Portland won, I would buy him a keg of beer. The winning continued, until it finally stopped.
On Jan. 9, 2014, a Gonzaga team that had bounced in an out of the top 25 all season inexplicably lost at the Chiles Center by nine points. If you look at the box score, the lines are pretty even. There wasn’t really a fundamental reason why Gonzaga lost, outside of just getting outplayed by a hungrier team. Portland hit a few more threes and made their free throws. That was the difference.
I was watching the game at his house. My friend melted off his couch just sort of screaming “yes” into the void. He pulled out his garbage pre-iphone handheld media device and tried to take a video of the scene, which was a total of three of us (two Gonzaga fans, one Portland fans) in a basically empty living room. The pixelated footage consists of me staring in utter disbelief at the TV, a good portion of footage of the walls, and his incomprehensible excitement. If there was ever a high point of Portland basketball, that evening might be it.