It was early October when the panic attack hit.
Where was it?
Each summer Tampa resident Terry Mullane and friend Joe Krajczweski split a $100 bet on their predicted Super Bowl champion, and during their Aug. 5 excursion to Wynn Las Vegas, they'd settled upon the Arizona Cardinals for the second consecutive year.
Although the Cardinals stung them the year before, finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs, Mullane felt an "it factor" with quarterback Kurt Warner and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Their 50-1 dark horse now has a 50-50 shot with Arizona in the Super Bowl on Feb. 1 against Pittsburgh and is one win from rewarding the car dealership executives with a $5,000 payout.
"I was listening to the radio and (ESPN's) Mike Golic said something like 'imagine the guy out there with a wager on the Cardinals,' " said Mullane, 44. "I'm that guy."
After a few moments of terror, he discovered the graying, frayed ticket between a photograph of his sons, Gibson, 2, and Gavin, 1, and a credit card within the rubber band he uses as a money clip.
"Once the Cardinals sort of looked like they were going to win the (NFC West), I had to find it," he said. "I was a little worried there for a minute."
The ill feeling returned in the second half of the NFC title game, when the Cardinals squandered an 18-point lead, drawing Mullane away from his computer, where he'd been scouting Cardinals party favors for his Super Bowl party.
He and Krajczweski, who lives in Orlando, consoled each other through Arizona's last-drive comeback for a 32-25 victory and nervously anticipate their second Vegas payday. They made their first bet $100 on the Bucs at 13-1 in 2002 but have not won since. They had the Chiefs off to a 9-0 start in 2003, only to see them lose in the first round of the playoffs.
"The idea is for $100 you get to root for a team all year long," said Mullane, who is originally from Orlando and a Cowboys fan. "You feel like you have a bet on the team every week. In the second half of the game (Sunday), we probably felt as bad as the Cardinals did."
Mullane, conversing with Krajczweski on speakerphone from his office Monday afternoon, joked that he had the IRS on the other line.
"I'd be glad to mail you a (tax form)," he said.
Mullane's office is lined with sports memorabilia. There's a Vince Lombardi plaque on one wall, golf pennants and books on the desk. Within the next few days it could be resplendent with Cardinals posters, likely to match the ones he and his wife have been browsing for their game-watching party at their house.
"It feels like we're in the playoffs, too," he said. "We have a lot of fun with football … especially when there's $5,000 on it."