According to the American Gaming Association, a national trade group that represented the United States casino industry, $95 billion will be spent wagering on football games this season, combining the totals from National Football League games and the college ones. Of that $95 billion, only 2 billion will be wagered legally, which is to say, in the states of Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon.
Certainly, those that run illegal gambling structures are doing so with the implicit approval of the government, because virtually nothing is being done to shut them down. Still, illegal is illegal, and you have to wonder what kind of corners are cut in terms of competitive balance and fair play when that kind of money is being thrown around illegally.
This week, thanks to ESPN and its investigative series Outside the Lines, we found out that the NFL has not been conducted in the most fair and upright manner for several years now, and the beneficiaries of the rules-breaking appears to be the New England Patriots.
The Patriots, by the way, have been to the Super Bowl six times since Bill Belichick became head coach in 2000, and have won it four times in that era.
In 2007, the Patriots were accused of filming opposing teams’ coaching signals to gain a competitive advantage. That scandal became known as Spygate. This week, ESPN reported that the spying took place well before 2007, included more than 40 games worth of taping, and the club used the information gathered in this inappropriate form countless times, many of those times on the way to victories that led them to the Super Bowl.
By the way, Belichick was fined $500,000, the Patriots fined $250,000 and the club lost a first-round draft pick in 2008 for their part in the Spygate scandal, which detailed only one such episode of inappropriate filming.
What topped off the ESPN story is the shocking revelation that the NFL became aware of the extent of the Patriots’ cheating ways, and instead of punishing the team appropriately (although no one has the slightest idea what an appropriate punishment might be), the NFL helped the Patriots cover up the crime by demanding the films and tapes and notes be destroyed rather than used as evidence against the team. In fact, it was an NFL official that actually smashed the tapes, according to the story.
The upstart to that came when the Patriots were accused of slightly altering the air pressure inside the footballs used in the 2014 AFC title game against the Indianapolis Colts. The league conducted a seriously drawn out investigation and waiting period before assessing punishment, which a judge recently determined was unduly harsh and inappropriately applied to the stupid, stupid case.
The opinion of many observers is that the NFL punished the Patriots this time because it was embarrassed by another cheating scandal from the team it helped cover up the last scandal.
What happens now is anybody’s guess. The NFL has denied the report, although from a journalistic standpoint, it seems fairly solid. It’s a must read for anybody who cares about the NFL, and especially for anybody who hates the dominance of the New England Patriots.
However, if probably followed by law enforcement officials, this could be a scandal that would be placed in the same mention as the Black Sox scandal of 1919, the City College of New York basketball point-shaving scandal of 1951, and the as-yet fully explored scandal that has placed the 2022 FIFA World Cup tournament in the country of Qatar.
This still doesn’t explain the goal-line call made by the Seattle Seahawks in the final play of the most recent Super Bowl, which resulted in yet another New England Patriots championship. But it sure taints the legacy of the team, the legacy of Belichick, and the standing of the of-so-powerful National Football League.