Super Bowl 50 was anything but a fixed game. The Denver Bronco’s man-handled the Carolina Panthers. But what about past Super Bowls? I can think of four that may have been fixed games, three of which I’m not sure, and one of which I’d almost bet the farm.
Super Bowl, the most bet on event of the year
More money is bet on the Super Bowl than any other sporting event. Could a Super Bowl be fixed? You tell me.
Super Bowl III, the most crooked game in football history
When the New York Jets of the lowly American Football League defeated the mighty Baltimore Colts of the National Football League by the score of 16 to 7 on January 12, 1969, the football world was shocked. Had the Colts won this game, the NFL and the Super Bowl, as we know them, would not exist. The Jets reigning victorious in this game was the biggest conspiracy, and the biggest boost in the history of American business.
Colts Owner, Caroll Rosenbloom
According to an interview with former Colts defensive end Bubba Smith, Caroll Rosenbloom had a $3 million bet on the Jets. Rosenbloom was also one of the few NFL owners in favor of the NFL, AFL merger in 1970. A Colts victory would have killed any chance of a merger There was a lot of money riding on Super Bowl III.
Don Shula, Colts head coach
I don’t know what Don Shula had to gain from a Jets win, other than he was doing what Carroll Rosenbloom told him to do. It was kind of funny that the Colts ran the ball down the Jets’ throat during their opening series, and suddenly changed the play calling for the rest of the game. Also strange was the fact that Shula put legendary quarterback, Johnny Unitas in the game with six minutes remaining, and he led the Colts to their only touchdown. Unitas, a man of integrity, would never have thrown a game, but Shula decided to bench him and go with back up, Earl Morrall. I’m not implying that Morrall was crooked. I do believe Unitas would have thrown a touchdown pass to a wide open receiver, Jimmy Orr, that would have tied the game at 7 before the half. Morrall threw it right in Jets’ defensive back, Jim Hudson’s hands.
Joe Namath, running his mouth before the game
During the week of the game, Joe Namath spoke at the Miami Touchdown club, and guaranteed a win for the Jets, who were an 18 point underdog. The press crucified him for this. The Jets coach got all over his ass for running his big mouth. But he was able to back it up. Or, did he know something? If he did, he almost spilled the beans. Namath was no stranger to fixing games, considering he played at Alabama for the biggest fixer of all time, Paul “Bear” Bryant.
Major networks had everything to gain
If Super Bowl III was a fix, it was for millions, which changed into billions over the years. CBS was about to sign a new four year contract with the National Football League. Because of the dull style of football in the sixties, and the mis-match of the two leagues, they were starting to negotiate downward, from $750 million to $500 million. The first two Super Bowls had proven the American Football League to be inferior to the NFL. Super Bowl III changed this, and CBS eventually paid $1.5 billion.
NBC and ABC also had much to gain by the merger of the two leagues. NBC signed a TV contract with the new AFC, which mostly consisted of the teams from the old AFL. ABC negotiated a long run with “Monday Night Football”, and we all know how successful this was, and still is today on ESPN.
Had the two leagues not merged, none of this would have taken place. Because of the superiority of the NFL over the AFL, the commissioner at the time was against the merger, and was thinking about the possibility of doing away with the Super Bowl. After the unlikely win by the Jets, and the merger, teams were adjusted to allow for more parity in professional football.
If you’ve never seen Super Bowl III, you can watch the entire game, as it originally aired, on YouTube.
Other possible Super Bowl fixes
Super Bowl XXIII I remember watching Super Bowl 23 very closely, when the San Francisco 49’ers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 20 to 16, on Joe Montana’s touchdown pass to receiver John Taylor with 39 seconds left. What I found odd about this game was that the 49’ers sat on the ball when they were leading, which was a good portion of the game. When the Bengals went ahead, the 49’ers always answered back with a score. I followed the 49’ers very closely during their glory days. What was strange was, every time they were the home team, they often won the game, but didn’t beat the point spread. On the road, they almost always beat the point spread. Call it a coincidence, but if you had bet against them at home,, and for them on the road, you’d be in pretty good financial shape today. Funny, but in Super Bowl 23, the 49’ers were the home team, since they wore the red jerseys.
Super Bowl XXX I remember Super Bowl 30 very well, especially Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Neil O’Donnell. There were two plays that made the difference in this game. Without them, the Steelers win easily. O’Donnell threw two interceptions to Dallas Cowboys’ defensive back, Larry Brown. When I saw the second interception, I honestly thought it was a replay of the first interception. On both plays, there was no Steeler receiver in sight. O’Donnell threw the ball right into Brown’s hands. Both interceptions were returned deep in Pittsburgh territory. Dallas beat Pittsburgh, 27 to 17.
Super Bowl XXXVI If the fix was on in Super Bowl 36, I don’t see how it could have been just about money. Played in 2002, shortly after the 911 attack on the World Trade Center, the New England Patriots beat the St. Louis Rams, 20 to 17. This was the second most shocking upset in Super Bowl history, next to Super Bowl III. Before the game, no one had ever heard of Tom Brady. For some strange reason, it seemed like everyone wanted the Patriots to beat a much better team, to commemorate 911. I remember hearing this the week before the game constantly from the media.