On Sunday evening, a few million die-hard fans of the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens will be imploring the heavens for a Super Bowl championship. But I’ll be among the tens of millions whose sole rooting interest involves something far more sacred than team victory: money
I don’t care if the Ravens win, I just want them to lose by less than 4 points, the current spread. And when the gun sounds and the final score is official, I hope it doesn’t exceed 47 points, the demarcation for over/under wagering.
Those two betting lines are the primary catalysts for what has evolved into Christmas Day on the Las Vegas calendar. Naughty Sin City set a record in 2006, handling a nice $94.5 million in Super Bowl wagers when the Pittsburgh Steelers and the referees beat the Seattle Seahawks. (Yes, my money was on the Seahawks. Worst. Officiated. Super Bowl. Ever.)
Casinos expect to see a similar tsunami of money this time. Worldwide, that figure could swell to possibly $1 billion, thanks to offshore and neighborhood bookies, not to mention office and bar pools and all those “Wanna make it interesting?” bets among families and friends.
If you think those numbers are crazy, get a load of this one: 20. That’s how many proposition bets a Vegas sports book is listing for one player, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. All you have to do is pick the prop you like best: Will he rack up more than 55.5 yards rushing? Pass for at least 232.5 yards? Complete 17 or more passes? Maybe you’ve just got a hunch that the insanely tattooed phenom will be the game’s most valuable player. Right now, he’s the 8-5 favorite. (If he wins, you’ll get $8 for every $5 wagered.)
Of course, there are plenty of non-Kaepernick alternatives — hundreds of them. By one estimate, all those prop bets — the typical gambler forks out up to $25 a pop — now account for as much as 40 percent of the total money “invested” in the Super Bowl.
So why waste your hard-earned cash on Wall Street when you can lose it even faster betting that San Francisco running back Frank Gore will score the game’s first touchdown. He’s the 13-2 favorite, offering a potential return that dwarfs the S&P index, nevermind those antiquated savings accounts paying less than 1 percent interest.
Or win $160 by successfully wagering $100 that someone on defense or special teams will romp into the end zone. Sure, you can be conservative and stick to those 50-50 over/under bets, including total touchdowns (5.5.), penalties (13.5) and longest rush by Baltimore running back Ray Rice (17.5 yards). Fans of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, playing in the final game of his storied career, have a not quite Kaepernick-like range of options, from tackles (11.5) to whether he’ll say “God” or “Lord” more than three times during the post-game interview on the field.
That’s right, there are Super Bowl bets that have absolutely nothing to do with football. You can get even money on whether Alicia Keys will mess up the words of the national anthem or finish in less than 2 minutes and 10 seconds. You can also bet on Beyonce’s hair — will it be curled/crimped or straight during the halftime show?
The sentimental favorite: Will the opposing head coaches, brothers Jim and John Harbaugh, hug for more than 6 seconds when they meet at midfield after the game?
For God’s sake, you can even bet on the opening coin toss. (The pre-game ritual has become so popular it now has an official sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.) Word on the street is you should go with tails; heads has won four straight years — and no side of the coin has ever reeled off five consecutive victories in the game’s 47-year history. You might also want to parlay that action with the 49ers’ coin assignment — the NFC’s Super Bowl representative has won the flip 14 times in the past 15 years.
If the coin toss doesn’t go your way, you can always make it back on the NFL’s endearing, game-clinching ritual. That’s right, you can now bet on the color of Gatorade that’ll be dumped on the winning coach’s head. Clear is the odds-on favorite at just under 2-1; blue is the long shot at 7-1.
Seems to me the Gatorade bet would be even easier to rig than the game-jacking refs who left the Seahawks for dead seven years ago. But I’m gonna go with my gut and clean up on my own prop bet: I don’t think anyone east of San Francisco can spell Colin Kaepernick.
Yeah, I know. One of the maxims of gambling is that there’s no such thing as a sure thing. But it’s simply not true. Whenever there is an event that has the possibility of at least two outcomes, someone somewhere will consider the odds and reach for his wallet. It’s the surest thing in the world.
You can bet on it.
By Kevin Haynes
Kevin Haynes is Next Avenue's editor at large.
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