Each season, this column devotes space to the year's favorite letter.
This year, it was no contest. The winner, all by his lonesome, is "The Velvet Touch." That is the way he signed, after he began:
"Hello, Amateur. You, like every other so-called 'expert' on football betting in this country, are a phony . . .
"Your so called system went out like the Gong Show a long time ago.
"I would love to book your (imaginary) bets as I would Jimmy the Greek and that phony from Atlanta.
"You shall hear from me again and I may explain to you a 'fool" proof system. In the meantime, bet (your imaginary money) every home team giving and taking the point spread this Sunday, Nov. 5. The only visiting team who shall win will be your Washington Redskins Monday night (at Baltimore)."
The Velvet Touch was not through, however. He signed off, then put in a P.S.
"No spread upsets of the week. I like Buffalo over New England outright and Kansas City over Oakland outright. Stick with your Redskins because they shall beat all spreads and be three games up on the Cowboys when they meet in Dallas Nov. 23.
"Happy Thanksgiving, you Turkey."
Well, old Velvet Touch, as a prognosticator against the point spread, you are some kind of bad. Sources tell me you also liked Germany to win World War II. But don't feel lonely. Much of the mail this column receives begins with a blast and ends with a fearless forecast that falls on its face. The readers love to see me lose.
Happy Thanksgiving, anyway. The Redskins aren't quite three in front at this point. By early evening, they will be out of first place in the NFC East. Dallas is primed to play its best game of the year, just as the Redskins were when Dallas ventured into RFK Oct. 2.
The spread is unconslously high at 11. Still, I will reach in for a little holiday helping of a mythical $250. On Dallas, of course. Denver, giving only 3 1/2 at Detroit, also is worth a mythical $100. The Broncos' defense continues to be the best in the NFL.
There are those who would have us believe that covering the spread in an easy game in 1978: simply take the home underdogs. Statistically, until this point, there is little room for argument.
But that statement doesn't guarantee anything in terms of this and all future weekends. What is past is not necessarily prologue.
So I will go against Detroit, and against Cleveland (for a mythical $250) getting 4 1/2 at home Sunday against Los Angeles. The Rams' defense is the finest in the NFC. It goes to sleep ocassionally, as it did last Sunday in San Francisco, but rarely two weeks in a row.
Minnesota giving 3 1/2 at Green Bay is another selection - another mythical $250. The Vikings have played well in every "crucial" situation this season. Sunday's contest is their most important of the year. They will be aided by the fact that Green Bay is a mediocre team at best. The Pack's best hope is three feet of snow.
Finally, there is St. Louis for a mythical $100 giving three at home to Philadelphia. The Eagles were fortunate to get past Green Bay three weeks ago, and benefited from a minor miracle last Sunday in the Meadowlands against the Giants when Pisarcik handed off like a plumber on the last play.Anyone who took Philly giving 2 and got out with a push received a holiday treat early.
In other games this week, Las Vegas lists Houston 7 1/2 over Cincinnati, New England 8 over Baltimore (without Jones), Miami 8 over the Jets, Altanta 3 1/2 over New Orleans, Buffalo (7-0 against the spread at home) 2 over the Giants, San Diego 4 1/2 over Kansas City, Oakland 3 over Seattle, Chicago 3 over Tampa Bay, and, Monday night, Pittsburgh 7 1/2 over San Francisco.