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Kansas City beat San Diego last Sunday in a game that may well have decided the Western Division title in the AFL. They were two well-matched clubs, and the betting line probably would have shown Kansas City as a slight favorite—if you could have gotten a bet down. You couldn't. The bookmakers of America have banded together to protect themselves. As a result, there no longer are any lines for games involving Kansas City or, for that matter, Houston.
The bookies got alarmed following the Buffalo-Houston game on Sept. 25, which opened with Buffalo a 6-point favorite. Big money originating in the Midwest was bet on Buffalo minus the points. The spread shifted to 8, and the same bettors put more money on Houston plus the points. Buffalo won 27-20. It is estimated that the bettors made at least $250,000 winning both ways. Then there was the Kansas City- Oakland game on Oct. 16. In this one the same bettors put their money on Oakland, a 13- or 14-point underdog. Oakland won 34-13. The Boston- Oakland game on Oct. 30 was the second "both ways" killing of the season. Boston opened as a 2-point favorite, and the big money invested heavily on it. The spread went to 3� or 4. The same bettors then took Oakland with the points. Boston won 24-21.
"It was the first time Boston had been involved," says one prominent bookie. "Until this game, we've been concerned only with Kansas City, Denver, Oakland—and, of course, Houston. It makes you wonder how long we can handle anything big in this league."
The Midwest boys have won all 12 bets they've placed, but they're running out of places—more and more games are being taken off the board or "circled," which means a $50 limit.
Admittedly, the bookies could be all wrong. The AFL says it is "continuously investigating [but sees] no reason to be alarmed at this point." Despite the league's sangfroid, the talk increases as each week passes. It makes one fear that the supergame may be overshadowed by the superbet.
When Cassius Clay fights Cleveland Williams in Houston on Nov. 14, it will be his first bout in six years without the Louisville Sponsoring Group. The contract between Clay and the Group—he called them "my 11 white millionaire managers"—ran out last month and by mutual consent was not renewed. The Group's passing from the sporting scene was little noted, but that was the way the Louisville gentlemen wanted it. They had got more attention than they cared for, especially after Clay's fealty to the Black Muslims became known and his draft status and gratuitous comments on Vietnam made the front page.
The Louisville Group was handsome and very well tailored and provided a welcome contrast at ringside, and for this alone will be missed. Clay will miss its indulgences. No longer will he be able to sport a chauffeur, a valet, a bodyguard, an assistant to the assistant trainer, three cooks and one brother—all of whom were on the Group's tab. Clay's new manager, Herbert Muhammad, the son of the Black Muslim leader, will take at least the same 40% cut as the Group, but he is more concerned about profit and has less patience with Clay's ideas of the good life.
The Group's function was more than decorative, however. Its members forced the reluctant—and often disagreeable-champion to put 10% of his purses in a trust fund, and to the best of their ability they defended and protected Clay from an outraged public, as well as from himself. That they did so was exemplary, but not entirely out of a sense of duty: almost to a man, the Group liked Clay; some even had great affection for him. They did not understand him, but through Clay's flashes of warmth they were able to perceive his appreciation and liking for them. Too, they were privy to Clay's casual acts of thoughtfulness: rewarding, out of his own pocket, a particularly hard-working sparring partner, sending airline tickets and cash to an old neighbor, giving money to down-and-outers.