Marcus Aurelius Burr has been a sports writer for 15 years, and he has no idea how to bet on a football game. Neither does Lieutenant Harvey Danzig, a detective in Brooklyn, who asks Burr to find him a bookie so he can wager on the upcoming Super Bowl.
A New York City detective who doesn't know a bookie? A veteran sports reporter who doesn't understand how to lay a bet? Sounds suspicious, right?
Well, it should be, but it isn't, and the tiresome lectures on sports gambling are just part of the surplus padding that surrounds and ultimately does in the mystery of Murder at the Super Bowl (William Morrow and Co., Inc., $15.95), by former quarterback Fran Tarkenton with Herb Resnicow.
The Brooklyn Wizards are an expansion team of castoffs and rookies coached by the most hated man in football, Zachary (Magic) Madjeski. After the cream of the conference knock each other out of the playoffs, the Wizards scramble into the championship game against the all-universe Oregon Orcas. The Wizards have three things going for them: the home field advantage, an unorthodox quarterback and the hard-headed coaching of Madjeski. But the coach's head doesn't prove hard enough: Someone smashes it in with a trophy. Marc Burr finds the body. He calls his editor with the scoop, then he calls the police, and the search to find Madjeski's killer begins.
December 22, 1986
The cops seem content to let Burr—who's being lethargically pursued by the killer—investigate the crime. The trouble is he brings the same amount of panache and professionalism to his detecting that he does to his reporting, which is to say none. Burr recites the same two questions to everyone he sees: "Who do you think killed Madjeski?" followed by "Can I quote you on that?" The answer to the first is usually the name of one of the other characters (who are distinguishable only by their "colorful" nicknames); the answer to the second, invariably, is no.
Other, more provoking questions begin to crop up in the reader's mind, and not one of them is, Whodunit? Why does Marc Burr seem to be the only reporter covering the game, and why is there no hint of the hoopla that surrounds it? How come the police aren't doing anything much about the murder? The answers to these are lost somewhere between the goalposts.
At one point, Burr inarticulately tries to define the intensity of the game by saying, "You have no idea what the atmosphere is like just before a Super Bowl." Author Tarkenton should, though; he played in three. But in Murder at the Super Bowl, he fails to score a touchdown, much less win the game.