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In 2020, There Are No Unwritten Rules

“The stuffy lords of Major League Baseball receive a much-needed jolt from Fernando Tatis Jr.: Fun and theatrics, not old-school etiquette, must be emphasized to save the sport.”

Jay Mariotti




The only safe assumption in 2020 is that there is no safe assumption. Pay full tuition, show up on campus, have no in-person classes to attend. Work hard, help the company, lose your gig when the headcounter decides you’re invisible. Wear a mask, maintain physical distance, catch the virus anyway when a COVID-iot cyclist sneezes into your convertible.

So why would a 10-3 lead, in a sport where balls are spiked and hitters are juiced and the season is a discombobulated slog, ever be considered a safe assumption?

If I’m the manager of a San Diego Padres team on a five-game losing streak, in part because we can’t protect leads without our injured closer, then, uh, yeah, I want the indescribably gifted Fernando Tatis Jr. to pad our edge by swinging on a 3-0 pitch even if it’s the eighth inning. And If I’m the manager of the Texas Rangers, Chris Woodward, I’m not assuming Jayce Tingler is giving us a break in the other dugout just because he’s a close friend and former team colleague. With the bases full, Woodward had three realistic options: (1) Walk Tatis and eat a run, not a bad idea; (2) Find a way to get him out, somehow; or (3) Resign on the spot. But here is where the skipper made a tactical and cultural mistake that might change baseball — delightfully — forevermore: He assumed Tatis would take a fastball down the middle, according to old-school protocol that says a team shouldn’t run up the score.

Tatis Angers Rangers With Late Slam in Padres' Rout – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort  Worth

What transpired was a blond-dreadlocked blur, a grand slam that ignited a heated generational debate in a country primed to argue about everything and anything. The subject: baseball’s unwritten rules and the absurdity of anyone, particularly a big-league manager, to think they still should apply amid the changing norms of extraordinary times in a desperate world. “I didn’t like it, personally,’’ Woodward said of Tatis’ swing and mighty blast. “You’re up by seven in the eighth inning; it’s typically not a good time to swing 3-0. It’s kind of the way we were all raised in the game. … I don’t think we liked it as a group.” With typical frat-boy petulance, he ordered that the next pitch be thrown behind Manny Machado’s head, earning him a one-game suspension.

Just as galling as Woodward’s reaction was that of Tingler, who said Tatis had missed a take sign from the third-base coach and was told to apologize publicly … for hitting a grand slam that insured a slide-stopping victory. “I’ve been in this game since I was a kid,” Tatis said. “I know a lot of unwritten rules. I was kind of lost on this. Those experiences, you have to learn. Probably next time, I’ll take a pitch now that I learned from it.’’

Please don’t take anything, kid, except this advice: Swing away in that situation, every damned time, for the rest of your career. And that goes for all the young, dynamic stars that electrify Major League Baseball today, in spite of a clumsy institutional inability to market these prized assets. Think about it: Both managers — in their early 40s, hardly geezer lifers — were sticking to a 20th-century script that must be shredded and burned for the sport to have any existential chance with 18-to-34-aged viewers. It was just last year when MLB was running an ad campaign, “Let the kids play.’’

Then let them play, would you? Live by your own slogan. Let them admire long home runs and slow-trot around the bases, as Juan Soto did to give the Nationals a ninth-inning lead the other night, to the chagrin of the Atlanta reliever who allowed the clout, Will Smith, who cursed at Soto. Instead of apologizing, Washington manager Dave Martinez stood behind Soto, as he should have, saying, “Will Smith said something to Soto that I didn’t really appreciate. So I just want to let him know, hey, it wasn’t Juan who threw the ball. His job is to hit so just be quiet and get on the mound. You threw the pitch, make a better pitch.’’

Baseball's Unwritten Rules? Not Worth the Paper They're Printed on | Larry  Brown Sports

By some quirk of unintended good fortune, MLB actually might benefit from Tatis’ No-Take Tater. Young people, the very demographic that would rather contract COVID-19 than watch baseball on TV, have been driving the debate this week. They don’t care about the World Series, but they shriek when a hitter is chastised for swinging away on 3-0. It’s their way of telling an industry of stodgy, bumbling leaders: If disco music and pet rocks were retired in the 1970s, do the same with your unwritten rules. It’s refreshing to hear accomplished managers, vets who have worked dugouts in October, finally come around on a long-outdated courtesy.

“I think the unwritten rules have changed and should change,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “And each passing day, we’ve got to continue to break some of those rules, and that’s a good thing.”

“I think it’s a little bit silly. I think the needle has moved a long way,’’ Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I think, look, now more than when these started even 10 and 50 and 100 years ago, things are different. … If you really break it down, guys should not be offended by, for example, somebody swinging at a 3-0 count.’’

Said Angels manager Joe Maddon: “Back in the day, it took 10 singles to score six runs. Now it happens, like, with three two-run homers.’’

Even Tingler, after absorbing the national buzz, was flipping. “They’re going to feel how they feel and he’s going to feel how he feels,” he said the next day of Woodward and the Rangers. “And they’re trying to kick our ass and we’re trying to kick their ass and win. And that’s the bottom line. So, we can’t sit here and worry about people’s feelings.” on Flipboard: Jayce Tingler after Padres' thrilling walk-off  win over the Rangers (VIDEO)

So maybe, in an apocalyptic year we’d like to forget ever happened, a maligned sport has been enlightened by the youth it can’t connect with. Back when baseball was King in America, flamboyant characters such as Reggie Jackson had no problem swinging away on any pitch. It was no surprise to see Jackson weighing in on Twitter: “Fernando Tatis keep playing hard and playing great, it’s a pleasure to watch you play, love your success and the Padres rise to be a winner. Keep leading the way. It ain’t easy to hit Hrs. Keep bringing energy you have to the game, we need players like you.’’

A night later, the Padres were leading the Rangers by six runs in the fourth inning. With Ian Gibaut on the mound — the pitcher who had thrown behind Machado in retaliation — Fernando Tatis Jr. did what any fiery, enterprising, MVP-aspiring competitor would do.

He stole third base.

BSM Writers

Who Handled the Tua Concussion Discussion Best?

Rex Ryan, Rodney Harrison, and Boomer Esiason stood out with their commentary on the Tagovailoa story.

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The major story going into the bulk of Week 4’s NFL action on Sunday was the concussion suffered by Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in Thursday’s game versus the Cincinnati Bengals.

Amazon’s Thursday Night Football telecast, particularly its halftime show, faced heavy criticism for neglecting to mention that Tagovailoa had been tested for a concussion in his previous game just four days earlier. Additionally, the NFL Players Association called for an investigation into whether or not the league’s concussion protocols were followed properly in evaluating Tagovailoa.

In light of that, how would the Sunday NFL pregame shows address the Tagovailoa concussion situation? Would they better inform viewers by covering the full story, including the Week 3 controversy over whether or not proper protocols were followed?

We watched each of the four prominent pregame shows — ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, Fox NFL Sunday, CBS’s The NFL Today, and NBC’s Football Night in America — to compare how the Tagovailoa story was covered. With the benefit of two extra days to research and report, did the Sunday shows do a better job of informing and engaging viewers?

Here’s how the pregame studio crews performed with what could be the most important NFL story of the year:

Sunday NFL Countdown – ESPN

ESPN’s pregame show is the first to hit the air each Sunday, broadcasting at 10 a.m. ET. So the Sunday NFL Countdown crew had the opportunity to lead the conversation for the day. With a longer, three-hour show and more resources to utilize in covering a story like this, ESPN took full advantage of its position.

The show did not lead off with the Tagovailoa story, opting to lay out Sunday’s schedule, which included an early game in London between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints. But the Countdown crew eventually got to issue on everyone’s minds approximately 28 minutes into the program.

Insider Adam Schefter provided the latest on the NFL and NFLPA’s investigation into the matter, particularly the “gross motor instability” Tagovailoa displayed in stumbling on the field and how the Dolphins initially announced that the quarterback had suffered a head injury, but later changed his condition to a back injury.

Schefter added that the NFL and NFLPA were expected to interview Tagovailoa and pass new guidelines for concussion protocols, including that no player displaying “gross motor instability” will be allowed to play. Those new rules could go into effect as early as Week 5.

“This is an epic fail by the NFL,” said Matt Hasselbeck to begin the commentary. “This is an epic fail by the medical staff, epic fail by everybody! Let’s learn from it!”

Perhaps the strongest remarks came from Rex Ryan, who said coaches sometimes need to protect players from themselves.

“I had a simple philosophy as a coach: I treated every player like my son,” Ryan said. “Would you put your son back in that game after you saw that?

“Forget this ‘back and ankle’ BS that we heard about! This is clearly from head trauma! That’s it. I know what it looks like. We all know what it looks like.”

Where Sunday NFL Countdown‘s coverage may have stood out the most was by bringing injury analyst Stephania Bell into the discussion. Bell took a wider view of the story, explaining that concussions had to be treated in the long-term and short-term. Science needs to advance; a definitive diagnostic tool for brain injury doesn’t currently exist. Until then, a more conservative approach has to be taken, holding players out of action more often.

Grade: A. Countdown covered the story thoroughly. But to be fair, it had the most time.

The NFL Today – CBS

CBS’s pregame show led off with the Tagovailoa story, going right to insider Jonathan Jones to report. He cited the key phrase “gross motor instability” as a significant indication of a concussion.

Jones also clarified that the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who helped evaluate Tagovailoa made “several mistakes” in consulting with the Dolphins’ team doctor, leading to his dismissal by the NFL and NFLPA.

The most pointed remarks came from Boomer Esiason, who said any insinuation that the Dolphins, head coach Mike McDaniel, or the team medical staff put Tagovailoa back in the game in order to win was “off-base.” Phil Simms added that the concussion experts he spoke with indicated that Tagovailoa could miss four to six weeks with this injury.

Grade: B-. The opinions from the analysts were largely bland. Jones’s reporting stood out.

Fox NFL Sunday

The Fox NFL pregame show also led off with the Tagovailoa story, reviewing the questions surrounding how the quarterback was treated in Week 3 before recapping his injury during Week 4’s game.

Jay Glazer reported on the NFL’s investigation, focusing on whether or not Tagovailoa suffered a concussion in Week 3. And if he did, why was he allowed to play in Week 4? Glazer noted that Tagovailoa could seek a second, maybe a third medical opinion on his injury.

Jimmy Johnson provided the most compelling commentary, sharing his perspective from the coaching side of the situation. He pointed out that when an injured player comes off the field, the coach has no contact with him. The medical team provides an update on whether or not the player can return. In Johnson’s view, Mike McDaniel did nothing wrong in his handling of the matter. He has to trust his medical staff.

Grade: B. Each of the analysts shared stronger opinions, particularly in saying a player failing “the eyeball test” with concussion symptoms should be treated seriously.

Football Night in America – NBC

Sunday Night Football was in a different setting than the other pregame shows, with Maria Taylor, Tony Dungy, and Rodney Harrison broadcasting on-site from Tampa Bay. With that, the show led off by covering the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, its effects on the Tampa area, and how the Buccaneers dealt with the situation during the week.

But after 20 minutes, the show got into the Tagovailoa story with Mike Florio reporting what his peers told viewers earlier in the day regarding pending changes to the NFL’s concussion protocol and “gross motor instability” being used as a major indicator.

Florio emphasized that the NFLPA would ask how Tagovailoa was examined and treated. Was he actually examined for a back injury in Week 3? And if he indeed suffered a back injury, why was he still allowed to play?

When the conversation went back to the on-site crew, Dungy admitted that playing Thursday night games always concerned him when he was a coach. He disclosed that teams playing a Thursday game needed to have a bye the previous week so they didn’t have to deal with a quick, four-day turnaround. That scheduling needs to be addressed for player safety.

But Harrison had the most engaging reaction to the story, coming from his experience as a player. He admitted telling doctors that he was fine when suffering concussion symptoms because he wanted to get back in the game. Knowing that was wrong, Harrison pleaded with current players to stay on the sidelines when hurt because “CTE takes you to a dark place.”

“It’s not worth it. Please take care of yourself,” said Harrison. “Don’t depend on the NFL. Don’t depend on anybody. If something’s wrong with your head, report it.”

Grade: B+. Dungy and Harrison’s views of the matter from their perspective as a coach and player were very compelling.

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BSM Writers

Jason Barrett Podcast – Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt, BetRivers

Jason Barrett




Sportsbooks are creating their own media now, and no company is doing that using more guys that have made their names on sports radio than BetRivers. Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt talk about the strategy behind that decision for today and for the future.






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BSM Writers

Joe Rogan Betting Admission Reveals Gray Area

Rogan’s admission raises a question as to just how ethical it is to place bets with insider information, and whether it should be legal or not.

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Joe Rogan

For nearly a decade, I’ve been fortunate enough to cover the football and basketball programs for the University of Kentucky in some form or fashion. Whether writing for blogs or working with ESPN Louisville as co-host of the post-game show, I’ve gotten to know people around the program I grew up supporting, and other individuals in the media doing the same. I’ve made some terrific friendships and cultivated quite a few relationships that provide me with “inside information” about the teams.

As an avid sports bettor, that information has sometimes put me into some difficult personal situations. There have been times when I’ve been alerted to player news that wasn’t public, such as a player dealing with an injury or suspension. It’s often been told to me off-the-record, and I’ve never put that information out publicly or given it to others.

I wish I could also say I’ve never placed a wager based on that information, but that would be a lie. While it’s been a long time since I’ve done so, I’ve ventured into that ethical gray area of betting on a team that I’m covering. I’ve long felt uncomfortable doing so, and I’d say it’s been a few years since I last did it.

At least I know I’m not alone. On his latest episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, Rogan told guest Bert Kreischer that earlier in his UFC broadcasting career he regularly bet on fights. He claims to have won nearly 85% of the time (which I highly doubt but that’s another discussion for another time), either via bets he made or ones he gave to a business partner to place on his behalf.

From his comments, Rogan doesn’t seem to have been using sensitive information to gain an edge with the books, but he also didn’t state that he didn’t. He indicates that much of his success stemmed from knowing quite a bit more about fighters coming from overseas, and he said he “knew who they were and I would gamble on them.”

But Rogan undoubtedly has long been in a position where he knows which fighters might be dealing with a slight injury, or who are struggling in camp with a specific fighting style. It’s unavoidable for someone whose job puts him into contact with individuals who tell him things off-the-record and divulge details without perhaps even realizing it.

But let’s say Rogan did get that information, and did use it, and was still doing so today. The fact is…there’s nothing illegal about it, not in the United States at least. While it’s against the rules of some entities — the NFL, for example, has stated they could suspend or ban for life individuals who use inside information or provide it to others — it’s not against any established legal doctrine. Unlike playing the stock market, insider betting is not regulated by any central body or by the government.

However, Rogan’s admission raises a question as to just how ethical it is to place bets with insider information, and whether it should be legal or not. Many of the after-the-fact actions that have been taken in the realm of legalized sports betting in this country, or those being discussed currently (such as advertising limitations), fall in line with changes made in Great Britain following their legalization.

One of their big changes was making it illegal to utilize insider information, with very specific definitions about the “misuse of information” and what steps the Gambling Commission may take. It lays out what information can be used, the punishments that may be levied, and at what point it might venture into criminality.

Sportsbooks do have recourse in some instances to recoup money on insider betting, but not many. If they can prove that a wage was influenced, they can cancel the bet or sue for the money. The most well-known instance is the individual who bet $50,000 at +750 odds that someone would streak on the field during Super Bowl LV –which he did– and then was denied the payout when he bragged about his exploits. But unless someone foolishly tells the books that they’ve taken them with information that the public wasn’t privy to, they have little to no chance of doing anything about it.

There are ramifications to insider betting that raise truly ethical dilemmas. Just like stock trading, information can be immeasurably valuable to those with stakes large enough to change prices. If I’m placing a $20 prop bet with the knowledge that a team’s starting running back might be out for a game, or dealing with an ankle injury, I’m not going to harm anybody else playing that line. But if I give that information to a shark, who places a $20,000 wager on that same line, I’ve now enabled someone to move a line and impact other bettors.

Online sports betting in this country continues to grow, and every day we are reminded that there are still aspects of the space that can feel like the wild west. As individuals in the media, we have to decide personally what our ethical stances are in situations like this. We also have to keep in mind the impact that betting can have on our biases–especially if we’ve bet using inside information. A prime example is Kirk Herbstreit, who won’t even make a pick on College Gameday for games he is going to be doing color commentary for lest he possibly appears biased on the call.

At one end of the spectrum, you have someone like Herbstreit, and on the other end, you have folks like Rogan who, while he no longer does so, was more than happy to not only wager on fights himself but gave the information to others. And in the middle, you have hundreds of people in similar situations, who might lean one way or another or who, like me, may have found themselves on either side of that ethical line.

There is no black or white answer here, nor am I saying there’s necessarily a right or wrong stance for anybody in the sports media industry to take. I would say that each person has to take stock of what they’re comfortable doing, and how they feel about insider information being used. Rogan didn’t break any rules or laws by gambling on the UFC, but his admission to doing so might be the catalyst towards it no longer being accepted.

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