A Super Bowl Best Bet

By Derek Simon

Lady Gaga at the Toyota Center in Texas (photo via the Houston Press)

Lady Gaga at the Toyota Center in Texas (photo via the Houston Press)

The Big Game is just a few days away and I, like countless others I’m sure, have been busy analyzing all the Super Bowl bets out there.

  • Will Stephen Curry score at least five points more in his Saturday matchup against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma Thunder than Carolina will score as a team on Sunday?
  • Will Arsenal score more goals against AFC Bournemouth in its Sunday morning Premier League showdown than Peyton Manning will throw touchdown passes against Carolina?
  • Who will be named Super Bowl 50 MVP? (If you think Cam Newton, you agree with the linemakers… and probably Cam Newton.)

While all these proposition, or “prop,” bets are interesting, they are often hard to handicap — and very few offer any value (surprise, surprise). For example: At most wagering outlets, Cam Newton is odds-on to win the MVP award.

Are the skimpy odds justified? Let’s do the math…

SB MVPFirst off, in order to be named the most valuable player of a particular game or series, your team generally has to win that game or series. Yes, Jerry West received the MVP trophy for his stellar play in the 1969 NBA Finals, despite the fact that his team, the Los Angeles Lakers, lost to the Boston Celtics four games to three. But that was the only time in Finals history that a member of the losing squad was so honored… and it’s happened just once in the Super Bowl as well (Chuck Howley, 1971).

Therefore, realistically, the Carolina Panthers will have to win the Super Bowl in order for Newton to walk away with MVP honors. According to Vegas, there’s about a 70 percent chance of that happening, as Carolina is presently a six-point favorite and six-point favorites typically win seven times out of ten — 70 times out of 100 if you prefer — in the NFL.

Next, there is the very strong likelihood, based on historical trends, that the Super Bowl MVP will be a quarterback. On 49 previous Super Sundays, the winning team’s QB was voted the MVP 27 times (55 percent), including five of the last six years. In the case of Carolina, a team that greatly relies on both the passing and rushing of Newton, this trend seems destined to continue should the Panthers win.

Hence, the -160 line offered at US Racing, which represents a 63 percent chance of Newton taking home the MVP hardware (or tossing it to a young fan), seems about right.

But “about right” isn’t good enough when one is attempting to make money betting sports. So, I dug deep and found what I believe is a can’t-miss Super Bowl bet.

USRacingAnthemOdds

At US Racing, the over/under on the “Star-Spangled Banner” is 120 ½ seconds and, historically speaking, this seems about right. Over the last 10 years, the average has been approximately 1:57, or 117 seconds. Six versions of the song have gone under this mark, four have gone over.

SuperBowlAnthem

Of course, at first blush, Lady Gaga, who will sing the National Anthem this year, would appear to be a shoo-in to go over two minutes. In fact, at some books, the over/under is 2:20, undoubtedly due to the fact that Gaga is known for her sometimes bizarre stage shows.

But the National Anthem is not part of the halftime show, where stray nipples and old guys in ill-fitting clothes often rule the day. A couple of years ago, I saw a prop bet offering even odds on the prospect that a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers would be shirtless during their performance… I took it along with a side bet from my wife that I would choke on my own vomit during the performance.

I cashed on both.

Personally, I think Lady Gaga is going to play it straight in Super Bowl 50 and, that being the case, I think she will finish the National Anthem in less than two minutes. Consider: Since 2006, the only “overs” were a duet (featuring Aretha Franklin and Aaron Neville — he “don’t know much” about picking up the tempo), a piano version (by Alicia Keys) and two long-winded renditions by Broadway performers (Jennifer Hudson and Idina Menzel).

All of the “unders” except for Renee Fleming in Super Bowl 48 came from pop singers, like Gaga. Heck, even Whitney Houston’s masterful, albeit pre-recorded, 1991 Anthem was completed in 1:56.

Lady Gaga is a lock to go under 140 seconds and a good bet to go under 120 ½ seconds.

Derek Simon
Derek Simon is the Senior Editor and Handicapper at US Racing.