Jan 5, 2010


After a lengthy dissertation on the subtleties of betting on football and accounting for the various injuries that players may or may not have, the Good Doctor wonders why he is cursed to have such pristine clairvoyance when it comes to the eventual Super Bowl VIII winner, in Houston TX.

It is hard to say, even now, exactly why I was so certain of an easy Dolphin victory. The only reason I didn't get extremely rich on the game was my inability to overcome the logistical problems of betting heavily, on credit, by means of frantic long-distance phone calls from a hotel room in Houston. None of the people I met in that violent, water-logged town were inclined to introduce me to a reliable book-maker - and the people I called on both coasts, several hours before the game on Sunday morning, seemed unnaturally nervous when I asked them to use their own credit to guarantee my bets with their local bookies.
Looking back on it now, after talking with some of these people and cursing them savagely, I see that the problem had something to do with my frenzied speech-pattern that morning. I was still in the grip of whatever fiery syndrome had caused me to deliver that sermon off the balcony a few hours earlier - and the hint of mad tremor in my voice, despite my attempts to disguise it, was apparently communicated very clearly to all those I spoke with on the long-distance telephone.
How long, O lord, how long? This is the second year in a row that I have gone to the Super Bowl and been absolutely certain - at least 48 hours before gametime - of the outcome. It is also the second year in a row that I have failed to capitalize, financially, on this certainty. Last year, betting mainly with wealthy cocaine addicts, I switched all my bets from Washington to Miami on Friday night - and in the resulting confusion my net winnings were almost entirely canceled by widespread rancor and personal bitterness.

This year, in order to side-step that problem, I waited until the last moment to make my bets - despite the fact that I knew the Vikings were doomed after watching them perform for the press at their star-crossed practice field on Monday afternoon before the game. It was clear, even then, that they were spooked and very uncertain about what they were getting into - but it was not until I drove about 20 miles around the beltway to the other side of town for a look at the Dolphins that I knew, for sure, how to bet.
There area lot of factors intrinsic to the nature of the Super Bowl that make it far more predictable that regular season games, or even playoffs - but they are not the kind of factors that can be sensed or understood at a distance of 2000 or even 20 miles, on the basis of any wisdom or information that filters out from the site through the rose-colored, booze-bent media-filter that passes for "world-wide overage" at these spectacles.
There is a progression of understanding vis-a-vis pro football that varies drastically with the factor of distance - physical, emotional, intellectual, and every other way . . . Which is exactly the way it should be, in the eyes of the amazingly small number of people who own and control the game, because it is this finely managed distance factor that accounts for the high-profit mystique that blew the sacred institution of baseball off it's "national pastime" pedestal in less than 15 years.
There were other reasons for baseball's precipitous loss of popularity among everybody except old men and middle-aged sportswriters between 1959 and now - just as there will be a variety of reasons to explain the certain decline of pro football between now and 1984 - but if sporting historians ever look back on all this and try to explain it, there will be no avoiding the argument that pro football's meteoric success in the 1960's was directly attributable to it's early marriage with network TV and a huge, coast-to-coast audience of armchair fans who "grew up" - in terms of their personal relationships to The Game - with the idea that pro football was something that happened every Sunday on the tube. The notion of driving eight miles along a crowded freeway and then paying $3 to park the car in order to pay another $10 to watch the game from the vantage point of a damp redwood bench 55 rows above the 19-yard line in a crowd of noisy drunks was repugnant to them.
And they were absolutely right. After ten years of trying it both ways - and especially after watching this last wretched Super Bowl game from a choice seat in the "press section" very high above the 50-yard line - I hope to christ I never again succumb to whatever kind of weakness or madness it is that causes a person to endure the incoherent hell that comes with going out to a cold and rainy stadium for three hours on a Sunday afternoon and trying to get involved with whatever seems to be happening down there on that far-below field.
At the Super Bowl I had the benefit of my usual game-day aids: powerful binoculars, a tiny portable radio for the blizzard of audio-details that nobody ever thinks to mention on TV, and a seat on the good left arm of my friend, Mr. Natural . . . But even with all these aids and a seat on the 50-yard line, I would rather have stayed in my hotel room and watched the goddamn thing on TV; or maybe in some howling-drunk bar full of heavy bettors - the kind of people who like to bet on every play: pass or run, three to one against a first down, twenty to one on a turnover . . .
This is a very fast and active style of betting, because you have to make a decision about every 25 seconds. The only thing more intense is betting yes or no on the next shot in something like a pro basketball game between the Celtics and the Knicks, where you might get five or six shots every 24 seconds . . . or maybe only one, but in any case the betting is almost as exhausting as being out there on the floor.

No comments: