This column is for degenerate gamblers, a sporting demographic I’ve neglected lately. You can see why. When an internet gambling site runs a half-page, full-color ad in the sports section of a Super Bowl team’s hometown newspaper (San Francisco Chronicle) that banners BetOnline.net... Because You Can, you know gambling has become so mainstream that there’s little news left in it. Still, if there is any time of year that should bring out degenerate gamblers, that time is now, the week leading up to the Super Bowl and its vast offering of Super Bowl proposition bets.
No matter if the bets have nothing to do with the game. Super Bowl halftime shows are taking the place of Lawrence Welk reruns. If you headline a Super Bowl halftime extravaganza, you are, de facto, ready for Medicare, the exception being this year’s Beyoncé. Kindly regard, in descending order, 2012 Madonna, 2011 Black Eyed Peas, 2010 the Who, 2009 Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 2008 Prince, 2007 the Rolling Stones, and 2006 Paul McCartney.
But, degenerate gamblers don’t care how old these people are or, for that matter, who they are or, for that matter, what they do: they care about the bet. Introducing, Proposition the First. How long will it take Alicia Keys to sing the national anthem? The over/under is 2 minutes, 15 seconds.
The next big play, as Beyoncé lip-syncs her way into your heart, is wagering on the crucial proposition: will Beyoncé’s hair be curly/crimped or will it be straight when she arrives onstage? Curly/crimped is Even. Straight is -140.
Turning our minds to the game... Will any Baltimore or San Francisco player — on the active roster — be arrested before Super Bowl 47 starts? (Books only offer a “yes” bet.) Yes, 5 to 1.
Will Alex Smith...this is worth a pause... Niners quarterback Alex Smith is a man living under an eternal curse. He grew up in La Mesa, was All-Everything quarterback for Helix Charter School, then University of Utah. The Utes went 21-1 while he was their starter. Alex was the number-one NFL draft pick in 2005. Mike Nolan, then 49ers head coach, skipped Aaron Rodgers for Smith, and more, agreed to a six-year $49.5 million contract, which included $24 million in guaranteed money. Nuts unto crazy.
Smith played nine games in his first year, recording 1 touchdown pass and 11 interceptions. The Niners finished 4-12. In 2006 the team went 7-9, followed by 5-11, 7-9, 8-8, 6-10, which brings us to 2011. Since Smith joined the team in 2005 he has worked his way through four head coaches and seven offensive coordinators, including the brilliant Norv Turner. Nobody cares about that or about all the games he missed — the team stunk, he stunk, fans were in rebellion, and regional media were calling for his head. Going into 2011, his seventh year in the NFL, Smith was a walking dead man.
And then the Niners hired, by way of Stanford, ex–University of San Diego head coach Jim Harbaugh, who proclaimed Smith to be his guy. Fans were too stunned to complain. And then...Smith takes the 49ers to the NFC championship game and would have won it save for Kyle Williams, who fumbled two punt returns, the last one in overtime.
In his seventh year, the guy blooms. This season he’s even better: played in ten games, threw for 1737 yards, 13 touchdowns against 5 interceptions, racking a 104.1 quarterback rating and the highest completion percentage in the NFL, 70. Smith is beloved, the media are applauding and apologizing. He’s the hot quarterback on a hot team, he is redeemed, and there’s no question he’s going to lead the Niners into Super Bowl 47.
And then...Smith gets banged in the head during a November game against St. Louis and is taken out in the second quarter with the score tied 24-24. A second-year guy from Nevada comes in, plays brilliantly, and becomes the starting quarterback.
It’s a biblical curse. Smith was 20-6-1 under Harbaugh and gets replaced at the first opportunity. There does not exist, anywhere in this universe, a lucky penny for Alex Smith. So, proposition bet is, Will Alex Smith take a snap during Super Bowl 47? Yes +500. No -700.
It could happen. If Kaepernick has a lousy game, Harbaugh will pull him...you know he will. Or if Kaepernick is hurt. Or the Niners could be so far ahead by the fourth quarter Smith gets a mercy nod. The score would have to be something like 77 to 6 for Harbaugh to give a mercy nod, but it is possible.