More and more people are learning the lingo.
Even the president.
Just the other day, Ronald Reagan, that former announcer of college football games in the Midwest, indicated to millions of bettors throughout the country that he shared their language, if not their special interest in the sport. Political writers covered the story eagerly.
What the president said, in response to a question covering the future of the nation's economy, was that the economy would, indeed, live up to his forecast of last fall. And -- are you ready for this, Aunt Gertrude? -- the president said he would "bet the rent money on it." Or was it the "mortgage" money?
No matter. Mr. President, welcome to the club. We have no worry about you making the next payment on the White House, if one were necessary.
The president's remarks indicate how times have changed. It wasn't too long ago that a president would have been much more careful in selecting a figure of speech, although Jerry Ford, for one, certainly would have been fully capable of fumbling into such a line.
Ford, I'm sure, never knew the number on the Michigan games when he was the Wolverine center. The point spread was just catching on.
The spread, on a national basis, seems to have had its origins in the Hoover administration, although a few enterprising bookmakers may have adopted the concept as early as the Harding years.
Then Billy Hecht, Leo Hirschfield, Max Stein, Petey Cohen and Karl Ersin, among others, helped turn odds of 1 to 20 or 20 to 1 into a number such as 30 points.
"And that," Jack Krumpe, Madison Square Garden's executive vice president, noted recently, "is what eventually made the National Football League what it is today."
Krumpe, speaking at a seminar on horse racing in New Jersey, declared, "There are two things that made the National Football League: the development, on a national basis, of the point spread, coupled with television . . . my Park Avenue friends will smile and say, 'No, it's the drama and the uniforms' and this and that," Krumpe said. "Baloney. It's the betting on professional football by vehicle of a point spread."
Krumpe's right, although the NFL office and the television networks don't want to hear such comments -- and not too many corporate executives are going to be so candid.
So, for now, we'll have to be content with little insights into just how much betting has become a part of the American life style and vocabulary. President Reagan's "rent money" reference will do nicely. And if the teams I pick this week will perform only half as adroitly on television as the president does, Republicans and Democrats alike are in for a sunny Sunday.
This week, I'll take an imaginary $250 on Buffalo at home giving seven points against Baltimore, $250 on the New York Giants giving three at home against Green Bay, $250 on Washington giving two at home against San Francisco and, on Monday night, $250 on Philadelphia giving 1 1/2 at home against Atlanta.
In other games, Las Vegas lists Minnesota a four-point favorite over Chicago, Houston four over Cincinnati, L.A. three over Cleveland, Dallas six over St. Louis, Oakland four over Denver, New England five over Kansas City, Miami 6 1/2 over New York Jets, Pittsburgh 6 1/2 over New Orleans, San Diego nine over Seattle and Detroit and Tampa even.
Last Week Season Total + 1,225 + 275
Last week: San Francisco, giving six, defeated New Orleans, 21-14, plus $500; Green Bay, giving 2 1/2, lost to Minnesota, 30-13, minus $275; Miami, giving 2 1/2, beat Baltimore, 31-28, plus $250; Detroit, getting 2, defeated Oakland, 16-0, plus $250; Denver, getting 3, defeated San Diego, 42-24, plus $250; Cleveland, getting 2, defeated Atlanta, 28-17, plus $250.
Won-lost record for season: 10-6.