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Bookies Begging For Bowl Bettors To Fork Over Bucks

Wed., Jan. 18, 1995, midnight

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

The San Diego Chargers.

No, you’re not.

We’re about to find a way for San Diego to win the Super Bowl. But maybe you think that can’t be done. Maybe you think San Francisco is the surest thing since sunrise-sunset. Maybe you’re right.

OK, we’re going to forget San Diego. Let’s find a way for you to win the Super Bowl.

Right now, the almighty 49ers are 19-point favorites. By tomorrow, the line will only be higher. It’ll reach 20 or 21, predicts analyst and forecaster Danny Sheridan.

Las Vegas, says Sheridan, is “very sick about this game.” At the Mirage, where they’re making it possible to collect 10-1 on a Chargers bet, nobody is racing to the windows. The Sands Hotel betting manager, Bob Gregorea, says, “We’ve done everything we can to attract money on the Chargers, but there just isn’t any.” He will keep raising the points until a bet on the Chargers becomes a slightly better investment than a hole in the pocket.

The Vegas guys would much rather have teams from the West and East, not South Cuckoo vs. North Cuckoo. Pittsburgh, for instance. Miami, that would have been the best fish of all. Dan Marino vs. Steve Young, oh boy. OK, wake up, forget it.

We’re stuck with San Diego, Stan-what’s-his-name and a Natrone and a Junior. The 20 points, when it gets there, is still no bargain. This is the 29th Super Bowl and the betting line has never put the teams this far apart.

Until now, the greatest spread was 26 years ago, when the Colts opened as 17-point favorites against a team called the Jets. (Those Colts played in Baltimore and those Jets worked in New York’s Shea Stadium, sharing the place with something known as a baseball team. Long time ago.)

It was the third Super Bowl, and the two football leagues, the NFL grandpas and the AFL punks, still weren’t crossing league lines to play regular-season games. That would come the following year.

Emerson Boozer was a running back on that Jets’ team. “The AFL was considered inferior,” he recalls, “but we didn’t believe that. We came from the same schools they did, the same conferences. Our coach had won a championship in their league. What made them more talented?”

Looking back, Boozer believes the media’s NFL bias, the notion that AFL players were still learning to tie their laces, helped those Jets.

“Everybody was saying the NFL was vastly superior and you tend to be lulled asleep by those press notices,” he said. “You don’t seem to get as concerned by your opponent as you should be.”

The teams came from different worlds. Joe Namath, Broadway Joe, was the Jets’ quarterback. Long hair, a white-shoes pioneer. Single, and enjoying every minute of it. Wouldn’t be long before he was starring in a motorcycle movie and pantyhose ads.

The football establishment was ideologically and emotionally opposed to everything Namath seemed to represent. The truth is, they didn’t know what he stood for; he just made them nervous.

A few days before the game, Namath got into a barscene argument with Lou Michaels, the Baltimore kicker. About the same time, he announced his guarantee: the Jets would win.

That settled it, the NFL guys decided. These Jets were confirmed amateurs.

The Jets won, a laugher, 16-7, Namath walking off the field waving his No. 1 finger. And if the schlepper Chargers should happen to do the same thing to the splendid 49ers, uh-uh, it would not be nearly as shocking as what the Jets did to the Colts in the city of Miami 26 years ago.

Boozer, by the way, isn’t a betting man. But there’s nothing wrong with his memory. “The Niners are not that far” ahead of the best AFC teams, he believes.

Would he take the Chargers with all those points? “I’d be tempted,” he said. Not Sheridan. “This Super Bowl will make people appreciate Buffalo,” he says. And not Rich Bomze, who has a betting sheet called the Sports Reporter and a 900 number. “The Niners will score right away,” he argues, “so now they’ve got 55 minutes to cover other points. Come on, if they can’t do that …”

… you collect, you crazy San Diego person.

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