Tom Ross: All bets up in the air when football stadium lights go off

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Tom Ross

Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Tom here.

— Thank goodness the lights in the New Orleans not-so-Superdome waited until after Beyonce’s halftime show to flicker out. Until the unanticipated 34-minute timeout cast its Bud Light voodoo spell on the Baltimore Ravens, Beyonce’s highlight reel was longer than Colin Kaepernick's.

Any time the lights go out on a football game with tens of millions of dollars at stake, I immediately begin inventing conspiracy theories. I’m not a bettor and didn’t have any cash on the line Aug. 31, 2002, when the lights at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas went out midway through the fourth quarter of a college football game.

The Wisconsin Badgers led the Runnin’ Rebels 27-7 with 7:41 remaining in the football game. Wisconsin was out-performing the spread and that’s where the score remained because the game was called, ostensibly because both coaches agreed the outcome wasn’t going to change and by the time the lights came back on, the players’ muscles would have stiffened up.

A large contingent of Wisconsin fans had traveled to Vegas for football and fun — including gambling on the game. And coincidentally or not, the game was called 2 minutes before the sports bets would have locked in all bets. The Badgers fans who bet on their team to cover the spread were not paid that night.

I didn’t really approve of my alma mater signing a home-and-away contract with UNLV to begin with — not because I have anything negative to say about the university, but because it was a gambling junket on the face of it.

Enough about a college football game that took place a decade ago. How about the Super Bowl? Estimates were that more than $90 million would be wagered on the big game, and that doesn’t include your office pool (no, the Steamboat Today did not have an office pool on the Super Bowl).

However, it would not have made sense for betting establishments to have tried to throw down some voodoo on the Ravens’ halftime lead.

As the Los Angeles Times reported before the game even kicked off Sunday, Vegas needed Baltimore to win because the amount of money landing on the San Francisco 49ers had pushed the spread from 4 to 4.5 points in their favor.

If the 49ers had won by four, the heavy betting on the 49ers would have been called a push (no bet), while Ravens bettors would have benefitted from their team covering the spread, according to the Times’ Lance Pugmire.

So, any conspiracy theory that some nefarious Las Vegas character acting on behalf of the casinos had caused the transformer to blow in order to give the San Francisco 49ers time to re-group and seize the momentum from the confident Ravens went up in smoke.

But that still leaves the many prop bets, or proposition bets, that increase interest in the game by tempting bettors to put money down on all sorts of variables — like, for example, the number of yards Kaepernick would rush and throw for in the game. If you had put $2,000 down on Kaepernick to rack up at least 100 yards rushing and 300 yards passing, you might have been pretty stoked to see the 49ers quarterback come out and light up the Ravens after the lights finally came back on in the stadium.

In the end, I thought the team of destiny, and the most disciplined team, won the Super Bowl.

Go Ravens. We’ll leave the lights on for ya.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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