JOE HAWK: NFL follows company line, not Las Vegas’

JOE HAWK: NFL follows company line, not Las Vegas’

Yep, there it is. Right there, upper-left corner, Page 9, sports section of The Florida Times-Union, the newspaper stacked in the media center for Super Bowl XXXIX as well as every hotel lobby housing guests for Sunday’s NFL championship game.

Oh, wait. There it is over there. Click first on the Super Bowl link at wltv.com — WLTV, NBC-12 in Jacksonville is “your official station for Super Bowl XXXIX,” we’re told — and then on the link for additional coverage of the big game at usatoday.com.

Hold it. It’s over there, too, on espn.com. Right there, lower middle, once you click onto the Super Bowl XXXIX page.

Oh, my gosh! Even Fox Sports’ Web site has it — you know, Fox Sports, the network broadcasting Sunday’s game. You can find it on the right-hand side, one click away under the “NEWS” heading.

Latest Line.

Sheridan’s Odds.

Daily Line.

Odds from the Stardust and Mirage in Las Vegas.

Hey, it doesn’t matter what you call it — or how you find it. The betting odds for the NFL’s title tilt aren’t more than the turn of a newspaper page or the click of a computer mouse away.

In fact, anybody who has any interest in Sunday’s New England-Philadelphia showdown at Alltel Stadium knew by early last week the defending champion Patriots are favored by a touchdown. (Perhaps only the more devoted bettor is aware the game total is 47 1/2 or 48 points, depending upon where one wagers.)

But in the alternate, Bizarro World that NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue lives in, betting on the Super Bowl — any NFL games, for that matter — should not exist. Even though local and national media outlets tied to his precious championship game, through loose affiliations and signed contracts, have their dirty little fingerprints all over those much-bantered betting lines. More about Agen Poker Online

Sitting on the aisle in the middle of Conference Room B of the Prime Osborn Media Center on Friday for the commissioner’s “State of the League Address,” I tried my best — for the third straight year — to fire off a question to Tagliabue about what is so bloody wrong with “legal,” “regulated,” “protected” sports betting, such as that conducted in Nevada. According to one of the microphone lackeys moving around the room, I was second in line when the hour-long session — 40 minutes of which were questions-and-answers — ended.

Yeah, right.

One look at my media credential, yet again, and they knew they weren’t getting me a microphone.

However, earlier in the Q-and-A, Las Vegas sports radio host John Hanson, standing somewhere on the periphery, was able to ask Tagliabue a tangential question about why salacious beer advertisements had been permissible for Super Bowl telecasts, but the NFL was cracking down on Super Bowl parties, such as those held each year at Las Vegas resorts.

“Well, Las Vegas has sports gambling,” Tagliabue began. “I think the Congress has made it clear, and we have made it clear that we don’t want our game to be associated with sports gambling.”

Huh?

Tagliabue continues: “Beer advertising is legal. Consumption of beer is legal. America tried Prohibition in the last century; it didn’t work too well.

“Responsible advertising is critical. Responsible policies in terms of the service of beer is critical. We think we and others have struck the correct balance on those subjects.”

Double-huh?

Not only did Tagliabue, in his 15th year as commissioner, not make sense on either point, his absolute dismissal of sports gaming in Nevada made me want to vomit all over his shoes.

Fortunately for him, I was eight rows from the stage.

When I tried to approach the commissioner after the news conference to ask him, point blank, what is so vile about “legal,” “regulated” and “protected” sports gaming, he was quickly ushered away. I was left to speak with one of his lieutenants, Brian McCarthy.

“It threatens the integrity of the game,” the NFL spokesman explained. “Our focus has to be on guaranteeing that our product is credible. We don’t want to lose our credibility or appear that we could lose our credibility.”

Then what about all of those media outlets — many of which are connected at the hip to the NFL — posting betting lines?

“We can’t control what others do,” McCarthy said.

Bull-larkey!

If you absolutely, positively, truly believe any form of sports betting is evil, then force those you’re affiliated with — Fox and ESPN, as well as ABC and CBS — to pull all references to betting odds on their Web sites. Not just the Super Bowl, not just the NFL, but all games of all sports.

Make them live your Bizzaro World beliefs or simply deny them TV contracts. Show you have some b-, ba-, uh, backbone.

But, hey, it all comes down to money, doesn’t it? Those billion-dollar deals with the networks. You can’t turn them down, right?

Pardon me, but the rotting stench of hypocrisy makes me sick.

Commissioner, you might want to watch your feet.

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