By Jared Max
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Who makes the greatest stink over a blown call?
Don’t bother, it’s a trick question. The answer is G … as in gamblers.
While I’m strongly opposed to widespread legalized sports gambling, events of the last couple of weekends in the NFL have made me wonder about a potentially unforeseen benefit of such a measure: accountability.
Despite the fact that we have witnessed a change in North American pro sports in recent years — where leagues now admit that referees and umpires made incorrect calls that likely effected results — there is still no restitution. Not for the owners, coaches, players or fans. Or gamblers.
Question: If referees feared that their thumbs could get broken if they made incorrect, game-changing calls, might there be significantly greater attention paid to getting calls right — before the next play, opposed to the next day?
Relax! I’m joking. We know the old adage about what happens to those who don’t satisfy the bookies. I am not condoning violence, but rather making a point that when we fear extreme consequences, we tend to behave our best.
If NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s (and Chris Christie’s) wish for legalized, regulated sports betting becomes a reality, might the Securities Exchange Commission oversee the integrity of professional sports?
When people lose bets today because of incorrect calls by referees or umpires, they have nowhere to turn; there is no sympathy for gamblers. They are written off as suckers who paid the price of admission. There are no reparations. It is only a game … with zillions of dollars in play.
With sports betting mostly relegated to Las Vegas, the industry is not taken seriously enough, nationally, despite its power and control. Vegas is Sin City, known for its code of silence that protects preferably forgotten facts. But what if the rest of the country accepted immorality as its lord and savior? What if sports gambling were to become as common as state lotteries? When the official lotto ball operator makes a mistake reading a wrong number, it is not reflected on the winning ticket. Checks and balances keep it honest.
Did you ever hear somebody say, “If you really want to hurt another, hit him where he will feel it the most — in his wallet?”
Assuming that nobody was seriously injured or killed as a result of laid-back policing, I thought the NYPD’s “slowdown” was great from a quality of life standpoint. And, while New York City appears to have exposed itself as a predator — seemingly unconcerned with a transparent image of preying on its citizens and visitors like cows to be milked for city cash — the business of America, unashamedly, is business. Like a sick animal, the city’s bottom line was struggling mightily to gain weight. With tens of millions of dollars “lost,”change was dictated.
When the NFL admitted last week that it dropped the ball twice, missing critical penalties that helped the Cowboys score the winning touchdown in an NFC wild card game, the Lions got kicked in the groin again. This is nothing new in Detroit. Nearly five years ago, Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was robbed of a perfect game, and he had to live with the knowledge that umpire Jim Joyce admitted his colossal failure immediately after the game. Worse, Bud Selig chose to not invoke his power as baseball’s commissioner to right such a glaring wrong.
While it’s impossible to quantify how much Galarraga “lost” in regard to money and potential legacy, there are specific dollar amounts we can connect to the NFL potentially costing Lions players. Because the NFL zebras fumbled as they did, the Cowboys flew with a tailwind into the NFC divisional playoffs, where each of their players earned an extra $24,000.
While they would be laughed at by many, I wonder if Lions players and team ownership have legal recourse against the NFL. Two seismic errors by the league played a key part in a result that kept the members of Detroit’s roster from earning their next playoff appearance fee. The players have a beef. But, the fans? Go scratch! Same for you, Cowboys nation.
Maybe, though, these embarrassing moments for the NFL — just as what has taken place the last few weeks in New York City — can lead to great change. While we have learned around here that many city “crimes” appear to be moneymakers over truly sinful, seriously-punishable offenses, sports leagues have been put on notice that their billion-dollar games do, indeed, carry financial consequences and need to be governed. Wouldn’t it be something if pro sports were kept accountable by widespread legalized gambling?
Until then, we’re merely pigs at the complaint department, living inside Elaine Benes’ “New Yorker” cartoon.
Jared Max is a multi-award winning sportscaster. He hosted a No. 1 rated New York City sports talk show, “Maxed Out” — in addition to previously serving as longtime Sports Director at WCBS 880, where he currently anchors weekend sports. Follow and communicate with Jared on Twitter@jared_max.
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