In memory of a Super line move

Oct 31, 2006 5:48 AM

Giants -12½ versus Houston: Bet this game before it goes to 14½. The Texans look good only on paper. They really stink.

Tennessee +7½ versus Jacksonville: Titans are getting better as rookie quarterback Vince Young matures. We all get better as we mature. I hope I do!

Chicago -13½ versus Dolphins: Da Bears have made believers out of many, including me. Dolphin coach and ex-LSU coach Nick Sabin better freshen up his resume.

(NOTE: Sundays Colts/Broncos game was the greatest football game I have ever seen!)

My story this week begins in either the second or third Monday in January 1995. The participants had been selected for Super Bowl XXIX the day before. It was to be the San Diego Chargers of the AFC and the San Francisco 49ers of the NFC.

As was the custom on Monday mornings throughout the football season, the supervisors and I arrived at the Excalibur Hotel bright and early. In attendance were Eric St. Claire, Richie Saber, Tony Gallenbeck and perhaps a few more, the names of which I can’t recall at the moment. Everybody was invited to participate and most were not even working that day, but chose to come in anyway.

The first set of numbers which probably came from the Stardust was the 49ers minus 17 and the total of the game at 46. It had always been our philosophy to get the proper direction of a number and attempt on Monday to eventually even your book up by the following Sunday.

The thinking is that by Saturday you are in the driver’s seat and because you are close to even you call the shots. If you’re loaded on one side or the other the public and wise guys call the shots.

I’ll tell you this — the philosophy seemed to work for many years. Anticipating the direction of the number was certainly the key to success. Will the favorite be bet higher or lower by game time? That was always the question.

After much discussion we somehow agreed that as obscene as the number was it had to go higher, as the public could not possibly bet on San Diego. Now we had three adjustments to make: the point spread, the total points scored and the money line without points. We had two hours to arrive at only three numbers before our own lottery was to begin at 10 a.m. The prime discussion was at what number our customers will bite. During the season we would put out almost 100 numbers in less time.

Finally, we made the 49ers a 20 point favorite, and the total we pushed up to 52 — a full six points higher than the original line. As usual we had about 100 players, and when they saw the numbers on the board they all cleared out to the phones and the room was empty. We wondered where everybody went.

Well, the lines at the public phones were 10 and 20 deep, so we all knew that we really got their attention. They could smell middles a mile away. They all came back within 15 minutes and the fun began. We had four supervisors and three machines going. It lasted what seemed like an eternity. The fact was that we ran them all out of money, which in those days was an absolute impossibility as their bankrolls were enormous.

As the days passed prior to Super Bowl Sunday I was pleased with everything as the numbers throughout the town were all going one way. The one exception was the bets on the money line. We were absolutely buried on San Diego. I reasoned to my employees that the NFC (49ers) had defeated the AFC (Chargers) 10 consecutive times and the Charger money was a lock.

When you book a Super Bowl as I see it you try to win any two of the three major decisions. Having the money line in my pocket I was just hoping that we could win either the total or the point spread. The parlays and propositions would take care of themselves.

The game finally gets here and Steve Young throws two touchdown passes within the first 5 minutes. (He threw six that day and was voted the MVP of Super Bowl 29.) The half time score was 49ers 28-7.

We all started telling jokes as the expression goes. Wouldn’t it be unbelievable if we could win all three major decisions? Within the last two minutes the Chargers put on a drive that would have allowed them to cover the point spread, but they failed, and the final score was 49-26.

We couldn’t wait for Eric to put in all the props so we could check the computer and find out how much we had won. Finally it came up and we were stunned when it showed over one million dollars in the plus column. All of the supervisors and I were in my office and for the first time that day we all agreed that this was one Super Bowl we’ll never forget.

In passing, I sincerely mourn the loss of the great coach and leader of the Boston Celtics, Red Aurbach. I’ll never forget him lighting up a cigar when his team’s victory was assured. Red was 89, and he truly got his money’s worth out of his illustrious life.