Episode 8: Futbol Americano


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Jonathan Tinajero

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Jonathan Tinajero was excited. He’d been scrolling through Facebook when he discovered a professional football league in Mexico. A native of East Los Angeles, Tinajero had dreamed of playing in the NFL, but his football career had fizzled in college. This looked like a fresh opportunity.

His father laughed at him. The LFA? La Liga de Futbol Americano Profesional? That’s a soccer league, son.

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Dad was wrong. The LFA is hoping to capitalize on the NFL’s popularity in Mexico, and soon Tinajero, a defensive back and wide receiver, was in Mexico City, playing for the Mayas, chasing those dreams again, and learning that the LFA is not exactly the NFL. Juan Reyes reports.

Juan ReyesJuan Reyes is a sportswriter for the Santa Cruz (California) Sentinel. He reported this story from Mexico City. For a gallery of photos of Tinajero and his Mayas teammates, click here. All photos are by Juan Reyes and Montse Lopez Flores.

Paulie Soda

The episode opens with our first story of losing from a listener. Jim Morfino called in with a memory from his childhood in the Bronx. Morfino, 74, lived across the street from Fat Nick’s candy store, which was really a bookmaking operation. “I don’t think there was a legitimate candy store in all the Bronx,” Morfino says.

Paulie Soda drove the soda truck, and was one of many Damon Runyon-type characters hanging out around the candy store, where Jim and his friends hung out after school. “Paulie was a loser,” Morfino says. A big problem for Paulie was that he hated the Yankees, so he bet against them all the time. A bigger problem: It was 1953, and the Yankees were on their way to winning their fifth straight World Series.

One day, though, Paulie let Jackie Pads talk him into betting on the Yankees. Just this once.

If you’ve got a story about losing in your life, call us up at 510-646-1082 and tell it to us. We’ll give you $50 if we use it.

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Johnny Rawls

Johnny RawlsIf you’ve been listening to Can’t Win 4 Losing, you’ve heard our closing theme song, “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls.  Now you can hear the story behind the song, as well as the story of how it became our theme. The Mississippi bluesman sat down for an interview before a gig in Fremont, California, earlier this year.

Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Other Songs Used

“Sing Swing Bada Bing” by Doug Maxwell
“The Duel” courtesy of Bensound.com
“Hold My Hand (Ambient Mix)” by Ars Sonor
Music by Chris Banks
Used with permission or via Creative Commons licenses.

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Episode 7 — My Fault: The Trey Junkin Story


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Trey JunkinClick the Apple Podcasts bug to listen.

Trey Junkin was a long-snapper in the NFL longer than anyone else, ever. He can count on his fingers the number of bad snaps he made in 20 seasons in the NFL. But if you remember him, you remember him because of his very last snap. And it was a bad one. Also: You are a New York Giants fan.

Junkin played in the NFL for 19 seasons — “it kinda pisses me off” that it wasn’t 20, he says.

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But he did play in a 20th season. He’d already submitted retirement papers when Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi called him and asked if he could snap for punts in a wild-card playoff game in San Francisco. Junkin, 41 and with a bad knee among other ailments, hesitated, but agreed.

Trey Junkin with the Arizona Cardinals
In an image tacked to his wall: Trey Junkin after a happier finish, with the Arizona Cardinals in 2001.

Junkin practiced with the Giants for only a couple of days, but head coach Jim Fassel asked him to add placekick snapping to his duties. Again, Junkin hesitated. He had barely practiced with the unit, and while it looks simple, the process of snapping on placekicks, and “that triangle: snapper, holder, kicker,” is complex.

“There’s a million things that can go wrong,” he says. “And there’s only one thing that can go right.”

Fassel insisted, and Junkin agreed.

Things went well in San Francisco until they didn’t. The Giants built a 38-14 lead late in the third quarter, with all punts and kicks going smoothly, but the 49ers launched a furious comeback to take a 39-38 with just over a minute to play. Along the way, a first disaster: A bad snap on a field goal attempt that would have extended the Giants’ lead to 41-33.

And then, with six seconds to go, the Giants lined up for what would have been the game-winning kick.

“My fault,” Junkin says about those two snaps. Not the whole game. Not the second-half collapse or the officiating mistake that ended the game rather than properly giving the Giants one more snap. But that last bad snap? “That’s mine.”

Giants fans still cringe at the mention of Trey Junkin’s name. His career was the 16th longest in NFL history, the sixth longest among non-kickers/punters. The names above him on that list: Jerry Rice, Brett Favre, Bruce Matthews, Darrell Green and Jim Marshall. Four Hall of Famers and one (Marshall) who should be.

For most of his 19-plus years in the league, he was anonymous, a perfectionist working in the game’s trenches. But all anyone remembers about him now is that one snap, his last.

He’s well aware of this. He’s thought about it a lot. He’s talked about it a lot. And he welcomed me to his home in Winnfield, Louisiana, to talk about it for Can’t Win 4 Losing.

Helmets
In the barn he used as a home gym when he was still physically able to do so, Trey Junkin has a collection of helmets from all the teams he played for. The only exception: The New York Giants.

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Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Other Songs Used

In order of appearance:

In the West” by Kevin McLeod (Creative Commons 4.0)
“Room With a View” by Jahzzar (Creative Commons 3.0)
“Horses to Water” by Topher Mohr and Alex Elena
“Call to Statesmanship” by U.S. Army Herald Trumpets
“Bravura” by U.S. Army Band
Except as noted: public domain or Creative Commons non-attribution license.

Did you catch the NFL Films music vibe we were going for?

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Episode 6: Zippy Chippy—Legendary Loser to Champion of Champions


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Zippy ChippyZippy Chippy ran 100 races and lost 100 times. But he was a star, featured in People magazine and on “Good Morning America,” among many others. So many fans bet on him that he routinely went off as the favorite. Most of those fans didn’t know that Zippy was hardly a lovable underdog who goshdarnit gave it his all but wasn’t good enough.

“Nobody got too close to him,” says William Thomas, author of the horse’s biography: The Legend of Zippy Chippy. “Even the grooms and the hotwalkers were very leery.”

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Zippy was, and at 26 still is, an ornery cuss. He’s been known to bite, and he once caught his owner and trainer, the late Felix Monserrate, by the back of his jacket and held him suspended in midair for 15 minutes. Track workers came running at the sound of Monserrate’s screams, but they weren’t able to help him. They were laughing too hard.

Zippy Chippy had a champion’s bloodlines. He’s a direct descendent of Man o’ War, three Triple Crown winners and the greatest broodmare of the 20th century, La Troienne. Bloodlines are everything in thoroughbred racing, but Zippy Chippy parlayed that advantage into a career of futility that began at Belmont Park in New York but ended at fairground tracks in Massachusetts. His career winnings were about $30,000.

Zippy Chippy lives now at Old Friends at Cabin Creek, a thoroughbred retirement farm in upstate New York whose owner, Jo Ann Pepper, refers to herself as Zippy’s mom. And here’s the twist: Zippy is so popular that, through donations and merchandise sales, his presence pays for the upkeep of a small herd of horses who won millions of dollars and stood in the winner’s circle at major races.

“This is the most beautiful irony of any story I’ve ever come across,” Thomas says.

As you’ll hear in the story, what happens to thoroughbreds when they come off the track is a serious issue in the racing industry. The Old Friends retirement farms are supported entirely by donations, volunteer work and merchandise sales. Please consider donating or, if you’re in the area, volunteering. Visit OldFriendsEquine.org to learn how you can help these magnificent animals.

This summer Can’t Win 4 Losing visited Zippy, his caretakers and his fellow retirees, including his bosom buddy, Red Down South. Click on Zippy’s smiling face for a gallery.

Zippy's face

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Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Other Songs Used

“William Tell Overture” by Rossini
“Ipanema Daydream” by Bird Creek
“The Creek” by Topher Mohr and Alex Elena
“Dreamland” by the 126ers
All are either public domain or used under a Creative Commons license.

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