Proposition bets by nature are relatively vague, in that there’s no universal definition, but they can best be described as wagers that are decided with no regard to the final score of a sporting event. These are generally one-off “propositions” on the biggest games of the year, as well as on non-sporting events. Literally hundreds of different proposition bets are available for the Super Bowl, ranging from the length of the National Anthem and how many passing yards a particular quarterback racks up to how many times a particular coach or owner is shown on television. The amount of money a particular film grosses on opening weekend is also considered a proposition bet, as are the number of states a presidential candidate wins during the election and the first person to be voted off a television show.
In short, a universal definition among bettors isn’t really necessary. A bettor with a wager on an event may view it as a proposition bet, while another bettor with the exact bet may not, but it really doesn’t matter, as it’s the bet that is important here and the two will win or lose together, regardless of what they call it.
Some proposition bets have grown to legendary status over the years, either due to their ingenuity or the popularity of the event. We’ll look at several of the most-well known here.
In 1980, gasoline was $1.19 a gallon, Ronald Reagan was elected president, the United States boycotted the Summer Olympics and VCRs in their infancy cost upwards of $600, but the big news for many people was the shooting of J.R. Ewing on the television show “Dallas.” Always one to see an opportunity, Castaways sportsbook director Sonny Reizner offered odds on “Who shot J.R.?” and thousands of people placed bets on who the villain was.
Reizner was no dummy and realized that the Nevada Gaming Control Board wasn’t likely to look upon his bet favorably, so he attempted to present it as a sports bet by offering 500-to-1 odds that Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry was the shooter, but the GCB wasn’t impressed and ordered the bet be taken down and all wagers refunded. But it was great publicity for Reizner and the Castaways.
Five years later, the Chicago Bears and their Super Bowl Shuffle were the talk of the sports world, with rookie defensive lineman William “the Refrigerator” Perry receiving a good deal of attention. Chicago coach Mike Ditka used the 325-pound rookie in the backfield on occasion during the year and he actually scored two touchdowns on five carries during the 1985 season. Ditka said Perry wouldn’t see the ball in the Super Bowl, but that didn’t stop bettors from wagering that Perry would score and his odds dropped all the way down to 2-to-1 by kickoff. With Chicago cruising to a 37-3 third-quarter lead over the New England Patriots, Ditka changed his mind and gave the ball to Perry, who scored (the Bears beat the Pats 46-10). Las Vegas sportsbooks lost quite a bit on the proposition, but received plenty of publicity and this bet marked the beginning of the Super Bowl proposition craze.