On this day 30 years ago, the Chicago Bears were en route to a thorough thrashing of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX when William Perry, the 325-pound defensive tackle affectionately known as “The Fridge,” was called onto the field.
In the third quarter, Perry, who had previously been used as a decoy in the game, lined up as a fullback near the goal line. This time, Chicago quarterback Jim McMahon handed him the ball. The rest is legend. Perry crushed his way through the defense and scored an historic touchdown.
“That one registered 3.8,” shouted NBC broadcaster Dick Enberg, referencing the Richter scale.
Among the game’s nearly 50 million viewers were a small coterie of celebrants who had actually bet ahead of time that Perry, who occasionally moonlighted for offensive purposes, would score in the game.
As David McIntire chronicled in SBNation in 2013, some of them made real money:
As [Chicago coach Mike] Ditka publicly down-played Perry’s role, the odds soared to as high as 75 to 1, potentially earning bettors $750 in winnings for every ten dollars bet on Perry to score. Then the national media picked up the story, relishing another colorful hook associated with a team that had created their own music video mid-season. As the publicity flowed in to Las Vegas, so did money. By kick-off the odds dropped to 2 to 1.
And so the “prop bet” (or proposition bet) was truly born, enabling gamblers, casual or serious, to wager on all kinds of aspects of the game beyond the outcome.