Statisticians say that every time a coin is flipped, the chances are 50-50 whether it will come up either heads or tails. Jackie Slater, longtime captain of the Rams and now a Fox TV broadcaster, says that's wrong. What's more, he says, he has the evidence.
Slater trotted out game after game along with the other captains for the ceremonial flip. And game after game, the Rams wound up kicking off.
"I called heads every time," he said. "That was my policy. And every time, it came up tails."
Jackie Slater, longtime Rams' captain, wasn't the team's only captain. But the others, such as Doug Smith, Irv Pankey and Dennis Harrison, all deferred to him. He would make the call, and the other team would get the ball.
This is a statistical anomaly, flying in the face of the theory of numerical probability. Nevertheless, Slater says, that's what happened.
"I think I lost 17 straight coin flips," he said.
The Rams can confirm 12 straight in 1992, a pretty remarkable string.
It was not always his fault, though. When the Rams played at home, the visiting team made the call on the coin flip. On the road, though, Slater had the responsibility.
He wasn't the team's only captain. But the others, such as Doug Smith, Irv Pankey and Dennis Harrison, all deferred to him. He would make the call, and the other team would get the ball.
Occasionally, frustrated teammates suggested that Slater might want to change his strategy. He was not about to do that. He had personal reasons. "I was committed to what I was doing," he said. "I knew I was calling heads."
Despite Slater's streak of bad luck, the Rams did well enough during the 19 years he anchored their offensive line.
"We won more than our share of games, even if we lost the toss," he said.
And he has special memories from one of the tosses he won.
"In 1989, we played the Giants in the playoffs," Slater said. "The game went to overtime. The coin toss came up heads. We got the ball, went down and scored. They never touched it."
Slater was not the only one to experience coin flip adventures. Two years ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers went to overtime against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day and sent running back Jerome Bettis and defensive back Carnell Lake out for the flip.
Referee Phil Luckett tossed the coin and claimed Bettis called "heads-tails," covering all possibilities. It seemed like a variation of the old joke: "Heads, I win, tails, you lose." Luckett went with the first thing he heard and gave the flip and the ball to the Lions, who went down and scored to win the game.
Bettis and the Steelers were livid.
"I did not say 'heads-tails,"' Bettis insisted. "That is a lie. That's a bald-faced lie."
Detroit cornerback Robert Bailey, who was not part of the ceremony, said he heard Bettis call one thing and Lake call another.
"To me, it sounded like one guy called heads and one guy called tails," he said. "That way, no matter what happens, you can argue. It's an old trick."
The next week, taking no chances, Jesse Tuggle of the Atlanta Falcons arrived at the coin flip carrying a placard which read "Heads!"
Perhaps the most famous coin flip occurred in the 1962 AFL championship game between the Dallas Texans and Houston Oilers, forerunners respectively of the Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans.
On a blustery day, where the wind would be a factor, the game stretched into overtime. As Dallas running back Abner Haynes went out for the coin toss, he got some last-minute instructions from coach Hank Stram.
"If we win the toss, we don't want to receive," Stram said. "We want the wind. If they win the toss, we want to kick to the clock."
As it turned out, Haynes won the toss with one of Slater's lucky "heads" calls. Remembering the coach's instructions, he deferred.
"We'll kick," he announced, "to the clock."
Right into the teeth of a gusting wind.
On the sidelines, Stram watched the ref signal that Dallas had won the toss and saw Houston captain Al Jamison jumping around like a kid on Christmas morning.
"They got the wind and the ball," said the coach, who turned 77 last week. "I just accepted it. You can't do it over. I didn't say much. It was over. You just forget about it and go out and try to win the game."
The Texans survived Haynes' blunder, pushed the game into a sixth period and then won the game 20-17 on a 25-yard field goal by Tommy Brooker.
This time, with the wind at their backs.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.