TMQ Watch: January 9, 2018.

We’ve finished the first week of the playoffs. Would you expect TMQ to be longer, shorter, or about the same?

We expected shorter. We got “about the same”: almost 5,200 words by our count. Of which the first 1,600 (nearly 31%) are devoted to one theme, which we can summarize in four words.

After the jump, this week’s TMQ

Gambling is bad, m’kay?

Tuesday Morning Quarterback aficionados know my compromise with my Baptist upbringing is to be pro-topless but anti-gambling


—and it’s a certainty, not a maybe, that the Vegas team will change the league’s relationship with sports betting.

That’s a fair speculation, but how will it change the NFL?

Gambling, whether private or public-run, does nothing but harm to society.

That’s a strong assertion. Is there evidence for it?

Already last fall the NHL became the first American major professional sport to align with the gambling industry, when the puck dropped for the Vegas Golden Knights. (Get the pun?) Bringing the NFL—the nation’s outsize sport—to Las Vegas will formalize betting and athletics as paired interests.

Does the mere existence of a professional team in Las Vegas mean that team is “aligned with the gambling industry”? What does alignment look like? If the Luxor puts up ads in the arena, is the team “aligned”? If a sports book accepts bets on the Golden Knights, with no involvement from the team, does that make them “aligned”?

Bringing the NFL—the nation’s outsize sport—to Las Vegas will formalize betting and athletics as paired interests.

Another assertion. Does the existence of an Einstein’s Bagels in Las Vegas formalize bagels and betting as “paired interests”? If sports books in Vegas were already accepting bets on NFL games, even before Oakland’s move, what’s changed?

This will prove bad for athletics and, more important, harm the families of gambling addicts.

We think we want to get to the “bad for athletics” discussion in a bit. As far as “harm the families of gambling addicts”, it seems like Easterbrook’s argument is that the mere existence of sports betting is harmful. But would Easterbrook argue that grocery stores selling beer and wine is harmful to the families of alcohol addicts? Or that legalized marijuana is harmful to the families of potheads?

…but isn’t “people are going to do it anyway” a situation-ethics argument? (Minors are going to drink even if it’s forbidden, so let’s legalize teen drinking and tax it, and so forth.)

There’s at least an argument that minors drinking is harmful, both to them and to society. (We think that’s debatable, and would suggest looking at various European countries for evidence. But at least the argument can be made.) We haven’t seen Easterbrook, or anyone else, provide any evidence that people deciding how to use their own money – whether it is putting $50 on the Browns to win, buying single malt scotch, or purchasing earrings for their lover – somehow does “harm” to society.

As tax-and-regulate thinking expands from pot to point spreads, money is pursued without the compensating virtue of a social benefit.

Isn’t money moving in the economy itself a social benefit?

One can imagine a future in which state governments pay their unfunded pension liabilities via taxes on sports betting and weed smoking, plus automated speeding tickets.

Two thirds of that sounds like a pretty good future to us. (We’re in favor of the Goodyear treatment for speed cameras.)

Silver, the NBA commish, further contends that betting on games increases public interest. By about the halfway point of a pro sports season, many fan bases know there is no chance their favorite team will make the playoffs…
Already the NBA is evolving toward a two-tier league in which a handful of elite teams go all-out to win (the Warriors, Cavs, Spurs, Celtics, Rockets) while other clubs essentially are staging exhibition contests similar to AAU ball.

This is a fair point, at least as far as the elite versus the exhibition teams. We’re starting to see signs of this in the NFL as well. But is a lack of sports betting going to change this dynamic?

Some NBA players with guaranteed contracts, who cannot be waived no matter what they do, will make deals with sports books and throw games here and there—that will be the public perception, at least.

Seems to us that this is always the public perception when something doesn’t go one teams way. We’re sure you can still find people who believe the NBA of the 90s was fixed in favor of Jordan and the Bulls.

And “guaranteed contracts” aside, any player who gets caught fixing is going to be banned from the NBA for life. And they will be caught: someone always gets caught up in something else, and rolls over on the others to get a better deal.

When things like the Kansas City-Washington ending occur, millions will believe some bookie paid the R*dsk*ns to make sure the Chiefs covered; or that R*dsk*ns players bet on themselves to lose by more than the spread, knowing they could make that happen.

Easterbrook’s argument would be stronger here if, instead of concentrating on players and coaches, he concentrated on NFL officiating. It seems to us that the officials have much more power to influence the outcome, or the spread, than individual players and coaches. But we’ll get to that.

It took the NFL a full generation to recover the prestige lost by the Paul Hornung-Alex Karras football betting scandal of 1963. It will take only one season for the NFL to lose its prestige if another game-fixing scandal occurs. Today’s fans trust that NFL games are honest. Trust is really hard to obtain and really easy to lose.

We’re kind of young to remember the Hornung-Karras scandal, but did the NFL really lose that much prestige at the time? Did the NFL of 1963 even have a lot of prestige to lose? How much prestige did the NFL lose when it came out the Saints were paying players to deliberately hurt other players?

And counterargument: how much prestige did the NBA lose over Tim Donaghy? We’d say: approximately zero.

Fundamentally, the problem with TMQ is that he wants to use the cover of concern for compulsive gamblers and the supposed social impact of gambling to argue in favor of his personal belief that gambling is bad. “pro-topless but anti-gambling”. But doesn’t promiscuous sex do as much harm (maybe even more) to people’s lives as gambling? At least with sports betting, you don’t have to worry about getting AIDS. And couldn’t you make an argument that the harm of promiscuous sex to society justifies not encouraging it: limiting access to abortion and birth control, for example?

Or couldn’t you also make an argument that your personal morality is your personal morality, and as long as your fist isn’t hitting our nose, do what thou wilt? Bet on the NFL, drink scotch whisky all night long, sleep with hookers, snort blow? This never seems to occur to Gregg Easterbrook.

This is, perhaps, the fundamental tension between us and Easterbrook, and one of the reasons why we do this item: Easterbrook’s belief that mankind is perfectible, and that the government should enforce perfection, in opposition to our belief that everyone should be free to go to Hell (or Heaven) in their own way.

Take the home teams in this weekend’s NFL divisional round.

Stats. Sweet: Jacksonville. Sour: KC. Mixed: Rams.

In your fantasy league if you have the quarterback who throws a touchdown pass to himself, shouldn’t you just win the whole league on that play?

Man’s got a point.

Chicken-(salad) kicking: Buffalo.

How Can I Arrange to Get Trump to Denounce My Upcoming Book?

No idea, Gregg, but we’ll be happy to denounce it without having read it. Our rates are very reasonable. You know how to contact us.

Wolff’s depiction of a White House with an overgrown baby in command is important on the gist. But how can anyone believe verbatim quotations of conversations when he wasn’t present and no one was taking notes?

And if he’s wrong about the small things, why should we believe him about the big ones?

Something something Saints-Panthers. Something something Atlanta-Rams. Kirk Cousins is awful at the end of the season.

“Adventures in Officiating”: Rams. “the officiating crew for the Flaming Thumbtacks at Chiefs contest did a horrible job”:

But twice Kansas City got a takeaway in a key situation and twice Triplette awarded possession back to Tennessee.

Yeah, about sports betting…

For years, Triplette has been the NFL’s worst white-hat guy. What was he doing officiating a playoff game? That he retired immediately after mismanaging a playoff game hardly fills one with confidence about NFL integrity. As the NFL moves into the Las Vegas world, what will happen the first time there is botched officiating that influences the point spread?

We’ve seen some speculation that everyone knew Triplette was retiring, and this last playoff game was basically a parting gift. Which, you know, is fine for Triplette, but maybe not so hot for KC and people who had money down on them.

And that’s a wrap for this week, folks. Tune in next week: now that TMQ has gotten his pro-topless anti-gambling rant out of the way, perhaps we can discuss some more unrealistic TV shows.

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