By the time the Super Bowl champions lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night, football fans will have wagered close to $4.8 billion on American sports' biggest game.
Some of that will even be bet legally through sportsbooks — about 3 percent. In other words, don’t get too worried about getting busted for buying a couple of squares on the Super Bowl board going around the office. If everyone got pinched, the nation would grind to a halt.
But the bona fide sportsbook wagering is not all on who covers the point spread (Patriots minus 4½) or on the over/under points total (48). Believe it or not, close to half of sportsbook betting on the Super Bowl is on prop bets.
Prop bets are much more exotic these days, and far more numerous. Bovada.com, for example, is putting out close to 1,000 props on the Patriots-Eagles showdown, and the show surrounding it.
It’s the job of Pat Morrow and a couple of other prop-bet experts at Bovada to brainstorm this year’s list. They started shortly after the Patriots and Eagles punched their tickets to Minneapolis two Sundays ago.
“We’ll ask some other people we work with, we’ll take suggestions off Twitter,” Morrow said. “We have a working document from previous Super Bowls of what worked and what didn’t, and we look at what’s going on in the world. Then we start throwing everything at the wall.”
The popular tale of prop bets, according to Morrow, is that they started with Super Bowl XX, played back in 1986 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
That year, the New England Patriots were playing in their first Super Bowl and were big underdogs to the Chicago Bears. The Bears were led by the late, great Walter Payton at running back and that fabled “46” defense, which included the immense and popular defensive lineman William “The Refrigerator” Perry.
The Bears occasionally let “The Fridge” carry the ball on short-yardage smashes that year (he scored twice). So, according to Morrow, the first prop bet was whether Perry would rush for a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
He did. Payton, in his only Super Bowl appearance, didn’t.
Since then, prop bets have become incredibly diverse and lucrative for the sportsbooks, but some of the old standards still draw the most attention.
“The color of the liquid that gets dumped on the winning coach is always very popular,” Morrow said. “The bettors are guilty every year of betting on the color of the teams playing, but I’ve never seen blue Gatorade dumped before.”
Currently, lime/green/yellow is the favorite at 9/4, but blue isn’t too far down the list at 4/1.
Here’s a look at some of the more interesting prop bets for this year’s game:
1. How long will it take for Pink to sing the National Anthem?
Pink, for the pop-culture challenged, is a singer, not a Gatorade color you can bet on, though you can bet on what color her hair will be. The over/under on the anthem is two minutes. It should never be more than two minutes.
2. Will Pink wear a Philadelphia Eagles shirt or hat while singing the anthem?
Pink is a Philly girl from suburban Doylestown, Pennsylvania. “Yes” is +170, “no” -250.
3. What color will Bill Belichick’s shirt be at kickoff?
Belichick may be the greatest NFL coach ever, but he looks like a slob on the sideline. Most people watching at home will be better dressed. Anyway, blue sweatshirt goes off a 2/3 favorite.
4. How many times will Tom Brady’s age be mentioned during the broadcast (kickoff to final whistle, excluding halftime)?
The over/under is a surprisingly low 1.5. Tom is 40, so we’ll get the ball rolling here: I’d have to take the over on this one.
5. Will Donovan McNabb’s vomiting incident from Super Bowl XXXIX be mentioned during the broadcast?
Disgusting, but intriguing. McNabb famously hurled while quarterbacking Philadelphia to a 24-21 loss to New England in 2005. Again, kickoff to final whistle, not including halftime — or dry heaves.
6. How many times will the temperature outside the stadium be mentioned during the broadcast?
The over/under on this bet is 1, which may be the temperature outside U.S. Bank Stadium at kickoff Sunday. Seriously.
7. How many times will “wardrobe malfunction” or “Janet Jackson” be mentioned during the broadcast?
The over/under on both of these is also 1.5. This is a thing because Justin Timberlake, who was performing with Jackson during the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show when her right breast was exposed at the end of the final song, is performing at halftime this year.
8. Will “Nipplegate” be said during the broadcast?
Over Roger Goodell’s dead body, I'm sure. Still you can bet “yay” or “nay.” Moving on.
9. Will Timberlake cover a Prince song during halftime?
The late Prince was from Minneapolis, so such an homage seems like a given, though nothing official yet. “Yes” is favored over “no” -230 to +160.
10. Will Brady’s jersey be stolen again?
It’s more likely the Vince Lombardi Trophy will be stolen than someone will slip into the Patriots’ locker room and swipe Brady’s jersey for the second year in a row. If there’s a theft, Bovada requires that it’s reported by ESPN within 48 hours of the Super Bowl’s end. No waiting around forever on these things.