The Crazy Ways Sports Bettors Used To Get Score Updates

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In 2020, sports bettors can simply pull up The Action Network’s mobile app and track all of their wagers in real-time. The only hurdle is ensuring your phone is charged, which can be a struggle on Saturdays in the fall.

But things obviously haven’t always been that convenient.

I bet I could walk blindfolded into a sports bar and basically determine everyone’s approximate age by simply asking them how they used to get score updates growing up.

Look, if you’re under the age of 25, none of these will probably sound familiar to you, so just know how easy you’ve had it for your entire life.

(And, yes, I’m aware that previous sentence means I’m officially old.)

There was a time when bettors had to rely on the next day’s paper for scores, but we’re going to start with the next generation of bettors and take a nostalgic trip down memory lane across three decades of score struggles.

1980s: Sports Phone

There was a time when you had to make an actual phone call to get score updates.

Sports fans born in the 1970s will probably remember Sports Phone. It’s often been said that if you can still recall the number to sports phone by heart, you’re probably 45 or older.

Well, it was actually one of two numbers: 999-1313 or the later alternative number of 976-2525.

You could call and get updates every 10 minutes from King Wally, Peachtree Pete or a number of folks who went on to become prominent sportscasters.

I’m actually too young to know about Sports Phone, but I knew Chad Millman would remember …

The most important relationship I had when I was 12 years old was with sports phone. I was a kid living outside Chicago who was obsessed with the Philadelphia 76ers and Dr. J. I loved them so much I had posters of Marc Iavaroni and Bobby Jones on my wall. I’d pretend I was Spectrum PA announcer Dave Zinkoff when I played hoops, alone, in my driveway.

When the team added Moses Malone in 1983, I was confident we’d finally leapfrog the mean Celtics and stupid Lakers for NBA supremacy. Every night, from the start of the season in October, I’d need to know how the games were going. I could not wait until the box score appeared in the Chicago Tribune the next morning. So I called sports phone incessantly during a two-hour game window. I’d get an update, usually the Sixers would be winning, and then I’d hang up. Ten minutes later, I’d do the same.

The phone bills were ridiculous, my parents were pissed. But I kept calling. Because the team kept winning. It was worth every penny.

1990s: Sports Pager

Let’s move on to the 1990s when Sports Phone was still around but bettors were starting to gravitate to a new piece of technology for score updates — a pager!


The Sports Pager was the name of the one used in Las Vegas, but you could find others throughout the country with different names. These pagers enabled bettors to get updates without the hassle of making a call. The updates would come right to you as frequently as every five minutes.

No more worries about phone bills or angry parents!

2000s: Tell Me

As someone born in the mid-1980s, I never bet during the Sports Phone era, but I did have plenty of experience trying to get score updates through phone calls.

I had a cell phone in college but smart phones had yet to reach the Early Majority Phase in 2009. Therefore, you couldn’t just pull out your cell phone to get scores. So, what did I do? I went to the corner of the bar and dialed 1-800-555-8355 (555-tell).

 

From there, you had to yell “sports” into the speaker and then the specific sport you wanted an update for followed by the specific team. The service usually routed you to the wrong sport or category and you’d have to frustratingly start all over again before inevitably hearing your team “was throttled.” Oh, those were the days.

There were other places to call to get scores as well. I had a friend try to call an arena for an update on a random SWAC game. That friend may or may not have been me.

And some even called the local paper.

Also, I’m sure some of you even called your betting site for score updates. Any means necessary!

You also may remember …

  • Trying to find scores on the radio — whether it be 15 and 45 past the hour on a news station or trying to find a random broadcast with the tune seeker on AM radio
  • Waiting for 28 and 58 past the hour for bottom line updates on ESPN2, praying that your update came before a commercial.
  • Headline News updates on CNN twice an hour. Some of you may remember Jerome Jurenovich and/or Van Earl Wright
  • Asking and searching for updates in online gambling forums. A few of you may still do a form of this today on Twitter with off-the-radar events.
  • Texting 4INFO a team name and getting a text back with the score. I still remember these texts causing me to go way over my text limit on my family’s plan when I was in high school. But who can resist texting 4INFO every minute for a half hour straight in the second half of a college basketball game when you’re sitting in a movie theater with friends?

Luckily, we no longer have problems getting scores. We just need to get sports back to actually have scores to check.

Hopefully we will all be glued to our phones again come fall, my friends.

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