Be advised: I am the world’s worst Super Bowl bettor and I’ve got the terrible track record to prove it.
My first sports bet ever was on a Super Bowl game. I lost on a last-second field goal.
In the most recent Super Bowl match-up, last year, I had the San Francisco 49ers as an underdog. I was comfortably ahead by 10 points in the fourth quarter. Then, I lost when the Kansas City Chiefs rattled off 21 unanswered points.
In-between the years 1971 and 2020 was a half-century of misery and money went missing.
One time, I bet $39,000 on a Super Bowl game. Guess what happened?
Want more details and bad beat stories? Here’s my Super Bowl betting history
The Early Years
Jan. 17, 1971 — Age 8. I bet the princely sum of $1 on the Dallas Cowboys versus the Baltimore Colts against another degenerate second-grader with future gambling issues. In the worst-played Super Bowl game of all time, both teams combined for 11 turnovers. Dallas tallied more penalty yards than passing yards. Good thing I hadn’t learned the “F-word” yet. Black high-topped, barely-could-walk, Johnny Unitas had been knocked out cold on the Orange Bowl polyturf in the first quarter by Dallas’ Doomsday Defense, but somehow the Colts won anyway in the closing seconds when bastard Craig Morton flung a late interception into the breadbasket of an astonished Colts linebacker. Baltimore, which played even more atrociously than the Cowboys, got the ball back with 16 ticks left on the clock, and some lanky kicker with giant shoulder pads named Jim O’Brien — who had a successful FG percentage of 55 percent over the course of his three otherwise forgettable seasons in the NFL — trotted out and booted a 32-yard field goal that sliced over the crossbar. Five minutes after the game and 16-13 final score won by Baltimore, the punk kid pounded on my door and demanded his money. Record: 0-1
Jan. 16, 1972 — Dallas destroyed Miami 24-3, and the game wasn’t even that close. All I remember was watching the game on a brand new Magnavox with remote control. Back then, this was considered the shit. Don’t get too jealous, guys. Okay, go ahead. Salivate.
Jan. 14, 1973 — No action. In lieu of no betting, let me stick this little diddly for your amusement. Sing it, Andy! You ‘da man!
Jan. 13, 1974 — I remember hating the Miami Dolphins. Don’t ask me why cuz’ I can’t remember. They seemed to always win games ugly — running the ball straight up the middle and with great defense. I didn’t like them. Not the team. Not their fans. Not their uniforms. So, I bet with my heart over my head and took the Minnesota Vikings. Having no clue what a point spread meant at the time, I didn’t even bother getting +7, which was the official line on the game. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. The game was over at kickoff. Miami crushed Minnesota 24-7. I lost my lunch money and didn’t eat in the cafeteria the following week. Record: 0-2
Jan. 12, 1975 — By age 13, I’d mastered the F-word. Fuck the Minnesota Vikings. How could a team with Fran Tarkenton, Chuck Foreman, John Gilliam, Fred fucking Cox, and the Purple People Eaters get spanked 16-6 by Pittsburgh? Minnesota was 0-3 in Super Bowls with this loss. Me too. Record: 0-3
Jan. 18, 1976 — Around this time I started reading the daily newspaper. Inside the sports section, I discovered something called “the point spread.” Strange how the teams that were favored usually beat the teams getting points. Then, a guy wearing a $20 gold piece and checkered suit named “Jimmy the Greek” flashed on CBS’ NFL Today pregame show each week and picked winners against the spread. They might as well have stuffed heroin in my Twinkies. By the Super Bowl that year, I’d figured it all out. Everybody at school cheered for the Cowboys, but Dallas still had 12 rookies on the roster, and they faced one of the greatest teams of all time. I can’t recall the exact figure, but this game was the very first instance of betting money that (1) I didn’t have or (2) couldn’t afford to lose or (3) both. I took the Steelers and faded all the Dallas fans in the school lunchroom who had the Cowboys with no points. I held my breath as Roger Staubach’s Mail Mary pass on the final play hit the turf and ended up collecting about $75 following a 21-17 Pittsburgh win. Instead of gambling, I should have just booked everything for the rest of my life from that moment on. I’d own a casino right now if I’d done that. Record: 1-3
Jan. 9, 1977 — The Vikings got pummeled again. By this time, I’d drank enough purple kool-aide. No action on this game from far as I can remember.
Jan. 15, 1978 — Craig Morton, traded to Denver by this time, proved to be the worst stats QB in Super Bowl history with a second clunker of a clusterfuck, a horrendous effort that got him benched. Morton had previously started Super Bowl V for the Cowboys. Back then, he vowed someday “to win a championship for Dallas.” Well, he delivered! Morton was picked off four times in the first half in addition to fumbling three times, finishing with a passer rating of 0.0. So, he ended up fulfilling his promise to the Cowboys! No wagers.
Jan. 21, 1979 — Feeling guilty aside, the temptation of grabbing the Steelers as a pick ’em when they should have been laying -3.5 to all the Dallas bettors was too tempting. Greed pulled me back in. I had a small fortune on this game — probably close to $250 riding on the outcome. It was another nail-biter won by the Steelers 35-31. Thank you, Jackie Smith. Record: 2-3
Jan. 20, 1980 — Entering a new decade, it should be noted that despite winning just 2 of my 5 bets — I was ahead as a football bettor. In fact, I was way ahead. Betting on football games to make money was easy! Then, once I started college, began working, betting bigger, and far more frequently, I got a real education and dose of reality. All I remember from the 1980 game was I didn’t like either team. Pittsburgh won their fourth Super Bowl beating Pat Ferragamo, who was a Rhodes Scholar. Wait. Wasn’t that the guy who played The Invisible Hulk? Sorry, I keep getting Ray Malavasi mixed up with John Robinson. Whoooooosh! I mean, look at that fucking hair!
Jan. 25, 1981 — The Oakland Raiders were a wild card team that year, with ancient Jim Plunkett at quarterback. The Philadelphia Eagles are going to spank these bitches, I thought. This game was my first $100 bet ever. My hands were shaking while I watched the game. Loser. Final score: Raiders 27 Beagles 10. Record: 2-4
Jan. 24, 1982 — Here’s one of just two Super Bowl games I missed watching live (post-1970). The week before the 49ers played the Bengals, I totaled my Volvo on a ski trip to Purgatory in Durango, Colorado. I spent the entire week trying to arrange repairs in the middle of frozen Colorado with college starting back up and was so busted afterward I couldn’t afford to bet on the game. Since I didn’t lose money betting on football, should I count this as a win?
Here’s one roasty chestnut from that game:
Brent Musberger (speaking at halftime): “We do have some marvelous entertainment. Something that may be even more exciting than the game.” He’s introducing Up with People, who are performing in Detroit (in Detroit!) during a so-called “tribute to Motown.” There’s only one problem. There are ZERO Motown artists onstage! Quite “a tribute” watching several dozen white kids dressed in bellbottoms disco dancing on a football field to the greats of Motown. Gloriously painful to watch.
Jan. 30, 1983 — This was an awesome year. I dated a hot girl named Barbara who was a Leon Russell fanatic and was very kinky. She was a history GTA and drove a candy-red 1968 Mustang. I even lived with Barbara for six months along with her other roommate, Jack Daniels. This was the strike-shortened NFL season. I was only interested in Barbara at the time, and Barbara was only interested in Jack, so when Redskin John Riggins busted a touchdown run on 4th down late in the game against the Miami Dolphins, I was already puffing a cigarette. Mother of Mary, those were the days. Another emotional victory,
Jan. 22, 1984 — I bet the Redskins against the Raiders and lost 38-9. Watched this one and then went to a Clint Eastwood movie afterward. Go ahead, make my day. Record: 2-5
Jan. 20, 1985 — Here’s the first time that two things happened: First, I bet $500 on a game, which is the category I call “pain or glory.” And second, I bet the game total to go UNDER 53.5 points, which seemed ridiculously high for an NFL game at the time. That’s a bet that’s can’t lose! Final score: San Francisco 38 Miami 16 Record: 2-6
More to come in Part 2.
Note: This article first appeared yesterday in my column at www.nolandalla.com