A day to wager? You bet

A giant balloon depicting the Lombardi Trophy looms over visitors to the NFL Experience in Tampa, site of this year's Super Bowl.
A giant balloon depicting the Lombardi Trophy looms over visitors to the NFL Experience in Tampa, site of this year's Super Bowl.
Posted: January 26, 2009

In less than a week, Super Bowl XLIII will be played in Tampa, Fla. Breaking news: The Eagles won't be there.

In 2003, after the Birds fell to the Buccaneers in the NFC championship, I didn't watch the Super Bowl. I couldn't stomach it. But I'm over that now. The best way to numb Sunday's pain is by hitting a party. And gambling.

"The total money people will bet come Sunday is about the same as any other NFL weekend, but there's only one game as opposed to 13," said Richard Gardner. The 41-year-old is the sports book manager for Bodog.com, one of the top three online bookmakers in the world. "Everyone has to get a little money down on the Super Bowl. It's un-American not to."

True enough. (Although, don't tell anyone, but Gardner is Canadian. Unexpected, eh?) Let's face it: During the Super Bowl, we're all degenerates. Whether you're making a bet with your pals or getting a line from your bookie, almost everyone wants a piece of the action. My 83-year-old grandmother is probably putting together a block pool with her friends right now. Grandma doesn't procrastinate.

Last year alone, according to the Nevada gaming control board, about $92 million was wagered on the Giants-Patriots game. And that doesn't take into account the money that was gambled online and in back rooms across the country.

Plenty of people bet the point spread and the over/under, Gardner said. But it's the quirky - even ridiculous - proposition bets that make Super Bowl Sunday unique. The kind of props Gardner and his team have spent weeks putting together.

Want to bet on how many yards Kurt Warner will throw for? No problem. But you can also wager on how many times you think his wife, Brenda, will be shown on television (over/under: three).

There are prop bets for how many food references NBC color man John Madden will make (over/under: 1.5), what song Bruce Springsteen will sing to open the halftime show ("Born in the U.S.A." is the front-runner at 2/1), and who the eventual Super Bowl MVP will thank first during the postgame interview (God is the natural favorite at 1/1).

Want to plunk down some cash before the game begins? You can bet on how long it will take Jennifer Hudson to sing the national anthem.

"Last year we had the national anthem total at 1 minute, 44 seconds," Gardner said. "It took 1:47. People took the over. This year, we set it a little higher - 1:54."

Naturally, it doesn't stop there. Like the commercials more than the game? You can even wager on which company will get the best marks on USA Today's annual ad meter (Budweiser is listed at 1/1, followed by Doritos and Pepsi at 3/1).

And forget about who's going to claim the Lombardi Trophy. The big question is, what color will the Gatorade be when they dump it on the winning coach? clear/water is the favorite at 4/5, but that seems uninspired. I'm going with the underdog - lime green at 10/1. Call it a hunch.

"No one is putting $500 down on these things," Gardner said. "It's mostly just five and 10 bucks. Gambling becomes socially acceptable on Super Bowl Sunday."

Fantastic. It's been tough living with the shame.

Love Spike TV. The minds that brought you Shakespearean classics like The Ultimate Fighter and Pros vs. Joes are creating a reality show starring the nation's most unruly mob - the Dallas Cowboys.

Michael Irvin will host the show, which will feature 12 amateurs who move to Dallas and compete for a spot in Cowboys training camp. (How long until the "attempt to stab your teammate with scissors" challenge?) It's a genius idea - a guaranteed, must-watch train wreck. And it got SportsWit' to do a little digging. We've uncovered a list of other sports-related reality shows now in production:

Family Feud: Estranged brothers Mark and Jay McGwire reconnect through the miracle of the national media. Follow along as Jay feeds his sibling to the ravenous press (in exchange for a book deal, of course), while Mark pretends it's not happening.

Straight Shooters: What a blast: It stars Plaxico Burress and Dick Cheney. Two armed men head out into a duck blind. But will both return?

Two Wild and Crazy Guys: Hosted by Tony DiLeo and Joe Banner. They blink. They breathe. Sometimes they blink and breathe simultaneously. (Special guests include Paul Holmgren and Andy Reid.)

Charm School: With Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. Everyone's favorite Fightin's win friends and influence people by supplementing ill-timed insults with ill-timed profanity. Fun for the whole family.

Philly's Next Page 2 Columnist: Six monkeys - on loan from the Philadelphia Zoo - compete for a journalism gig. Watch as they fling feces at players, coaches and the Cold War Era computers they write on. It's totally bananas.

EA Sports likes the Steelers to win it all. The video game company recently ran a Super Bowl simulation on Madden NFL '09. The results: Pittsburgh topped Arizona, 28-24. If you're curious, Ben Roethlisberger won the MVP by throwing for three touchdowns. . . . The finalists for Playboy's sexiest sportscaster were announced. Bonnie Bernstein, Charissa Thompson, Lauren Shehadi and, yes, Erin Andrews all made the cut. I like Molly Sullivan to pull the upset. . . .


Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com.

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