It’s becoming increasingly possible to legally gamble on the outcome of sporting events in these United States. The betting bandwagon, now rolling out in the open after decades in the shadows, is picking up state after state.

The internet and cellphones have fueled much of this growth. Fire up the Apple or android and plunk down 50 bucks on the bet of your choice. Such activity can make the game or match or other event much more interesting. Or it could keep the refrigerator bare for another week if the ball rolls the wrong way.

The internet and cellphones also are largely to blame for taking much of the drama from betting that has occurred over past decades.

Here’s an example from the Dark Ages before the World Wide Web gave people immediate access to the results of sports contests and to the long history of statistics and other information linked to professional and college sports:

The scene is the sports department of a newspaper newsroom in the late 1970s. The phone rings. It’s evident from the background noise that the caller is in a tavern of some sort, and it’s evident from his speech pattern that he perhaps has been overserved.

“Hey,” he says. “Between Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, who won five majors first? It was Palmer, right?”

Back in those days, callers to sports departments expected anybody who picked up the phone to have the correct answer to any sports question. Immediately.

“Yes,” the sports writer said. “Palmer got five majors before Nicklaus.”

“I knew it!” the caller exclaimed. “Now tell that to this guy.”

He hands the phone to his pal.

“So which one, Palmer or Nicklaus?” he asks. “Palmer,” the writer verifies. The phone clicks. 

Another bar bet lost.

These days, of course, the bet would have been easily settled with a quick Google search. No need to call the experts.

This sort of call was practically an everyday occurrence in newspaper sports departments back in the day. They came in between calls requesting baseball scores and calls complaining because Johnny Jr.’s Little League score wasn’t in the paper.

On rare occasions, when the evenings were slow and writers working the night shift were bored, such solve-the-bet calls could spark a bit of fun.

For example:

“Hey, the 1961 Masters – Gary Player won by one shot, right?” (These calls invariably came in during Masters week).

“Yes, one shot,” the writer says.

“Here, tell this guy that. He says it was two shots.”

Second guy takes phone. “Player won by two shots. I remember it well.” 

“That’s right,” the writer says.

“He said two,” the guy yells at his friend.

“What?! He told me one.”

“That’s crap. I know it was two, and he said it was two.”

The phone receiver is dropped onto the bar, and various words that shouldn’t be used outside the bar are heard being exchanged. Threats follow. All because of a $10 bet.

From the safety of the sports department, one could envision the calamity at the bar and the confusion sparked by disagreement over a past Masters. You get your fun where you can.

Now all that’s over.

Dang internet.