Bickham sheds some light on the history of Prop Bets

Football season is coming to a close this weekend, and thanks to our friends in Iowa… the trip to put down a wager or two is much shorter than it has been in years past.

I have traveled to Vegas for a good number of Super Bowls over the years, and I was always amazed at the amount of “Prop” bets they offered.  What will be the outcome of the coin toss?  Will the length of the National anthem be over or under 1:55?  What color gatorade will the game winning coach be showered with?  You can put wagers down on it all.  Those are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to prop bets though.  There are hundreds (if not THOUSANDS) of things you can bet on when it comes to the Super Bowl.

How did all this madness start?  Well, according to some stories I have read recently including this one… apparently it began with the greatest team in NFL history… the 1985 Chicago Bears (I don’t want to hear about it if you disagree… go write your own blog post on your own website).  William “The Refrigerator” Perry was a rookie defensive lineman for the Bears in 1985.  As the story goes, Bill Walsh (the San Francisco 49ers head coach) had really ticked off Mike Ditka in the previous year’s NFC title game against the Bears when he used an offensive guard as a blocking back.  It didn’t end well for the Bears who were shutout.

In true Mike Ditka form, revenge on his mind, the following year against the 49ers, Ditka used “The Fridge” as a fullback for the final few plays of the Bears 26-10 victory.  Later that season he started using him again as a fullback… on scoring plays.

In the early 80s, the Super Bowl had become a pretty lopsided affair.  From 1980-1985 the game had a margin of victory of less than 10 only once.  There wasn’t a massive amount of interest in Vegas to gamble on a blowout like this.  So, prior to the 1986 Super Bowl with the Bears up against a franchise which would later cheat their way to 6 Super Bowl championships (you know this is true… don’t lie), a man named Art Manteris (who at the time ran the Caesars sportsbook in Vegas), came up with an idea to bring some interest in laying some bets down in the upcoming game.  He gave bettors 20-1 odds that William Perry would score a touchdown in the Super Bowl.  Word spread around Vegas… and other casinos began offering their own odds… and by kickoff the odds had shrunk all the way down to 2-1.

Late in the third quarter of the game, Ditka sent William Perry in as they lined up on their opponents 1 yard line.  He pounded the ball in for the score… and sports books around Vegas apparently suffered six figure losses.  Despite the hefty losses… the amount of interest in betting things other than general bets exploded, and paved the way for the prop bet extravaganza we now see year in and year out.

One prop bet I would like to see offered…   Will the Superbowl Halftime show be watchable and filled with anyone with any actual talent?  If I ran a casino I would probably give you 1,000,000-1   odds that it won’t.