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Saturday, December 7, 2019

Opinions > My Turn

America's Game

Nov 27, 2019

By Steve White - columnist

It has been well over twenty years since I made a wager of any kind on professional football. I figured it was time to stop when the officials were becoming more recognizable than the players. It has been a good ten years since I wasted Sundays football watching. Now a days I limit myself to the highlight shows just to keep abreast of what's going on. And while I still marvel at the incredible talent of the players, the way the rules of the game are enforced has become a disservice to their skills.
Pro football lacks integrity which makes it difficult to take seriously.
The outcome of so many of the games are determined by the officiating rather than the players. A week doesn't go by where a ‘call' doesn't influence the result. Last year the wrong team went to the Super Bowl because of a blatant ‘no call'. Need I say more? ‘Holding' can be called on every play. You never know when the umpire is going to drop the flag. ‘Pass interference' is totally subjective (see above). How about ‘roughing the passer'? The outcomes in many instances are at the mercy of those officiating it. So why is it the most popular sport in America? GAMBLING!!!
The genius of pro football is how it lends itself to wagering. The NFL is quite aware of this and does everything in its power to promote this. Why do you think injury reports are mandatory and public? Why are betting lines the holy grail? The proliferation of sports books, like the one at Sullivan County's casino, exist because they make money, with football as the star attraction. There are so many bets you can make it makes my head spin. The business world certainly has recognized the value of legalized gambling. ESPN (Disney Co.) has invested huge dollars in Draft Kings, the world's leading fantasy football site. Fantasy football, the NFL's most ingenious invention, will keep the NFL's popularity soaring. I know more people who watch football because they have some kind of betting interest in the games rather than a pure rooting interest. Maybe it's because of the people I associate with but the outcome of the game seems secondary, especially in fantasy football.
Some advice. If you are in it for the recreation and entertainment value, have fun. If for other reasons and you think you're going to outsmart the experts, forget it. While most analyze every statistic known to man in an attempt to get an edge, they forget to consider what may be the most important information. If you don't factor in the tendencies of the officials calling the game, you are starting at a disadvantage. As I said earlier, it is the officials in large part who control the outcome.
And what about college football you ask? I love it. It is Saturdays where I waste an inordinate amount of time now. I am a member of a friendly football pool. The dollars involved are miniscule but the angst is the same as if it were the big bucks. It is more about bragging rights and ego. Great fun!
The college game is more enjoyable for me than the pros. Maybe because the skill level is less and the rules a little different, the game is considerably more wide open and exciting. And while some of the officials think they are auditioning for a role in Hollywood, the results of ‘plays under review' are far better in college and neutralize their role to a degree. Thus the outcomes of the games have more validity.
I hope it remains this way. In a few years college athletics will under-go the single greatest transformation ever. Schools will in essence be paying students to play. Seeing all these full stadiums and coaches being paid millions it seems only fair that the students share in some of this. I cannot anticipate how college football will look in 5 years, but without a doubt the change will be colossal.
Last thing. Coaching, whether in the pro or college game are part of the wagering equation. It makes a huge difference. Those considered the ‘greatest ever' like Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, should be recognized as great strategists but they don't need to be revered or idolized. They are football coaches. They didn't invent the cure for polio. Keep it in perspective. It is after all, just a game!
Being that football is as much a part of the holiday as the turkey itself, and the inspiration for this article, have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!





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