Third annual Super Bowl prop bet contest 

January, 27, 2011

"Do you like props?"

It's a simple yes or no question. In fact, if you asked a lot of reporters, they'd say it's a bad question. And yet, the answers I get when I ask bookmakers are never simply yes or no.

They are more like: "Ugh" or "it used to be easier" or "I can't f---ing stand them."

You see, it's been 25 years since props first became popular for the Super Bowl. The hysteria began when the Fridge was offered at 100-1 to score a touchdown in Super Bowl XX and he was bet down to 3-1. This was supposed to be a joke of a bet, something to keep the tourists interested in case the game became a blowout. Instead, it became one of the biggest liabilities of that week for sports books. When he scored in the Chicago Bears' 46-10 romp over the New England Patriots, it practically turned the lights out in Vegas.

But what bookmakers realized, while they were emptying the cash from their cages, was that these props could, for one day at least, make their business legit. The worldwide attention that the Fridge prop attracted gave the betting game a warm, healthy glow. You didn't need to know point spreads, point totals, have any inside info, or really know anything about football at all to have an opinion. All you needed to understand, back in 1985, was whether or not the biggest pop culture phenomenon of the year would, at 300-plus pounds, take flight during the game and score a touchdown.