MIAMI — MIAMI-- --I'm guessing that Billy Joel is going to squeeze every minute of multimillion-dollar airtime out of "The Star-Spangled Banner" when he sings the national anthem at the Super Bowl, and I'm going to make him pay.
The over-under on the anthem is 1 minute and 44 seconds, and I think we all know that at this point in his career, Billy will need two minutes just to get to the high note at "land of the free." This is the biggest lock since WBAL's Chip Franklin and I went head-to-head on the SAT for pink slips.
(I suppose, after running hand-in-hand with Chip into the icy Chesapeake during Saturday's Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge, I should explain that the term "pink slip" is 1960's drag race slang for a vehicle ownership certificate and not something from Victoria's Secret.)
Of course, you're probably scratching your head at the notion that anyone would bet on the national anthem, which -- I have to admit -- seems slightly unpatriotic, but you can bet on virtually anything related to the Super Bowl, especially with one of those offshore Internet sites that Congress is trying to shut down now that it has solved all the important problems facing the country.
The Billy Joel bet is posted at -120 at Bodog, a Web sports book that obviously is trying to get some attention (and who am I to deny anyone his moment in The Sun). That means that if you bet a theoretical $120 that Billy will finish the anthem in more or less than 1:44, you will get $100 back if you are correct.
This is what the people in Las Vegas call a proposition bet, and I know this because I've been to Vegas many times and heard some pretty strange propositions -- some of them connected to gambling.
Most football "props" are directly related to the game, but the Super Bowl brings out the silly in all of us (Have you seen some of my shirts?), so there's even a Bodog bet that lets you choose whether Peyton Manning will throw more touchdown passes than James Blunt will win Grammys this year.
Don't misunderstand, I'm not encouraging anyone to bet on football. I've never placed a bet on the Internet and don't intend to start now. I'm just amazed at what's out there.
There are all sorts of cross-professional propositions. How about betting whether NBA star Elton Brand scores more points on Sunday than the Bears? Jason Kidd total assists vs. Brian Urlacher solo tackles? The Dixie Chicks' Grammy wins vs. Manning's rushing attempts? Make up your own at home and see if the neighbors want some action.
Apparently, only chumps bet the old-fashioned point spread. The Colts are favored by seven, but what fun is that when you can throw down a C-note on which Cincinnati Bengal will get arrested for disorderly conduct at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Party?
OK, I made that one up, but take Chris Henry just in case.
The big sports books in Las Vegas get plenty of traditional action. A record $94.5 million was bet legally in Nevada on the 2006 Super Bowl, and that record probably will go down this year. The Vegas casinos also offer a wide variety of proposition bets, but nothing as over-the-top as the offshore Internet sites.
The Billy bet is particularly problematic because Joel can decide how long he wants to sing. I mean, what's to keep the Piano Man from making a million-dollar side deal to skip over the second stanza and go right into "the rocket's red glare"? That's right, the NFL could be on the verge of its first anthem-shaving scandal.
That kind of thing isn't usually a problem, because the typical 50-50 prop bet is a "which team will do what first" wager. You can bet on which team will score first and get odds depending on the relative ability of the teams to score. For instance, betting $100 that Rex Grossman and the Chicago Bears will score the first touchdown Sunday will return, I think, a million dollars.
If you just want to say you have something riding on the big game and don't really want to get too technical about it, you can even bet on the outcome of the pre-game coin toss. I heard they're going to have Grossman toss the coin, just to make sure it hits the ground quickly, but that's probably just a rumor.
The Peter Schmuck Show airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.