Friday, September 25, 2015

SVP vs DFS: Scott Van Pelt takes on daily fantasy instead of stupid gambling laws

ESPN's Scott Van Pelt wants daily fantasy sports to drop the "charade" that it isn't gambling. You can watch his short monologue on the subject here. Before I discuss the material of his argument, I want to applaud him for having the balls to make it. DraftKings and ESPN have a huge partnership deal, and daily fantasy sports has become a massive source of advertising revenue. I'll also compliment SVP on the pace and structure of his argument. It's very well put together.

And I don't disagree with his premises, just the conclusion, and just the fact that he makes the argument at all. The easy way to describe daily fantasy is to say it's gambling. So he's right. Personally, I'd argue that it's gambling and a skill game. I'd also argue that poker, sports betting, and horse betting are also skill games, but most people treat those as gambling. The skill involved is to capitalize on other players who don't know what they're doing as well as you.

So daily fantasy shouldn't be much different. So why can't they just admit that it's gambling? Drop the charade, right Scott?

Because in this country we have stupid and nonsensical gambling laws that force you to avoid the G-word at all costs. We also have pious institutions like the NCAA that despise the stigma of gambling while they simultaneously benefit from it. Instead of going after daily fantasy's charade, SVP should ask why the charade is necessary at all.

In Massachusetts, gambling is illegal. Unless it's through the state run lottery, or at a casino sanctioned by the state. As long as the State House gets a piece of the action, they're fine with gambling. Otherwise, it's against the law. The government might as well say "Gambling is wrong, unless we do it."

The NCAA recently announced that student-athletes who play daily fantasy will lose a year of eligibility. But when March Madness comes around and people fill out brackets with NCAA logos on them, I don't hear much preaching from the NCAA about the evils of gambling. After all, those brackets are used strictly for fun, and not gambling, right?

I used to play $5 games of online poker until Congress made it next to impossible to deposit or withdraw money from online poker sites. This caused the reputable sites to stop doing business with US players altogether. One of the major laws that began this crushing of online poker in America (the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act or UIGEA) specifically stated that fantasy sports was not considered gambling. Fantasy sports was a game of skill. This is the law that allowed daily fantasy to one day grow into what it is today.

So I can buy $100 worth of scratch tickets, or play in a $200 million multi-state lottery, or go down to Plainridge Park and sit in front of a slot machine for 16 hours, and it's all legal, because the government has a stake in those games. I can also pick a fantasy football team for Sunday's games and risk $20 to potentially win $1,000,000, or risk $1 in hopes of winning $20, and it's legal. Because the law says it's not gambling. If it were gambling, it would be illegal.

So why the hell would DraftKings or FanDuel call themselves gambling sites if the reason they are legal and allowed to do business is because the law says they're not gambling sites? That's like demanding that CVS and Walgreen's call themselves drug dealers and not pharmacies.

Maybe, Mr. Van Pelt, you should go after the rampant hypocrisy found in this country's gambling laws. Maybe you should point out that sports betting is and has always been a huge ratings booster for the NCAA, NFL, and all other sports that ESPN covers, even while those leagues publicly condemn such activities. Maybe you should ask why Americans love to gamble, but America has a stigma against gambling?

But no, it's easier to go after the people who bombard you with commercials. It's easier to go after the "charade" they're trying to pull off, instead of digging deeper and asking why they need the charade at all.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Patriots-Steelers drinking game: Super Bowl banner and NFL kickoff edition

It's here! Actual football returns! Finally when we see "Patriots vs." or "Tom Brady vs." it won't be describing a court case. Instead of cross examinations, it's now time for crossing routes. Instead of filing motions, we'll have receivers in motion.

Here's a drinking game to play while enjoying the Patriots begin their title defense against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Enjoy the game, do your job, and get lubed up responsibly (which means you should not, under any circumstances, actually play this game)...

Anytime a commentator says...
"Champions" = take 1 drink of beer, and let out a satisfied sigh
"Super Bowl" = 1 drink
"Banner" = 1 drink
"Ring(s)" = 1 drink
"4-time" = 4 drinks
"Do your job" = finish your beer
"Brady" = drink for 12 seconds
"Butler" = drink for 21 seconds
Any form of the word "win" or "winner" = 1 drink
"ESPN" or "Chris Mortensen" = drink 11 of 12 beers in a 12-pack
"Air pressure" or "PSI" = drink for 12.5 seconds
Anything about court cases = drink loudly enough to drown them out
Any word ending in "-gate" = 1 drink
"Suspended" = 1 drink, bonus points for smoking a blunt if they mention LeGarrette Blount
"Season" = 1 drink
"We're on to..." = 1 shot of liquor

Anytime this happens...
Touchback = 1 drink
Kick or punt return = drink for the duration of the return
Gronkowski scores a TD = finish your beer, spike the can/bottle (bonus points for spiking glass bottles)
Brady throws to someone besides Edelman or Gronk = 1 drink
They actually catch the ball = 1 drink
The Patriots go no huddle = 1 drink per snap
Brady says "Alpha milk" = 1 drink, bonus points if you're drinking a White Russian
Brady points out the "Mike" = 1 drink, bonus points if you're drinking Mike's Hard Lemonade (only if you're a girl, deduct points if you're a guy)
Matthew Slater makes a special teams tackle = 1 drink
Jerod Mayo makes a big play = 1 drink, 1 shot of mayonnaise
The Patriots give up a 10+ yard pass play in soft zone coverage = 1 drink
You think Roethlisberger will be sacked but he escapes = 1 drink
You miss Vince Wilfork = 1 drink, 1 shot, eat a turkey leg

Anytime this is on screen...
Roger Goodell at Gillette Stadium = HAHAHAHAHAHAHA
A shot of footballs and/or ball boys = 1 shot of liquor
Highlights of Super Bowl 49 = finish your beer
Highlights of another Super Bowl (including Pittsburgh's SBs) = drink an entire beer
A Lombardi Trophy = 1 drink per trophy
A Super Bowl ring = 1 drink per ring
A banner = 1 drink per banner
A sign about Brady and/or Goodell = 1 drink
Bob Kraft = 1 drink
Bob Kraft talking to someone = drink the entire time he's talking
Ernie Adams = drink a bottle of wine by the end of the game
The number 12 (including scoreboard and graphics) = 1 drink
A graphic of playoff/championship stats (for the Pats or Steelers) = 1 drink

Bonus drinking game rule:
Every time Tom Brady takes the field, remember that Roger Goodell and the NFL wanted him banned for this game as well as the next three. So raise your drink, say a toast to Tom, and a big "Fuck you" to Goodell.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Tom Brady freed, Judge Berman did his job

Tom Brady is one of the best players in NFL history. And now he's defeated the NFL in court (in the court the NFL chose). Although it's more accurate to say that the NFL defeated itself.

Some of the key points Judge Berman made in his decision are:

That Brady was never given notice that "general awareness" of football deflation and/or not cooperating with an investigation would result in a 4-game suspension.

That during the appeal process, Brady's camp was never given access to Jeff Pash.

That steroid usage was not comparable to general awareness of ball deflation.

Judge Berman started this appeal proceeding by forcing the NFL to shed its cloak of BS arguments for suspending Brady. What the League was ultimately left with was relying on its near absolute authority to discipline players, granted to the League by the CBA. But with that authority must come responsibility to do that fairly and consistently. Which the NFL didn't do. The League didn't notify players that they might be suspended for a quarter of the season for such a transgression. And the League didn't adhere to its own process when it denied Brady's lawyers the chance to question Jeff Pash.

From the genesis of DeflateGate, the NFL has changed its reasoning for investigating/punishing Brady. At first it was his general awareness, then his lack of cooperation. Then the destruction of his phone was the impetus behind suspending Brady. And in front of Judge Berman, the NFL decided to equate its PED policy with its new PSI policy, and also claim they had absolute power to discipline players.

Their lack of consistency ultimately cost them this case.

Roger Goodell and the NFL did more to lose this than Pete Carroll did to lose the Super Bowl.

Goodell and Mike Kensil were vindictive against the Patriots. But it was Tom Brady who has been vindicated.