Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superbook — ?
A Sports book (or sportsbook) is not just a book on the beautiful game, it is also a place where you go to gamble on sporting events. Wikipedia explains it well. I didn’t get this shirt for my services to sports betting however; I was in Las Vegas for the Library Association Meeting, and where better (not bettor) to watch the World Cup games than in the Sports Book? They have a series of massive TV screens showing all racing and sporting events going on at any given time. So that was the obvious place to go to watch the U.S. v Germany game. Luckily they set up a little annex for the games (with a mere seven giant screens) since the main floor has no sound in order that the punter can concentrate on the important business of wagering. At half time they raffled off a soccer ball, which mercifully I didn’t win (how do you transport such a thing in airline luggage?), but they did give me this tee-shirt, shown here against the background of the Hudson River looking downtown. The sportsbook conveniently displays the odds on all events between the TV screens. I didn’t spend much time figuring out what they all meant — and I remain mystified as to who they really thought would win.
1714 is the earliest reference given by The Oxford English Dictionary for “book” used to mean “a record of the bets accepted by a person (esp. a bookmaker), originally kept in a notebook”. This reference comes from a Scottish source (another reason for national pride in this the year of the independence vote?). This sense seems to get going in the nineteenth century. The OED doesn’t appear to know about “sports book”. Their earliest reference to “bookmaker” is from 1833, appropriately from The New Sporting Magazine. I’m proud to report that their primary meaning for “bookmaker” is that used by this blog — a person who makes books (as a material product).