Superbowl Fun, Productivity Schmoductivity and More

My Favorite Prop
Many of you know that prop betting really took off 21 years ago when Caesars Palace offered a William "The Refrigerator" Perry touchdown prop for the Super Bowl and he – against the odds – scored. Today, Super Bowl prop bets get better and better every year.

The best prop this year doesn't even involve the game itself. I love: "How Long Will It Take Billy Joel To Sing The National Anthem?" Francis Scott Key would be proud.

bodog_logo.jpg has the over/under at 1:44. Before I started to even get into this, I called up the guys at Bodog to make sure I understood the bet right. They told me that it's not when the accompaniment starts. It's when Billy says the word "Oh."

I'm not putting any money on this but this is definitely infinitely more intriguing than Colts as a six and half point favorite.

So I woke up this morning and sang the national anthem a couple times to see how long it would take. My regular version took 1:14. My slow version took 1:22 and my extra slow version took 1:32.

I assume a smart bettor would go through the same drill and think, how is it possibly going to get up to 1:44? Well, a smarter bettor would go to YouTube, which I did. There's only one Billy Joel version of the National Anthem. His rendition from the 2000 World Series all timed out – it's 1 minute and 37 seconds.

So Joel's 2000 World Series version was slower than my slowest version. Then I figured you have to factor in the fact that baseball games are always song a cappella, while the Super Bowl is almost always accompanied by an orchestra – which tends to slow things down.

Then I just decided to go all out. I looked at every Super Bowl national anthem YouTube could offer me. And guess what? Not one singer, at least what's online, has ever done the National Anthem at the Super Bowl under 1:44.

I was only able to watch Cher (1999), Faith Hill (2000), Mariah Carey (2002) and Beyonce (2004), but here is what my research revealed.

Cher sang it the fastest. Without any long pauses, she moved through it rather quickly and did it in 1:45. Mariah Carey could have done it under 1:44 potentially, but she had the Boston Pops slowing her down. I clocked her at 1:55. Faith Hill put on some major time by adding "yeah" after "land of the free," finishing up at 2:00, while Beyonce put on an extra five seconds by saying the words "the brave" twice to end the anthem at 2:09.

There's obviously one major fault here in that the only data we have is of women. But we're thinking that odds are pretty good that Joel goes over 1:44. For some reason, we couldn't find any details on who might be backing Joel up. That could play a part.

Groans Heard In Beaverton
I guess it's better that one athlete beat another, as opposed to the competition, but Serena Williams' thumping of Maria Sharapova in Friday night's Australian Open final (Sharapova won a measly three games) was a net loss for Nike . Sharapova is the most marketable woman in the history of women's sports and every victory just validates her even more. An Australian title would have left only the French to conquer. Meanwhile, Williams has been somewhat of a disappointment for Nike. Since signing her to a five-year contract in Dec. 2003, this was only her second major title – she won the Australian in 2005. Add to the fact that nothing that, unlike Sharapova, nothing that Serena wears – see Puma's cat outfit and her tight neon green Australian open garb – ever does any numbers at retail.

Productivity Schmoductivity
It's time for me to take another shot at the folks at Challenger, Gray & Christmas. You know, the folks who have told us that March Madness could cost American employers as much at $3.8 billion? Their latest piece of work is the Super Bowl. That could wind up costing American employers $800 million in lost productivity, according to the research firm. My point is that the word "productivity" doesn't mean anything. It's all about the quality of the work. If Joe Blow, on a normal day, stares at the Internet and pretends he's working, how much is him talking about the Super Bowl costing his employer? How about zero dollars? It's all relative. There's something called bonding and teamwork that talking about sports at the water cooler engenders and it's something that you can't put a number on. My advice to Challenger, Gray & Christmas? Place a call to Tim Coleman, president of Coleman Custom Closets in Geneva, Ill. He's giving his workers the Monday after the Super Bowl off to potentially celebrate a Bears victory. It will cost him $12,000, he says. But it will be worth it because his employees will come back ready to work hard and thankful for their day off. In fact, according to the Aurora Beacon News, "while similar companies have suffered recent losses due to a slower housing market, Coleman Custom Closets ended 2006 up 12 percent from the previous year." Somehow I think that doesn't happen if Tim Coleman had Challenger, Gray and Christmas looking over his employees time.

He might be 80 years old, but Penn State coach Joe Paterno apparently can still endorse products. He's the new spokesman for nutritionally fortified Super Donuts and Super Buns. The products are a brand made by the company of Franco Harris, the Pittsburgh Steelers great who also played for Paterno at Penn State. Harris had previously only sold his product to schools and other institutions, but this marks the brand's introduction into the supermarket. Donuts and Buns with Paterno packaging will be sold in Pennsylvania and proceeds will go to the Paterno Library Endowment.

Scary first words
I'm feeling sorry for my former writing buddy Dan Shanoff, who now has his own blog While some parents witness their kid's first word "Dada" or "Mama," Shanoff apparently got a surprise on Sunday morning when his nine-month old son repeated the words in the Under Armour cleat commercials -- "Click Clack." Wrote Shanoff: "I suppose it could have been worse and his first words could have been: "We must protect this house!"

Questions? Comments?