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Monday, June 18, 2018

Betting on everything involving the Super Bowl is part of the big game tradition

I have never been big on gambling on sports, which is to say that I’ve never been very good at it. This past weekend once again delivered one of the world’s largest annual sporting exhibitions, the Super Bowl. It also enabled a global viewing audience to tap into their inner degenerate. Whether it’s Joe in the nearby cubicle putting $20 on one of those scoring boxes in an office pool or Schlomo from the corner deli betting a salami’s share of money on the New York Giants with the points, many people had a stake in the Big Game, whether they were gambling or simply masquerading as Prince Amukamara’s relative in some ill-conceived e-mail scam.

Let this treatise be the intervention for a nation of sports bettors. Hi, my name is Danny and I have one too many problems to enumerate here, but if you have a couple of hours I’d be glad to give you the not-so-grand tour. Certainly, there are a variety of people who put money on events to drum up interest: those people who wouldn’t otherwise care about Tom Brady’s locks or the not-so-big Chadron State-Wayne State college basketball bonanza. Then, there are sectors of folks who put their hard-earned greenbacks on everything from cricket to a contentious game of hearts involving a few retirees packing visors. These are their stories.

I’ll never forget the first time I was exposed to sports gambling degeneracy. It was at Dodger Stadium. I must have been 10 (or at least three sheets to the wind). While Dodger Stadium has lately posited itself as a bastion for the tired, poor, inebriated and huddled masses yearning to be freed of their savings for the enjoyment of watching a light-hitting third baseman strike out in the clutch, it has also afforded fans (and the occasional owner) to lose all sanity upon entering through its gates. In an ode to Emma Lazarus, perhaps at Chavez Ravine they could display a poem on the stadium walls and call it “The New New Colossus”. My suggestion: they amend the line “the brazen giant of Greek fame” to include a line about Dodger’s stadium once-vaunted urinal troughs.

Anyway, while I was enjoying the formative years of my youth watching yet another lowly band of hooligans cut down the Dodgers (to say nothing of the fans seated near me), what I then thought of as three hardcore baseball fanatics were making a wager. What I then attributed to dedication, I now know as an officially diagnosable condition by the APA. These three were betting $5 between every inning when one of the infielders would flip the ball back toward the mound per usual baseball machinations, whether the ball would end up on the mound or come to rest on the grass. (Take a minute to process that one.) Poor Honest Abe: His stern visage looking back from the currency did nothing to deter these malcontents. There was no Emancipation Proclamation to be had. Though, eventually a security guard did come down to proclaim to the trio to cease their betting or they would be emancipated from the stadium.

Probably, by now, you’ve heard of the lucky schmoes who won a Detroit Lions-share of cash betting that the initial scoring play of the Super Bowl would be a safety. Keep in mind that the only time such a thing happened in the NFL championship showcase was 37 years earlier, about the last time Noxzema ran a Super Bowl commercial. Perhaps in cases like this, simple intercession can help these fans from getting too far gone. After all, these were not astonishingly large bets in the first place.

However, there are certain bets — there is even a term for them — called “prop bets” to help free some overly optimistic, stir-crazed fan of junior’s college fund. Among these bets during Super Bowl XLVI: Whether Kelly Clarkson’s stomach was showing during the national anthem (nope, though mine was ready to burst during the anthem from excessive caloric intake), whether Madonna would wear fishnets during the halftime show (yep: unfortunately, the Lord was a tad less merciful than expected), and even the color of Gatorade dumped on Tom Coughlin’s head after the victory (being the oldest the coach ever to win the Lombardi Trophy, the team decided to dump Postum over his noggin).

Just to put things into perspective, nearly every second of the Super Bowl money was being lost by one poor schlub or the other. The coin flip: someone loses a grand. The Star Spangled Banner: another weak-hearted individual loses a car payment when there was a forgotten word or six. Betting the over/under on the number of Doritos commercials: some poor fellow will have some explaining to do when a Valentine’s Day dinner consists of Cheez Whiz and not reservations at some swanky joint.

There are always the stories of schlubs who take the long odds in the hopes that a team will beat the predicted outcome and win the whole thing. The Bears were long shots in 1985 to win the NFL championship but made some Nostradamus very rich. Vegas had to sweat out Virginia Commonwealth during last year’s NCAA basketball tournament. And so it goes.

For a sportswriter, gambling is traditionally verboten. Every now and then a wide-eyed deserter may break the ranks and surreptitiously put their salary of peanuts on the game. No, literally. I once lost a container of Planters betting on a competitive roshambo tournament. Fortunately, I didn’t have to pay since I was dealing with someone prone to anaphylaxis.

For me however, the allure of a payday is just not that big a deal. My detractors will say that my sports betting talents rival my sports insight. This may seem like a compliment, but unfortunately a QWERTY keyboard does not afford me the ability to disseminate the sarcastic tone that usually accompanies that statement. After all, they say, I once bet a lump sum on Ivan Drago to win the rematch with Rocky Balboa, even though the bet was on a movie and that wager was made just four years ago. But, no I don’t have any extraordinary need to fritter away what is technically defined as both my salary and ransom on something as fickle as a sporting event. Nope I don’t have any gambling problem. I’ll bet you I can prove it.

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