Super Bowl odds history best remembers Jimmy the Greek for his 18.5 point line on Baltimore over the New York Jets with the Super Bowl betting odds in January 1969.
Of course the Jets pulled off the big upset in that game as they stunned the Colts with a 16-7 win to give the Super Bowl legitimacy after two blowout wins by the NFL’s Green Bay Packers against the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders. But there has always been a lack of perception about the Greek’s role in that game that offers a great lesson about how to handicap the Super Bowl.
The Greek set the line at 18.5 points in Baltimore’s favor because that was the public perception of the two teams and as a result action would flow equally to both teams. The Greek did not necessarily think that the Colts were 18.5 points better than the Jets but that the public would bet equally on both sides in the matchup with such a line.
ESPN’s recent documentary of Jimmy the Greek demonstrated his role in setting the early Super Bowl gambling game and also showed how he gained notoriety from the Super Bowl which put him on the set of CBS NFL Today Show in the mid 1970’s as a result.
When Jimmy the Greek was on NFL Today, gambling was not at all as mainstream as it is today and was something that was done in the shadows with a criminal element or aura to it that only served to add to his mystique with the viewing public. Even casual fans knew who Jimmy the Greek was and wanted to know his thoughts on Super Bowl gambling.
The Greek helped make NFL Today one of the most popular sports shows in history and the best pregame show in the history of pro football. The Greek helped bring CBS an audience that they otherwise never would have had. And it all began because of the misconception that Jimmy the Greek blew his pick with the Super Bowl odds on the Colts over the Jets when in fact all he did was set the correct line.