PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — They were so, so close.
Brendan and Steve Hirsh of South Jersey had a pretty cool sports bet going last year that nearly netted them $5,000. It was a tag team wager in which the father-son duo would split 50-50 if the improbable happened.
I write improbable because this is Philadelphia sports we’re talking about.
Remember — from 1984 to 2007, this town’s main professional sports teams won zilch. Nada. Nothing. Since 2008, only the Phillies and Eagles have won championships. The Phils also had a decade-long postseason drought, the Flyers have been stuck in mediocrity and the 76ers can’t get past the second round.
But, that didn’t stop Brendan and his dad, Steve, from putting down a bet that essentially expresses the loyalty to their teams.
“We’re homers,” said Steve.
First, some background.
Brendan, 28, has been a Philadelphia sports fan since he was a very young age — picking up the passion from Steve and his grandfather. Ever since, Brendan consumes Philadelphia sporting events, trying to watch every game.
“The kid really does bleed green,” Steve said.
“You see somebody no matter where you are, you see somebody with an Eagles hat and [say] ‘Go Birds! Go Birds,’” Brendan explained.
Brendan’s love for the Eagles goes beyond his favorite saying. He got the team’s logo shaved on the side of his head for Super Bowl LII. He rented a trombone during that playoff run to teach himself the Rocky song so he could perform at the eventual parade.
He loves sports so much that the four-month pause of live sports during the pandemic was tough. He would watch old games to fill the time. His mother, Merri, says he would watch lawnmower racing. And he and Steve made an indoor mini golf course to fill the sports void.
Philadelphia sports is a passion he defends. While attending Montclair State University in New York sports territory, he defended his teams’ honor.
“Philadelphia fans are the greatest,” Brendan said. “They can be the worst at times too. But you know they’re on your side.”
Brendan and Steve were definitely on their teams’ side when it came to this sports bet they made about a year ago.
Steve’s cousin told him about a futures bet. If the 2022 Phillies won the National League, the 2022-23 Eagles won the NFC and the 2022-23 Sixers won the Eastern Conference, a $20 wager could turn into $4800.
“It felt like a lottery,” Steve said. “Like you had a shot.”
But in reality, the 2022 Phillies were brutal through the first two months (sounds eerily familiar). According to Brendan, they hadn’t fired former manager Joe Girardi yet. The Eagles were in an off-season that followed getting blown out by Tom Brady’s Buccaneers in the playoffs. Some fans were incorrectly skeptical about Jalen Hurts and Nick Sirianni. And the last time the Sixers made it past the second round, their arena was called First Union Center.
Nonetheless, the bet was made – split 50-50 between Steve and Brendan.
“I think I probably look like a psycho taking that bet,” Brendan said.
Brendan was most skeptical about the Phillies, who ended up giving him one of the most memorable postseason runs he experienced as a baseball fan. They lost in the World Series to the Astros.
The Eagles made it to Super Bowl LVII, before losing to Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs.
All that was left was the Sixers.
Again, the last time they advanced past the second round, Brendan was six. He doesn’t even remember the epic 2001 run orchestrated by Allen Iverson and an incredible complimentary cast of players who fit Philadelphia perfectly.
Fast forward to May 9. Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and the Sixers won an impressive Game 5 at the Boston Celtics to take a 3-2 series lead. It was the first time they won a fifth game of the second round since May 16, 2001. Things were looking encouraging.
But, Brendan saw an opportunity to cash out of the bet and bring in a nice return — nearly $2000 for him and his dad to split. He wanted out.
“[Brendan] had that gut feeling,” Steve said. “‘You know, I’ll take my half.’”
Steve wanted to stay in.
“I got greedy.”
So Steve bought out Brendan with half of what the payout would’ve been, netting Brendan nearly $1000. Steve took over the entire bet.
“I think instead of using my brain,” said Steve, “I use my heart too much.”
Well, the Sixers were about half a quarter away from bouncing Boston from the postseason, at Wells Fargo Center in Game 6, when Celtics star Jayson Tatum went off after struggling most of that game.
“My heart sank,” remembers Steve. “You just knew. You saw it. It was like, ‘No!’ It was almost like a train wreck where you see them coming at each other and there’s nothing you could do. It’s just getting closer and closer. But that’s gambling, right?”
The Celtics forced a Game 7 and blew out the Sixers to advance to the conference finals. Steve lost his bet. Brendan ended up in the plus thanks to his father, despite feeling bad about doing so.
In the end, it was an interesting, low-risk wager that almost came true.
The bond of Philadelphia sports brings family together in more ways than one. Maybe one day the Sixers will finally end the second round curse.
If you’re concerned about your gambling habits or those of someone you love, 1-800-GAMBLER offers free confidential help.