There were only a couple of minutes left to play in this NFL exhibition game a few years ago and the Dark Shirts were leading the White Shirts by 7. Which was just enough, for it seems that several members of the Dark Shirts had taken a mild position on the White Shirts with 7½. On the sideline, some of the Dark Shirt regulars were already celebrating with laughter and jokes as they watched the rookies run out the clock. With their infinite skills the veterans had obviously managed to win both the game and their bets.
Suddenly a horrible thing happened. A rookie quarterback on the Dark Shirts ran a bootleg and completely faked out the Whites. Down the sideline he went, all alone, unmolested from midfield to a touchdown. Back on the Dark Shirt bench, some of the regulars were cheering—but not all of them. Instead, those few were cussing, slamming their helmets down and kicking over ice buckets.
"What the hell's wrong with you guys?" the head coach of the Dark Shirts asked.
"Aw, nothin', Coach," said the regular quarterback of the Dark Shirts. "I...uh...I thought I saw a clip."
—A True Story, Evidently.
So it looks like the Dallas Cowboys again this year, over Miami, or somebody, and two zebras in the Super Bowl. Who cares? All I want to do is get in on the scam. I enjoy betting pro football, like about 40 million other people, so naturally I've never heard of a game being on the level unless the favorite covers the 6½ so easily I get to tell jokes in the fourth quarter and discuss the girl in the Noxzema commercial.
There are those who would say I'm a cynic. To that, I say, yeah, well, it wasn't me who gave Bert Jones the fumble. I didn't give Mel Gray that catch in the end zone when he should have been called for a double dribble. And like everyone else, I saw Oakland's Mike McCoy standing there with the loose ball in his hands, and then watched Denver wind up with some kind of touchdown.
Instant replays will break your heart, but even worse is the inability of a team to get up for every game. That's what causes upsets.
How can a pro football player not get up for a game when he only has to work 16 days a year? I work the same days and I'm up. You have to be. You have to be alert and mentally tough if you ever hope to find a Zurich game. This is a game where the big favorite takes a dive and the team charters a jet to Switzerland to stuff its numbered accounts. It's not easy to get in on a Zurich game unless you're a biggie in the mob, Congress or the Polo Lounge or a guest on Pete Rozelle's yacht.
If you follow pro football, then certainly you know it is virtually impossible to make a bad bet, even if you lose. Simply by picking one team to either win the game or beat the points, you have proven yourself intellectually superior to the oddsmaker. This is because pro football is the only cerebral game to bet. Think about the others. All you can do with baseball is look for sore-arm pitchers who are trying to keep it a secret. In horse racing, you look for a jockey who could pull a Clydesdale. In ice hockey, you find a goalie who acts like the cage is a toll booth and the pucks a stream of little black cars. Nobody bets boxing, not since oppressed minorities went out. And basketball is roulette. Which Ahmad-Abdul Eugene will miss the free throw?
Those are a few reasons why smart guys prefer pro football. Then there is the Script. The first hint that there might be a Script came about at the NFL championship game of 1940 when a smart guy had the Redskins with 72½ over the Bears.