He is everything that’s joyful and jazzy about baseball, this Mookie Betts fun doll. The World Series quickly became his empire, a takeover involving the typical arsenal — bat, defense, leadership, neck jewelry almost bigger than him — but also the lost art of the stolen base, assuring free tacos for 330 million Americans if they wait in Taco Bell drive-thru lines for a waived $1.49 heap of promotional heartburn.
LeBron James was tweeting about him. HIs teammates were comparing him to God. Trending? Betts was propelling the Los Angeles Dodgers to a place they haven’t been in 32 years, along with possibly saving a slog sport desperate for his speed and fire and all but giving America a new Election Day option. Who wasn’t talking about Mookie?
Well, Blake Snell wasn’t talking about Mookie. He wanted to know why people generally ignore him and the Tampa Bay Rays, who happen to be in the same pandemic-neutral ballpark as champions of the American League. “I just think a lot of people don’t talk about us because there’s other teams to talk about, but when you look at this team, it’s a very fun team to watch, very fun team to talk about,’’ he said. “We just don’t have the (Mike) Trouts or things like that, or the Betts and (Cody) Bellingers and (Clayton) Kershaws. We don’t have that because the hype around Tampa isn’t as big as it is in L.A. for obvious reasons.”
Snell then took the mound and backed his babble, reminding a scarcely watching world how the Rays can bump Mookie off center stage and still make this a competitive fight. He began Game 2 by blowing away Betts on strikes, then mixed sliders and curveballs with 95-mph heat. The Dodgers kept whiffing, eight times without a hit before the fifth inning, allowing the Rays to rediscover their minimalist mystique. With Brandon Lowe — as in Wow — breaking out of a slump with two home runs, the Rays rode their robust bullpen to a 6-4 win, tying the Series at 1-1 while the Dodgers again were following the blueprint of how they’ve blown championships.
It’s doubtful they will blow another. But before anyone builds an Andrew Friedman statue at Dodger Stadium, consider that the spreadsheet savant left the rotation short of arms when he cut ties in the offseason with elite starter Hyun-Jin Ryu and veterans Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill, then traded Ross Stripling in August. Thus, Game 2 became a night to use an opener — the strategy originally hatched out of necessity by the inventive Rays due to scant resources and a low payroll. It is unbecoming of a major-market, revenue-rich team to borrow from the Rays, especially when Friedman left his Tampa Bay creation for L.A. six years ago, and it’s even more dubious when the strategy doesn’t work. A team with a prorated payroll of almost $100 million in a COVID-shortened season, compared to $28 million for the Rays, can’t do better than rookie Tony Gonsolin and a flock of relievers who allowed runs and don’t compare to the Rays’ arsenal? Oh, the horror: The franchise of Kershaw, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Don Sutton, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser used an opener in a World Series game.
“We didn’t have anybody that was on regular rest,’’ explained Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who didn’t want to use Walker Buehler on three days’ rest after Kershaw started Game 1.
So, we actually have a series now. Aren’t the Dodgers skippered by Roberts, who can make errant decisions in October like no one we’ve seen this century? Can they win with Buehler and Kershaw, both unpredictable,as the only front-line starters? Would forgotten man Alex Wood really start a Game 7? Do the Rays have their undefinable mojo back, with postseason master Charlie Morton pitching Game 3 against Buehler? “That game was a better indicator of the kind of team we are,’’ Rays third baseman Joey Wendle said. “Just a complete team win, everybody contributing at different parts of the game.’’
All that said, let’s not have short-term amnesia. The Dodgers still have Betts, the difference between this team and previous flameouts. It’s one thing to channel the late Kobe Bryant and summon the “Mamba Mentality,’’ with Betts endearing himself to an already adoring Los Angeles by enacting what the legend told him last year: “He said each and every day he wants to be the best person in the gym and to put on a show.’’ It’s quite another, in Game 1, to join Babe Ruth as the only players with a walk and multiple steals in a World Series inning, allowing us to imagine a foot race between Betts and the portly Ruth and wonder: Did the Babe do it for tacos, too?
“I wanted everybody to get some tacos,’’ Mookie said with a Mookie grin. “That’s what was important to me.’’
Unfortunately, he’s also what’s wrong with baseball, this Markus Lynn Betts. No sooner did Joe Buck say the Dodgers don’t buy championships than Betts imposed his will on October, reminding us that he was given a 12-year, $365 million extension during a pandemic. The wee-revenue Rays can’t even dream about acquiring such a force until the afterworld. Tell me, in what economic sphere is this fair? It’s amazing, yes, that the Rays used intellectual guile to reach the Fall Classic, but it’s all hocus-pocus when the Dodgers were one of the few teams able to take on Betts and extend him for record numbers when he shockingly became available.
None of this is promising for the competitive future of a teetering sport — Game 1 was the lowest-rated Series game EVER — that faces a crippling labor impasse after next season. Nor is it healthy when the Boston Red Sox, they of the substantial revenues and expensive ticket prices, trade Betts in an all-time-shameful salary dump and bamboozle fans by downsizing the grand plan. John Henry and Tom Werner might be jacked to have boatloads of freed-up money and long-term flexibility, but even as the owners who broke the Bambino curse and won four World Series, they’ll never live down dealing Mookie. it was as cold and cutting as the New England winter, dumping a generational superstar — “a six-tool player,’’ says Red Sox legend David Ortiz — to push the financial reset button.
So any celebration of Mookie Mania must be accompanied by reality: He is to the Dodgers what James is to the L.A. Lakers — a hired gun — the difference being James’ arrival as a free agent while Betts came in a trade that brought modest returns to Boston. Both are 21st-century mercenaries. Both wanted to be in southern California, the most desired destination in American sports, and with the Dodgers valued at $3.4 billion, they could more than meet Betts’ ultimate price to stay. And in a few days, both could be attached in history as the driving forces behind two championships in pandemic L.A., the saviors who rescued prestigious-but-underachieving franchises from themselves.
“@mookiebetts did it all,’’ James tweeted during a transcendent Game 1.
Think about it. What does it say for Mookie if he win a World Series in Boston, then wins one in L.A.? Until the Angels figure out how to surround Mike Trout with sufficient talent, which might be never, Betts stands to be baseball’s most valuable player in the 2020s regardless of annual trophies. “I think we would have beat the Red Sox if we had Mookie Betts,’’ said Roberts, referring to their 2018 loss.
A three-hour opening glimpse of Betts was enough to think he could save the sport, too. Dating back to the scandalous steroids era, baseball has been fixated on home runs, ball-juicing, launch angles, exit velocity. Betts? He homered, but it ranked last on his list of Game 1 joys. He’ll take his track-meet sequence in the fifth inning, which resuscitated the vitality of stolen bases and how a running game can unnerve pitchers. He swiped second — tacos for all! — then third in a double steal. With an enormous lead off the bag, it took only Max Muncy’s contact grounder to first for Betts to safely slide home.
Was this actually … excitement? Should we summon the kids, tell them to get off their video games and phones and watch Mookie? He was asked which satisfied him most, the home run or the steals? His favorite feat involved feet. “I’m most proud of the contact play. Got a run there, and then it was first and third and we scored a couple more,’’ Betts said. “It just showed we don’t have to hit home runs to be successful. Stolen bases are a thing for me. That’s how I create runs and cause a little havoc on the bases. Once i get on the base paths, I’m just trying to touch home. However I get there is how I get there.’’
Listening, Rob Manfred?
“Whether it’s a defensive play that helps the team or a base-running play that gets him into scoring position for a teammate to drive in a run — I think he just gets more satisfaction out of that,’’ Roberts said. “When it’s a home run, which certainly helps the team, he just doesn’t care for the statistics. He just plays the game to win.’’
Listening, Barry Bonds?
I have to laugh when Friedman, who created the Rays paradigm, claims he didn’t jump to the Dodgers’ baseball operations perch in 2014 because of the staggering financial advantages. “Payrolls,’’ he said, “don’t decide the standings.’’ Please. As a bargain hunter with the Rays, he could use his algorithmic acumen and more-with-less culture to contend for playoff berths more seasons than not. But other than perhaps one chance title, he wasn’t going to be a perennial World Series contender in a zillion years. At Dodger Stadium, whenever it reopens, he has the resources to sustain a dynasty, with zero dollars — not a one — committed to anyone but Betts beyond 2022. That way, there is money to make lucrative commitments to Bellinger, Buehler, Corey Seager and other homegrown gems. That way, Friedman has a comfort zone in creating depth and versatility throughout the roster. It’s easier to cultivate a farm system, as he has expertly done, and unearth castoffs such as Muncy and Chris Taylor when he knows team co-owners Guggenheim Baseball and Todd Boehly will approve a Betts windfall and future Bellinger and Seager windfalls with a single-syllable answer: “Sure.’’
That’s why Rays owner Stuart Sternberg smacked of someone in bitter denial when asked by the Tampa Bay Times about Friedman’s departure. “I understand why he left, but I don’t understand why anybody ever doesn’t want to be part of what we’re doing. So it goes both ways,” he said. “It’s not fair to the people who have been with me since 2004 who are incredibly responsible for all this. And they’ve chosen to stay and be part of things. So I don’t want to feel great for somebody who’s left when I’ve got people here. I understand it. I’m just one of those guys — I don’t understand why people leave. Right? But they do and I get it. I get it. It’s just hard for me to fathom sometimes.”
Then came the dagger. Sternberg said team president Matt Silverman, who replaced Friedman as baseball boss six years ago, has been most important to the Rays’ overall success. “At the end of the day, and I could say this definitively, there’s nobody more responsible for our successes than Matt Silverman. Period. There’s not even a doubt,’’ Sternberg said. “And also (executive) Brian Auld’s outsized role in creating, nurturing and pounding in our culture.”
The Friedman Series had yet another angle: the unrealistic views of the owner he spurned. Why wouldn’t anyone want to remain with the Rays for life when you can run the Dodgers? As long as Major League Baseball doesn’t evenly split revenues among 30 franchises, it’s a no-brainer to leave behind a team valued barely at $1 billion while stuck in an untenable stadium mess. Last offseason, Friedman was allowed to add Betts to his overflowing roster while the Rays did their usual hoping and praying with minor deals. The Randy Arozarena pickup was a steal, but he could be a flash in the plan. Over the next dozen years, how many MVP awards and World Series runs will Betts have? That’s why Friedman left Rays blue for Dodger Blue. And that’s why, most likely, he’ll be wearing a ring this winter while Sternberg will wait the rest of his life. The Rays can defy baseball economics and slip through the AL during a pandemic. Can they really beat a blueblood with money and Mookie in the championship round?
Just the same, the pressure is squarely on the Dodgers to win it all after multiple collapses in previous autumns. Such is the tradeoff for having high payrolls and valuations and the wherewithal to bring in Betts. “The job is not done,’’ Kike Hernandez reminded. “The goal wasn’t to get to the World Series. The goal is to win the World Series. From the moment we were able to put a season together, once they figured out the COVID thing, everybody was expecting us to get to the World Series. We were expecting to go to the World Series.’’
It’s the case every year, actually. So is this the year they finally don’t choke? Ask Kershaw, who, you might have heard, has marred his Hall of Fame legacy with personal fall failures. Calmed by Betts’ impact, he again reverted to his best-pitcher-of-a-generation form in Game 1. Doesn’t he look much more relaxed than typical October Clayton? “I think we’re the best team. And I think our clubhouse believes that,’’ Kershaw said. “As a collective group, if everybody is doing what they’re supposed to be doing and playing the way they’re supposed to, I don’t see how that can happen.’’
Meaning, another crash.
The usual tension has been replaced by a welcome looseness. Bellinger, who fortunately suffered no damage when his shoulder popped in a violent forearm bash with Hernandez last weekend, had fun with the story. When he homered in Game 1, he safely tapped cleats with the others. “Going straight foot. It was pretty funny,’’ he said. “I think I’ll continue to do that maybe my whole career. Who knows?’’
It’s no coincidence that the feelgood mood coincides with the feelgood Mookie. His leadership skills, as a vocal clubhouse presence, always invoke the fun mantra. “I’m having tons of fun,’’ he said. “I’m just happy to be here with this group of guys. They’ve made it so much fun and easy to play.’’
What does he enjoy more, crossing home plate or driving in runs?
“I like winning,’’ Betts shot back. “Whichover one is needed that day, I’m just trying to do that.’’
You might say it isn’t fair, a player of his magnitude dropping into L.A. to form a baseball superteam. As it is, their use of institutional influence is almost bigger than the sport. After learning they lost the 2017 Series to a cheating Astros team that was electronically stealing signs, Friedman and team president Stan Kasten demanded instant justice from Major League Baseball. While Houston kept the trophy and the players somehow weren’t punished, the Dodgers did get heads on a platter through Manfred: those of general manager Jeff Luhnow, manager A.J. Hinch and then-bench coach Alex Cora, who lost their jobs. This week, Luhnow continued to deny direct involvement in the scheme and said he was targeted as a scapegoat by … the Dodgers.
“I was certainly not expecting for the team I spent eight years building to fire me and let me go,” Luhnow said. “I know the Dodgers, for sure, were adamant about some big punishments. And they wanted the manager, and they wanted the general manager to go down in this scandal. And they got it. And I think the investigation was not attempting to really uncover who did what, and who was really responsible. The goal of the investigation was to deliver punishments that Rob could feel good about and that would calm the panic.”
Whether that’s true or the desperation of a man trying to save his career and reputation, the Dodgers simply carried on with their process. They do what they want and spend what they want. For 32 years, they haven’t been able to win what they want. But because they had $365 million to offer Betts, along with warm weather and palm trees, they are close to getting it. The Astros outcheated them in 2017, the Red Sox outspent them in 2018, the Nationals outpitched them in 2019.
Will the Rays out-algorithm them? Armed with the Mookie Betts, the Dodgers have no excuse not to win. Even if few are watching on screens and inside a spooky Texas ballpark, the fun doll is capable of transcending a spreadsheet, a pandemic and, I dare say, an election involving a sitting President who’s probably waiting in line for a free taco.
Jay Mariotti, called “the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ writes a weekly media column for Barrett Sports Media and regular sports columns for Substack while appearing on some of the 1,678,498 podcasts in production today. He’s an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and radio talk host. Living in Los Angeles, he gravitated by osmosis to film projects. Compensation for this column is donated to the Chicago Sun-Times Charity Trust.
Who Handled the Tua Concussion Discussion Best?
Rex Ryan, Rodney Harrison, and Boomer Esiason stood out with their commentary on the Tagovailoa story.
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.
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at email@example.com.
Jason Barrett Podcast – Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt, BetRivers
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.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
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.
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.
Jason Ence resides in Louisville, KY and is fully invested in the sports betting space. Additionally, he covers Premier League and Serie A soccer, college football, and college basketball for ESPN Louisville 680 including serving as the station’s University of Kentucky correspondent, and co-host of the UK football and basketball post-game shows. He can be found on Twitter @JasonUK17 and reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.