The International Writers Magazine
:British Virgin Islands

The Virgin Gorda Football Authority
Richard Corwin

The British island of Virgin Gorda, near it’s much larger sister Island of Tortola, brags of a population of almost one thousand happy souls, two hotels, one bar—closed most of the time— a fine marina, and wonderful beaches. It was in the early seventies when I had the good fortune to be on the island, many times, to help build the marina docking facilities.

Near the center of the island is the Lord Nelson Inn owned and managed by Tony Mack, British citizen and gourmet chef of Italian origin, who proudly owns the islands only television set. TV programming is transmitted from St. Thomas and mostly re-runs of Bonanza, the Partridge Family, cartoons, and other network out-dated productions. A few live studio shows—cosmetics for the modern woman, political debates, and local sports round out local programming—all crammed between four in the afternoon and ten at night contributing to six fascinating hours of TV viewing.

Tony took an interest in Monday night football—a recent innovation to television by ABC. He knew nothing of the game but a timely visit by a young lady, who took an interest in him during her stay, tutored him in the game. Soon afterward, on Monday nights, the small lobby of the Lord Nelson Inn became a crowded arena for football mania. With his understanding of the game, his confidence grew and then so did his passion for wagering.

Being a small island of limited resources, where everyone was family or friend, Tony would only wager a dinner as the prize for the winners. If he won, the loser(s) would provide the main course of lobster, fish or steak to feed the winners—Tony supplied everything else—this was an arrangement no one disputed since they would be invited to the loser’s dinner anyway. If he lost, Tony would prepare dinner and supply drinks—but Tony never lost.

Late one Monday afternoon I arrived from St. Thomas, checked into the hotel, threw the goats out of my room, put away my bag, closed the door to keep the local wildlife out and went to the small bar in the open dining room. Typical of the island, nothing is locked. There are no doors or windows on the restaurant and customers are often left to serve themselves when Tony retired early—an arrangement made possible by honest guests.

Dinner had just been served. No menu was the secret to punctual dinner hours and a pre-football dart game was underway. I sat alone at the bar and read the remaining two pages of the eight page weekly newspaper I picked up in St. Thomas on Friday. My least favorite, the Sports page, was the last I quickly read and then only to impress anyone watching that I had some interest in sports. I downed the last of my warm Bass Ale, which I found just as exciting, folded the paper, and became interested in a dart game when Tony stopped, after finishing his dinner, to say hello and with an invitation to watch Monday Night Football with the usual sporting crowd. Everyone in the room was placing bets—Redskins or Green Bay. Green Bay was favored and attention was on Tony as he predicted a Redskins victory. I followed Tony and bet on the Redskins. Everyone in the room, who had been watching Monday night football with Tony for several weeks, detailed his good fortune at winning all bets but now all agreed he would lose—Redskins were not favored.

The game ended with the Redskins winning by a field goal and the narrow margin Tony predicted. Again all were amazed. Lively post-game discussions of Tony’s uncanny forecasting followed with lots of head shaking. Pressed to reveal his method of predictions, Tony shrugged his shoulders declaring it was nothing but good fortune. The defeated promised to return the following day with an entrée for the next loser’s dinner. I returned to the bar but in passing I handed the paper to Tony with a wink; the sports page open to the previous Monday night football game, "Redskins Over Green Bay With Last Minute Field Goal."
© Richard Corwin 2002

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