Television, more than any other factor, generates national interest in sports betting. Put a game, any game, on the tube and the bookmakers will be careful to circle it on their schedule.
"If the NCAA really was concerned about gambling on its events, it would never sign a TV contract with the networks," a magna cum laude once volunteered.
The same holds true for the NFL. The Super Bowl annually is the biggest betting attraction in the United States. And, in any given year, it is estimated that five of the nation's top 10 betting attractions are provided by Monday Night Football on ABC.
Occasionally, television goes too far in its coverage of the pro games. The two Thursday night contests this month were raggedly played. Three days is not sufficient time for the teams to prepare, but the show must go on, must it not?
Starting last season I entered into an arrangement with a few friends to make TV coverage of the NFL even better. Video cassette recorders now make it possible to tape games and exchange the tapes--thanks to overnight delivery--across the country in time to see last week's action before picking this week's card.
Nobody needs to screen every game. But it is wonderful to have this option available. There is no substitute for seeing how a team performs in its most recent effort.
Putting together such a tape network is not easy. One acquaintance in Chicago has qualms about the legality of the venture. But he had a good week, after exchanging tapes the first time, and the restriction about the use of VCRs hasn't seemed to bother him since.
Atlanta at San Francisco, Los Angeles Raiders at Denver, Los Angeles Rams at New York Jets, New Orleans at Dallas and Washington at Seattle are of particular interest this week, in terms of the near future. What NBC, CBS and ABC don't cover, our "network" will.
The line this weekend finds San Francisco 4 1/2 over Atlanta, Chicago 2 at Baltimore, Tampa Bay 2 over Cincinnati, San Diego 6 1/2 over Cleveland, Minnesota 3 over Detroit, Buffalo 7 over Houston, Miami 8 over Kansas City, Los Angeles Raiders 3 1/2 at Denver, New York Jets 5 1/2 over Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh 8 1/2 over New England, Dallas 8 over New Orleans, Philadelphia 6 over St. Louis, Washington 1 1/2 at Seattle and (Monday night) New York Giants 2 over Green Bay.
This week I will go with the Raiders and Miami for an imaginary $500 each, plus an imaginary $250 on San Diego and Seattle.
The Raiders are impressive, particularly their defensive front. John Elway or Steve DeBerg is going to be subjected to extreme pressure. The visitors should be able to cover the 3 1/2.
Miami figures to be angry after its Monday night embarrassment in the Coliseum. More important, it is facing a rival, in Kansas City, that has no running game. This is a perfect situation for the Dolphins' quick defense. Eight is always a big number, but I like Miami here.
San Diego also is coming off a loss, in Seattle. The Chargers have failed to play to their capability this year. Now is the time for Dan Fouts and friends to quit fumbling around. The Chargers defense, which includes four rookies, is going to get better. I'll give the 6 1/2.
Seattle should be primed for one of the best performances in the franchise's history. The Seahawks are 2-1. All they have to do now is beat the defending Super Bowl champion, which has won eight straight on the road. John Riggins will make it tough, but I believe the home crowd emotion can help Chuck Knox's club carry this day against what is probably the most consistent team in the league.