According to Chad Clarke, the Atlanta Falcons and the Boston Patriots, which between them have won only seven of their 23 games, are the best teams in pro football. Chad Clarke is a bettor, and the Falcons have beaten the point spread eight times in 11 games, while the Patriots have covered the spread in 10 out of 12. As you can see, the great thing about Chad Clarke's league is that you can win a game there that you lose in either of Pete Rozelle's leagues. For example, the Falcons dropped a 17-7 game to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL but won the same game in the Beat the Point Spread League because they lost by only 10 points, not by more than 15, as the bookies had it. In the AFL the Patriots have lost twice to the New York Jets this season, 23-14 in Boston and 23-17 in New York, but in the BTPSL the Patriots won both games because the Jets were favored by 14 and 17, respectively.
"The biggest game of the pro season so far was Boston- Oakland," Chad says. "The Patriots were 17-point underdogs, and they were losing by 18 in the final minutes. The pressure was really on them not to lose by more than 17 points so that they could pick up another victory. With 2:55 left, they kicked a field goal and lost by only 15. That was a real squeaker."
In the colleges Chad disagrees with the polls that rated Ohio State No. 1 for nine weeks. "For my money, Stanford is No. 1," he says. "Sure, Stanford lost two games and tied another, while Ohio State lost only once. But in beat-the-point-spread play Stanford was 8 and 1. [Its 21-7 victory over Washington was off the board, most likely because of the suspensions and defections of Washington's blacks.] That school's a real powerhouse. If a father had bet on Stanford every week he could send his kid there."
For gamblers like Chad Clarke, who in real life and under his real name is in the advertising business, betting football is a serious matter. "You need a good scouting report and a solid game plan if you expect to beat the bookies every week," he says. "Most people who lose money betting on football games just don't do their homework. For instance, if some college quarterback is having fights with his girl friend, I know all about it."
Chad spends almost $1,000 a season for information and another $300 on phone calls to informants and bookies. He subscribes to a dozen football publications, buys the special services and has his informants, like Clyde in Buffalo. "I've never met Clyde," says Chad. "I just dial this number and ask for Clyde. I don't know his last name, and for that matter I don't even know if Clyde really is Clyde. We were introduced over the phone through a mutual business acquaintance. All I do know is that the guy has a fantastic record. He's a speed and weather nut. He likes speed and weather every time."
The bettor's week begins on Monday when he gets his ready list. For the football player, the ready list is a selection of plays that the coaching staff expects to use most often that weekend. For the bettor, the ready list is a selection of games that his bookie will be handling. This particular week there were 44 games on Chad's R.L.—31 college and 13 pro. Alongside each game was a row of five boxes. The bookie provides that space so the bettor can keep track of fluctuations in the spreads during the week.
Chad called his bookie Monday noon for a report on the early college line. The bookie started with the 31 college games: " Miami six, North Carolina State 13�, Alabama six...." A minute or two later he concluded with, " Houston 2�, nothing yet on Baylor- Texas A&M." The bookie's line on two of the games—Alabama by six over Clemson, and LSU by 10� over Auburn—galvanized Chad into action. "I like to get a couple of token bets down on select games very early in the week, even though I don't have my scouting reports," he says. " Alabama was perfect. The Bear had lost two in a row, and I knew he wasn't going to lose three straight. Also, it was SEC against ACC, and the SEC is at least a touchdown better. In the LSU-Auburn game I figured LSU would win, but I didn't expect my Cajun boys to win by more than 10 since they were playing in the afternoon. [LSU usually plays its home games at night, which the oddsmakers consider an edge.] I also knew the spread would come down from 10�. So the half point was a big thing."
That night Chad called his bookie. "Give me Alabama, Auburn and North Carolina, all for six," he told him. In this case six meant $600. On Tuesday Chad called the bookie to get the early line on the pros. "The 'Skins seven, Eagles 4�...," the bookie said, concluding with "and the Cowboys a big 15." One game, the Jets as 18-point favorites over the Patriots, struck Chad as a sure thing. "I'll take Boston right now for five," he told the bookie. Chad isn't a great Jet fan. "They're a good team, a winning team, but they're not a class team yet," he says. "The other week they waited six seconds before they called a timeout late in a losing game. An alert team doesn't do something like that."
Chad's scouting reports began arriving in the Wednesday mail. "This is the Gold Sheet," he said, holding up a yellow newsletter. This week the Gold Sheet, which is printed in Los Angeles, led off with an aphorism: "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong...but that's the way to bet."
One page of the 12-page Gold Sheet was an annotated Pigskin Prophecy. "GA. (HC) 38-KY. 13—Ray finds SEC not showing any mercy for ex-N.Damer," was a typical entry. Another page had Nationwide Key Releases, or games the Gold Sheet said were sure things, like USC over Georgia Tech, Notre Dame over Tulane, Missouri over Colorado and Mississippi over Houston. (Two of the sure things lost and only one, Notre Dame, beat the spread.)