The bettor's view of NFL action often is difficult to explain to the uninitiated.
Take Monday night's game between Dallas and Washington as a case in point. The Redskins, a 2- to-2 1/2 point underdog at home, moved out to a 23-3 lead at halftime and seemed ready to cover the spread even after Dallas quickly scored twice in the third quarter.
At the worst, it appeared to Washington's backers, the team they were betting on would lose by only one point, thus giving them a one-point victory.
That possibility became a probability when Dallas drove 80 yards to go ahead, 24-23, with 2:20 left to play. Which is when things really got interesting.
Joe Theismann overthrew Joe Washington. Cornerback Ron Fellows intercepted. Suddenly, for the first time all night, I was in position to win a bet.
Fellows returned to the four. Now, timing meant everything. I wanted a Dallas field goal, not a Dallas touchdown. A four-point lead (27-23) would have to be protected vigorously by the Cowboys over the final, precious seconds. An eight-point lead would mean the Cowboys could relax defensively and surrender a "meaningless" seven points.
When Dallas scored its fourth touchdown, to go ahead by 31-23, my bet again was in big trouble.
Who cares if Dallas had lost 30-27. At least, that way, I'd have gotten my money's worth. There would have been the certain satisfaction that Dallas had given the final 1:40 its best defensive effort instead of being a willing partner in trading 90 seconds for seven points.
Everyone who watched the national telecast knows what happened. Washington was invited by Dallas to advance the ball 15 to 20 yards at a time. The Redskins used up their two remaining timeouts and, with 10 seconds left, scored.
This is the way the game is played in the NFL, more often than not, during the final moments. There is a game-within-a-game going on, so far as the bettors are concerned. We sit there, in the stadiums or in front of our TV sets, suffering through the settlement of the spread long after the winning or losing team has been determined.
It can be agony. It can be ecstacy. It's never dull.
I will never understand why the team that is behind by, say, eight points, with 1:40 to play, is so content to lose by one point rather than go for the quick strike that might give it a longshot chance of winning the game. That's not likely to happen, of course, but why not go for it? Is losing by one point more satisfying than losing by eight or 15 points in that situation?
All of which is not to be interpreted as a bitter alibi for my having lost a bet Monday night.
Washington was the right pick. As the game was played, Dallas would have been very lucky to have covered the number in the final two minutes.
This week's numbers find Minnesota 3 1/2 over San Francisco (tonight), Cincinnati 6 1/2 over Buffalo, Detroit 3 1/2 over Cleveland, Dallas five at St. Louis, Denver 2 1/2 at Baltimore, Los Angeles Raiders 10 1/2 over Houston, Miami 9 1/2 over New England, Los Angeles Ram three over New Orleans, Atlanta three over New York Giants, Green Bay 1 1/2 over Pittsburgh, New York Jets eight over Seattle, Chicago three over Tampa Bay, Philadelphia one over Washington and (Monday night) San Diego four at Kansas City.
I don't like this card. But I'll dabble a little on Seattle getting the eight points in New York against the Jets.
The Seahawks are going to play solid defense for Chuck Knox this season. Jim Zorn should be able to elude some of the Jets' defensive pressure. Seattle should not be blown out. Historically, they have always played New York tough.
The risk is an imaginary $250.
I'll also take $250 on the Vikings giving 3 1/2 points at home to the 49ers. Last Week Season Total -$50 -$50
Last week's results: New Orleans, giving 2 1/2, defeated St. Louis, 28-17, plus $250; Miami, giving 4, defeated Buffalo 12-0, plus $250; Cincinnati, giving 2, lost to Los Angeles Raiders, 20-10, minus $275; Dallas, giving 2, defeated Washington, 31-30, minus $275. Net result: minus $50.
Won-lost record: 2-2.