The questions asked most frequently of "Playing Football" are, in order:
"Where can I find a bookie?"
"I read the column, but who do you REALLY like?"
"I'm trying to win the office pool. Can you offer some suggestions?"
Finding a good, reliable bookie in the Washington area, directly under the supercops' nostrils, is difficult, but far from impossible. The neighborhood tavern is a good-place to begin your search. Sniff around. Just make sure the man sitting next to you, when you pop the question to the bartender, isn't an off-duty policeman.
Better yet, if you have a long-lost relative in Nevada, this time of year provides an excellent reason to renew acquaintances. Once you and that distant cousin understand each other you can become a law-abiding citizen again. Use a little imagination. Betting on football games is wonderfully lead out there.
The answer to the second question is easier. What you see each Thursday is what you get, for 15 cents, with the Style section thrown in at no extra cost. Hundreds of professional touts are available throughout the country. The football magazines on your corner newsstand carry their advertisements.
These touts will zing you anywhere from $10 to $100 a pick. Some have been known to tip Team A to half their clients and the team that Team A is playing to the other half. They have 50 per cent satisfied customers that way, all of whom will be back a second week.
My advice to anyone attempting to win the office pool consists of four letters: don't. Beating the point spread on one game is one thing. It's you against the bookie, one-on-one, and he's only as sharp as the information he's received from Las Vegas.
Trying to pick 14 winners from 14 games on the office sheet is something else, even if the point spread isn't involved. You can't win by playing the favorites, and selecting more than three or four upsets is madness. No matter how well you do, the odds are better than even money that one of the gals in the steno pool who doesn't know Bert Jones from Bianca Jagger will have swept the card.
So much for questions and answers. The law of averages finally caught up with me last week. I lost. Dallas could have blown out St. Louis, had they gone in for 21-3 early in the third quarter. Instead, the Cardinals came back from 3-14 to make the Cowboys 8-1.
Dallas' dynamite defense will be under heavy attack again this week in Pittsburg. I intended to back the Steelers for a mythical $500 until yesterday when Tom Landry finally acknowledged that the Cowboy offense is nothing without Tony Dorsett.
Landry apparently had been saving Dorsett for Super Bowl 20. Now, forced to realize that Roger Staubach's passing is inadequate, Landry says he will start Dorsett Sunday. I will back down to only $250 on Pittsburgh getting 1 1/2 points.
Baltimore (maybe) and Washington are the other selections. I will take a mythical $250 on the Colts at home giving 16 points (down from 16 1/2) if, as indicated Richard Todd is not healthy enough to start at quarterback for the New York Jets. If Todd starts, forget it.
The Redskins also are worth a mythical $250 giving 14 points (down from 15). Green Bay had difficulty scoring when it's first string quarterback could play. With Lynn Dickey out of the season, Bart Starr might consider inserting himself in the lineup Monday night. Washington has trouble scoring but I don't see Green Allen's team, while the Skins' defense could force 10 or more points from the Pack.
Other picks of more than passing interest are Cleveland giving 4 1/2 at the New York Giants, Los Angeles giving 4 at San Francisco, Miami even at Cincinnati and Chicago giving Minnesota 3 1/2.
I'll also go with Atlanta giving 3 over New Orleans, Denver giving Kansas City 7, Houston giving Seattle 7, Buffalo getting 10 from New England, St. Louis giving 10 1/2 to Philadelphia, San Diego getting 14 from Oakland, and Detroit giving Tampa Bay 14 1/2.