Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Fix Is In

I came across this website the other day and I wondered what you thought of the premise, Ralph. It's called The Fix Is In and it's written by Brian Tuohy.

The author essentially claims that five major sports are fixed (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and NASCAR). I think he's mostly trying to sell books, and conspiracy theories can generate big money, and even though, from time to time, critics are able to point to individual instances of shady dealings in sports, such as the Black Sox Scandal and the Tim Donaghy fiasco, overall, the outcomes of these sports are not regularly manipulated by a few select parties.

Here's my take: Like most conspiracy theories, much needs to be ignored for the assertion of "the fix" to work. In other words, Tuohy's position essentially ignores the fact that a lot of money (billions) can be generated by having the greatest athletes in the world complete against one another.

In that fact alone there is not much need to manipulate outcomes. Set up a system where the athletes compete for a championship and sell the rights to television. Not a complicated scenario.

I certainly don't believe that Roger Goodell is telling NFL referees to manipulate outcomes. Do you know how many eyes are on the NFL each week? Millions. We collectively review every single play from six different angles in slow motion. If there was a pattern of manipulation, we would surely have seen it by now.

As it stands, the refs get most calls right. You may believe that they could have let an action stand or that they should have called it differently, but the pattern, in my nearly 50 years of watching football, has been that they do a pretty good job and that there is no widespread pattern of game manipulation.

Further, I do not believe players are manipulating outcomes. Most players have performance bonuses built into their contracts, so they're not going to "take a dive" in order to win a bet from a Las Vegas bookie. Those days are long gone. Peyton Manning, for example, had a $2 million bonus for winning the AFC Championship game and another $2 million for winning the Super Bowl. He's trying to win. And what bookie is ever going to pay out that kind of money? They'd sooner kill you and bury you in the desert than pay out that kind of bet. So the rules are mostly "fixed" to promote the players to strive for excellence.

Finally, I'm a big believer in Occam's Razor. Essentially, that means that the simplest explanation is typically the best explanation. So, we can choose to believe that there is a grand manipulation of the outcomes of these various sports by very powerful men in order to make money for themselves and hold the rest of us as gullible dupes while only writers like Brian Tuohy know about it...or it could be that the sports are essentially above board and limited to only occasional manipulation which is almost always discovered in the long run.

I'll go with the latter.


Ralph said...

Good call. This is certainly a complicated issue. There is absolutely a natural connection between sports and gambling. I'm mean, what's more natural then to wager on a golf game, or really any sort of competition, even a race? And, by nature athletes are mostly competitive people and gamblers. From what I understand professional golfers, for example, throw all sorts of side bets down, even during practice rounds. But, as you observe, I think that the big money being thrown around legitimately (without gambling) in pro sports these days makes it less likely that professional athletes would be included to risk getting involved with illegal gambling that could get them barred from their sport. The college game, well, as the author kind of indicates in his conversation with Dan Patrick, may be riper for action. I'm going to be inclined to say that when point shaving goes on, it's likely on that level and not on something a lot of people are paying attention to, like the Super Bowl. That said, I'm also not saying that Super Bowl III was absolutely not fixed, because, that was a different era. Today, though, I think most people involved with pro sports are inclined to avoid killing the golden goose, if you will, and if it's not broke - well, don't fix it. Cheers.

Mike said...

I agree that the likelihood of gambling is greater in areas further from the public eye. College athletes are more likely to fall prey to the lure of easy money than millionaire professional athletes.