Many New Englanders still haven’t gotten over the 17-14 upset handed to the previously undefeated New England Patriots by the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
The stunning result also pains long-time Las Vegas bookmaker Jay Kornegay — even 14 years later.
That day, Feb. 3, 2008, Nevada sportsbooks lost a record $2.6 million, as the majority of bettors picked David to conquer Goliath. The Giants were 12-point underdogs, but managed to vanquish Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the 18-0 Patriots with a dominant pass rush and a miracle helmet catch by David Tyree.
“You kind of brought up a sore subject,” Kornegay, the director of race & sports at Westgate Las Vegas, told PlayNY with a laugh.
“That was probably the most frustrating NFL season I’ve ever been a part of, and it’s been 35 years.”
Why the 2007 Patriots frustrated bookmakers all season
Believe it or not, the Patriots kicked off the 2007 season by covering the spread in their first eight games. Only to fail to cover the spread in their final six. Overall, they finished 18-1 overall and 10-9 against the spread.
In Week 11, New England was a staggering 24.5-point favorite in Foxboro against Philadelphia but defeated the Eagles just 31-28.
Bettors consistently managed to beat the books, seemingly by staying one step ahead of them.
“They cleaned up at the beginning of the season with the Patriots covering almost every week, and then they cashed in on the second half of the season when the Patriots struggled to cover those big spreads,” Kornegay said.
“Some people blame the oddsmakers. It’s easy to say that in hindsight. We were adjusting aggressively based on NFL standards. We don’t make knee-jerk reactions, but we couldn’t make the spreads high enough early on and we couldn’t make them low enough late.”
Super Bowl XLII delivered even more pain
Las Vegas bookmakers like Kornegay assumed the majority of bettors would side with the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
But they were wrong.
“The public was all over the Giants (about 60% of handle) with the points (from 14 down to 12) and the moneyline (+475), so when the Super Bowl kicked off in 2008 there was no doubt that we needed the Patriots to at least win,” Kornegay said.
“We needed them to go undefeated.”
With 2:42 left in the fourth quarter, it seemed that would happen, as the Patriots took a 14-10 lead.
“I remember because I was going to win my squares,” Kornegay said. “It was a pretty good pool, and when Randy Moss caught the touchdown, I had a friend text me and say, ‘I can’t believe you’re the one that’s going to win this thing!’ I was like, ‘Eh, it’s all luck, but don’t say anything yet. It’s not over.’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. Enjoy it.’”
The Giants, of course, had other ideas.
After Asante Samuel dropped what would’ve been the game-clinching interception, Eli Manning miraculously managed to avoid a sack and threw up a 32-yard prayer that was somehow answered by David Tyree. Manning ultimately hit a wide-open Plaxico Burress on a slant-and-go for the winning TD. A play that capped a 12-play, 83-yard drive with 35 seconds remaining.
“You see the Tyree catch, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, they can’t cover these guys,’” Kornegay said, noting that Tyree’s incredible catch made it apparent that the Giants would lift the Lombardi Trophy.
“It wasn’t just that we lost a lot of money. It was just that we’re used to winning a lot. It was just a frustrating year from the beginning all the way through the Super Bowl.”
The aftermath: All sportsbooks could do was turn the page
Kornegay can have a laugh about it now, but he certainly wasn’t laughing then.
“For two days, all people would tell you was, ‘I told you so,’” he said at the time, according to the Associated Press.
The Giants’ tickets just kept cashing and cashing and cashing, as if those wagers were placed within a burgeoning New York sports betting industry.
“It was so frustrating that we couldn’t even talk about it anymore,” Kornegay said. “We were just like, ‘All right, hey, it’s college basketball season, let’s go.’ I’m a Broncos fan, so I’ve been through pretty bad Broncos’ Super Bowl losses. And those hit a little bit harder than this one. But as a sportsbook operator, that certainly was the worst Super Bowl that I’ve ever experienced.
“We just couldn’t believe the overwhelming support that came in on the Giants. Because the Super Bowl is dominated by recreational play. A lot of people that bet the Super Bowl, that’s their only wager the entire NFL season. So we just thought with Brady and the undefeated Patriots, there was going to be a lot of support for them.
“But I think people just warmed up to the Giants. They just wanted to root for the underdog.”