Some weekends a person can't help but feel that someone up there is rooting against him in his attempt to cover the point spread.
As, for example, last weekend.
Bill Walsh, the brilliant coach of the San Francisco 49ers, had announced the previous Tuesday that all-world pass rusher Fred Dean and several others of his walking wounded would not play at Cincinnati. When the game started, there was Dean, making life miserable for Kenny Anderson.
Walsh played every 49er who could walk, and they played superbly, earning a 21-3 victory. The victory was not secure, however, until Anderson was forced to leave the game with a toe injury in the third quarter, trailing, 14-3, and having just missed a touchdown pass to Cris Collinsworth.
But I doubt that the Bengals would have covered the spread -- which moved from 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 after Walsh's misleading words -- even if Anderson had not been hurt. San Francisco surprised me with its tremendous line play.
So I lost on Sunday. Then came Monday night and I had Pittsburgh giving 3 1/2 at Oakland. The Steelers were ahead, 7-0, and had an excellent chance to make it 14-0 when Terry Bradshaw suffered a broken right hand.
I suffered through the rest of the game, believing another loss was inevitable with Bradshaw gone. And, indeed, it was.
Excuses, even good excuses, are plentiful in this endeavor. Most losers cite bad luck as the reason for their predicament. Bad luck, not bad judgment. They conveniently choose to forget, or refuse to recognize, those occasions when they have been fortunate to cover with poor selections.
I have had more than my share of luck with several important selections this season, and still failed to cover. All any handicapper should expect is for that crazy-looking ball to bounce his way 50 percent of the time. But, after last weekend, I did think things could have gone better, especially since I'd lost Dallas' Danny White to bruised ribs in a pick the previous week.
The loss of Bradshaw might take Pittsburgh out of the playoffs. I can't see young Mark Malone beating Cincinnati, not with the Steeler defense as vulnerable as it appeared to be in Oakland. Anderson was listed as questionable yesterday morning because of his sprained toe. The chances are he'll start. If he does, I'll take Cincinnati for an imaginary $750. The game is rated even. Had Bradshaw played, Pittsburgh would have been favored by three.
Detroit draws $750 at home Saturday against Minnesota. The Lions are favored by four. They have played admirably in the Silverdome all year and the friendly atmosphere can't help but give them another big lift against the Vikings. Tommy Kramer would have to have one of his best days in order to offset a more diversified Lion attack that should put 30 points on the board.
Dallas also attracts $750 as a 3 1/2-point favorite at home to Philadelphia. "You think the price is cheap," Bob Martin, Las Vegas' head linesman, declared (correctly) after naming the number. "But I think the Eagles now have more incentive. They've lost three straight and they have to have this one; the Cowboys don't."
Martin may have a point. But it's a minor one. The way to beat the Eagles, as more and more teams are beginning to realize, is to keep the pressure on Ron Jaworski. If you do that, the probability is, sooner or later, he'll break down Dallas can get to the Philadelphia quarterback.
I'll also take $250 each on Green Bay, Kansas City and Cleveland. The Pack, favored by three at New Orleans, is putting together a fine offense. Kansas City, favored by one at home to Miami, has the solid defense needed to exploit Miami's sputtering offense. Cleveland, a three-point underdog Saturday at home to the New York Jets, can use this contest to atone slightly for a disastrous campaign.
In other games, Las Vegas lists Washington 13 over Baltimore, Buffalo 3 1/2 at New England, Oakland 6 1/2 over Chicago, San Francisco 7 1/2 over Houston, St. Louis four over the New York Giants, San Diego 2 1/2 at Tampa Bay, Denver nine over Seattle and (Monday night) Atlanta four over Los Angeles.
Last week's results: Cincinnati, favored by 6 1/2, lost to San Francisco, 21-3, minus $825; Philadelphia, favored by 4 1/2, lost to Washington, 15-13, minus $275; Buffalo, a 4 1/2-point underdog, defeated San Diego, 28-27, plus $250; Denver, favored by three, defeated Kansas City, 16-13, a tie; Pittsburgh, favored by 3 1/2, lost to Oakland, 30-27, minus $250. Won-lost record: 31-32