When I was a sophomore in college, I watched as four friends — one jumping on the couch, another shielding his eyes, one with his face 2 inches from the TV and another on all fours desperately looking up at the screen — gutted out the final 30 seconds of a college basketball game between Wichita State and Western Kentucky at 3 in the morning during ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon.
The Shockers were 15 ½-point favorites, and all four had placed a bet down on them to cover the spread. With the Shockers ahead 62-49, Fred Van Vleet buried a jumper to put them up 15 and somehow, someway WKU turned the ball over in perfect fashion by throwing it into the back court, where Wichita’s Tekele Cotton sprinted toward the other end of the court, grabbed it with momentum heading towards the basket, and slammed a dunk home — a worthless dunk in the eyes of 95 percent or more of viewers — to go ahead by 17 with 10 seconds left. My four friends went wild but still had to hold their collective breath as WKU’s final 3-pointer clanged off the rim, and an offensive rebound eventually led to a steal by Van Vleet to end the game and give the Shox the win and miraculous cover. Everybody in the room went nuts, including me, even though I had nothing to bet on.
And that, my friends, was one of the hundreds, maybe thousands, of instances when a double-digit margin in the final minute of a blowout game can still be exhilarating — even if you’re just watching as a bystander.
Want a more recent example? Read more here.