Six-foot subs, multi-million-dollar commercials and upstanding players getting arrested for their night-before-the-big-game antics symbolize some of the so-called pageantry that engulfs the Super Bowl.
But if there’s one thing that has become synonymous with the out-of-control nature the two-week event has taken, it’s the millions of dollars exchanged (and thousands of kneecaps broken) because of various forms of gambling.
Even those who attend a Super Bowl party for free chips, dips and beer can get in on the action with those box pools that reward an ever-growing number of winners using increasingly complex rules. For $5, you can be part of a phenomenon almost as popular as NCAA Tournament pools, and you don’t even need any football knowledge. Heck, even Matt Millen could win one of these things.
Politicians have also found ways to capitalize on the gambling frenzy (surprising, I know) with the traditional yearly bet waged between mayors from the cities of the two Super Bowl teams. This year, Chicago mayor Richard Daley offered potato chips, soda, Bears apparel and furniture. In return, Indianapolis mayor Bart Peterson put up tickets to the Big Ten Tournament and all three races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as well as meals at 13 different restaurants. Congressmen, senators and governors typically get in on the act, too.
And, of course, there’s the betting that goes on in Las Vegas, on the Internet and with local bookies across the country.
Maybe you’re just a casual fan who wanted to test his casual knowledge. You could have bet on the outcome of the game, the halves or any of the individual quarters.
Or maybe you’re a hardcore fan who wanted to test his hardcore knowledge. You could have bet on which team will have more first downs in the first quarter or will run more plays in the first half.
Or maybe you’re a basketball fan who wanted to test his … I don’t even know what to call this knowledge. You could have bet on whether Cleveland Cavalier Zydrunas Ilgauskas will total more points and rebounds in his game against the Pistons than Peyton Manning completes passes against the Bears.
These last two sets of bets may sound silly, but they’re part of a very popular group of wagers called propositions, or “prop” bets. They’ve grown substantially since Super Bowl XX in 1986, when the sports book at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas offered 20-to-1 odds (that shrunk to 2-to-1 by gametime) that the Bears popular, 300-pound-plus defensive lineman William “the Refrigerator” Perry would score a touchdown (used occasionally as a goal-line fullback, he had two in the regular season).
Even though Chicago coach Mike Ditka said before the game he wouldn’t use Perry to run the ball, the coach went to him in the fourth quarter, and Perry barreled into the end zone, vindicating all those who placed the novelty bet. Makes you wonder if Ditka got in at 20-to-1.
Taking even a quick look at Bodog.com, an Internet betting site, you have to wonder who even comes up with some of these things.
There were 299 different bets you could have placed before the game, and, by the time the ball was kicked off, at least four of them will already be settled. If you felt like throwing money around based on pure luck, you would have wagered on whether the coin flip would be heads or tails, which team would win it and which team would return the ball. Even Daily Arts writers could have played, as Bodog set the over/under of Billy Joel’s Star-Spangled Banner at 1:42. The clock started when he hit the “Oh.”
The rest of the bets range from absurd to ridiculous.
The football-only, team bets included what the first scoring play of the game will be, what the last scoring play of the game will be, which team will score first in the last two minutes of the first half, whether or not the team that scores first wins, how long Chicago’s first punt will go, whether the Colts will score an odd or even amount of points, how many Bears will catch a pass, and just about everything else you can imagine.
Wanted to bet on individual players? Should have guessed who would score the first touchdown or intercept the first pass. Could have estimated Reggie Wayne’s yard per catch total total or the length of Bernard Berrian’s first reception. Nine different defensive players had an over/under on their total number of tackles, sacks and interceptions.
You could even have wagered on how Manning’s game would stack up against the historical performances of other great quarterbacks like Montana, Elway, Bradshaw, Marino and Aikman. And how he will do compared to Richard Hamilton, of course.
You could have pitted a number of the gridiron stars against their counterparts on the hard court or on the golf course or on the … stage. With the Grammys coming up on Feb. 11, you could have bet on whether Marvin Harrison will have more catches than Mary J. Blige wins awards and Rex Grossman touchdowns versus John Mayer trophies.
I was only half surprised there was no over/under on how long it would take me to write this column.
But I’m holding out hope for next year.
Don’t believe in me? Well, I’m willing to bet.
– Have your own idea for crazy prop bets? Let Herman hear it at email@example.com.“firstname.lastname@example.org”>