by Robert Ferringo - 02/01/2006
If I won the Powerball jackpot, and cashed in for about $250 million, all I would do is sit around and bet on the most random, nonsensical things you could image; like how many times a traffic light goes red in a given hour or how many times Ice T says, "Yo" in any given episode of Law & Order: SVU.
That's the way I think of proposition bets. They are the wild and wacky things that I would come up with to wager on if I had nothing to do all day.
Proposition bets, or props, are exotic and nontraditional wagers that focus on very specific aspects of a game or event. An example of a common Super Bowl prop bet is wagering on which player will score the first touchdown, or how many yards that the longest successful field goal will be.
"As far as the props, they are more popular than ever,'' said Jay Kornegay, executive director of the sportsbook at the Las Vegas Hilton. "I give a lot of credit to my staff for putting this fun, interesting, expanded menu together. Our guests will have a great time looking and wagering on this year's buffet of propositions."
Prop bets have gained popularity over the past decade, and are now available on many regular season games for each of the major sports. Wagering on how many yards rushing a certain running back will gain is one common example. However, the staggering amount of props available for this year's Super Bowl dwarves anything that could be concocted for Just Another Game.
During the NFL's regular season, professional or casual players have a plethora of possible wagering combinations to choose from. There are dozens of spreads and totals, and hundreds of permutations that can be acted upon. But with the Super Bowl, there is only one spread and one total. Therefore, proactive books are always looking for interesting and innovative ways to stimulate action.
As a result, you end up with special point spreads, like Pittsburgh -21.5 (+650) or Seattle -10.5. Also, you can bet on whether or not Matt Hasselbeck's first pass attempt will be completed, or the length of Maurice Morris' first rush.
But who comes up with this stuff? Before my interaction with Kornegay, I had developed my own theory. Do you remember The Gimp from Pulp Fiction? I thought that's what he was doing down in the basement of the pawnshop - formulating Super Bowl props.
Needless to say, I was a little off on both sides of that one.
"We have a staff of about 3-4 members that use their imagination to come up with all the different types of props," Kornegay said. "Ed Salmons deserves a lot of credit. He is my manager and does a terrific job with the props."
Crossover bets are one of the more interesting developments concerning prop bets. A "crossover bet" is a wager that involves very specific aspects of two different sports.
For example, you can wager on which will be higher - the total of Darrell Jackson's receptions or the number of birdies by Tiger Woods in the fourth round of the Dubai Desert Classic. Or, you could drop a dime on the number of Steelers touchdowns against overall goals scored in the Liverpool/Chelsea match. These are just two small examples of this phenomenon, and there are also props involving basketball and hockey.
"It's really not that difficult to come up with the "crossover" props using different sporting events," Kornegay added. "We just figure out what would catch the attention of our players, crunch some numbers, and there you have it. You can almost put up anything that has a number to it."
Personally, I think props are good fun and I'm intrigued by their seeming randomness. I mean, it's the Super Bowl and we're Americans. We should be able to wager on Pittsburgh's total points (+5.5) against the amount of first-half points scored by the George Washington men's basketball team against Richmond. It's our god-given right, and the Father or Our Country would have wanted it this way.
Exotic and indiscriminate wagering is always something I'm a fan off. Prop bets provide this, and their place and popularity in the Super Bowl Universe simultaneously profits from and perpetuates the extravagance and hyper-importance of The Game. They add to the ambiance and heighten the excitement.
And if nothing else, betting on Pittsburgh to score more points (+10.5) in the Super Bowl than France and Scotland manage in their Championship Rugby Union Match will make me feel like I'm living my Powerball Dream - if only for a day.
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The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Doc's football picks service.