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True IT Blooper #102: When techies love football

An on-call, football-loving sys. admin and a dim-witted foreman with a knack for calling at the wrong moment get through a Sunday afternoon together.

"ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?" Mike Grosse was ready for just that on January 27, 1991 -- the day his Buffalo...

Bills made it to the Super Bowl for the first time in the history of the Big Game. He told his family ahead of time, "No Super Bowl parties this year. I just want to watch the game." He had his popcorn and chips. He was at the edge of his couch seat. He had the volume up. Mike was ready.

Unfortunately, this blooper DOES belong in the Blooper Zone. It's not a tale of a football game, but rather one about how an on-call chemical plant systems administrator (Mike) and his football team could not possibly get through a dream game successfully.

Mike and his Bills made it through more than three grueling quarters. The game would now be decided by a field goal and, wouldn't you know it, Mike's beeper went off. When he called the number, a foreman at the plant (let's call him Ralph) told him he was having problems with his computer and needed to enter a work order. Mike promised Ralph some help, waited until a timeout (as all faithful football fans do), logged on to the system from his home and saw that everything was working just fine.

Two minutes left in the game. Another beep. Another phone call to the foreman. Ralph said he was in a bit of a rush because he wanted to get the order in before the shift changed. Mike reported that the system was hunky dory as far as he could tell. Ralph further explained his problem: "My screen is dark and nothing happens when I push the keys on my keyboard."

The Bills were on the 35-yard line. Time, as well as Mike's focus on the foreman's computer, was ticking away. Mike patiently told Ralph to check all the connections on the back of the terminal and give him a call back.

The ball was on the 20. The Bills lined up to kick the field goal that would win the game. Ralph, proven by then to be an anti-football fan called Mike back at this crucial junction of the biggest game in the Bills' 31-year AFL history. Ralph claimed the room was too dark to check the connections.

"What exactly is this work order for?" asked an instantly curious Mike.

"We need to get an electrician over here for this power failure in the building."

Mike's mood soon turned as dark as Ralph's office: he turned his gaze back to the television to see the football going wide left. The Bills lost that year to the New York Giants, 20-19.

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