STATE OF CONFUSION
Delaware, the first state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, took another historic step last fall when it became the first state in the Union to sponsor legalized gambling on professional football games. As everyone knows, it was a bust. The system was too complicated and payoffs too minuscule. Bettors stayed away in droves. Late in the season, Delaware decided to shift to the old-fashioned "football card" idea, in which, given a list of games with a point-spread line, you try to pick four or more winners and are paid off at prefixed prices (10 to 1 for four winners, and so on).
That was more like it. The handle jumped. And then Delaware blew it again. When it issued its sports lottery card for the last weekend of the NFL's regular seasons, its point spreads differed markedly from recognized gambling lines. Big bettors raced to get down in Delaware. A local bookie said, "I used to be a thief, but I'm giving it up now that the state is making it so easy to steal legally." A Wilmington handicapper said, "Their line is so bad you almost have to bet. This could cost the state a bundle."
So much money poured in that Lottery Director Peter Simmons, presumably fearing that the flood of bets could cost the state as much as half a million dollars in losses, got nervous and called the whole thing off. Bets would be refunded, he said. Gamblers screamed so loudly that the state attorney general overruled Simmons and said all winning wagers would be paid. As it turned out, Delaware survived that mess, at least financially. Its "amateur" line proved a lot better than the professionals predicted, and the state ended up with a meager deficit of about $5,000 for the week. But the publicity was terrible.
"They killed themselves," said one Wilmingtonian. "They tried to welsh, and there's no way they're going to lose that stigma." Another said, "They've killed the lottery with this move."
Simmons, who had already decided to leave his Delaware post for a job with a lottery consulting firm, summed it up best when he said, "It has been sort of a frustrating experience."
Although football people still feel strongly about polls, no matter how illogically the teams are ranked, nobody pays much attention anymore to All teams, from All-Pro through All-America to All- East Stroudsburg Interscholastic. For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers point out with bitter amusement that no one on the Steelers' superb offensive line has ever been named to a Pro Bowl squad. Even sillier is the All status of Rice University's Tommy Kramer. Kramer was picked as the first-string quarterback on the Associated Press All-America, but on the AP's All-Southwest Conference squad he was on the second team, behind Rodney Allison of Texas Tech.
For over a month now, the film Rocky has been playing to sellout crowds on Manhattan's East Side. It's the story of a club boxer from Philadelphia who gets a shot at the heavyweight crown. The champion in the film, whose name is Apollo Creed (played by ex- Oakland Raider Linebacker Carl Weathers), is unmistakably patterned after Muhammad Ali, but who is his white challenger? Chuck Wepner? Perhaps.
"My first reaction was to sue for infringement," jokes Wepner, a New Jersey liquor salesman who was catapulted into the national spotlight in March 1975 when he lasted into the 15th round against Ali before being knocked out.