Archive for September, 2012

After the most controversial call of the 2012 season cost the Green Bay Packers a win, I’m not afraid to ask the question everyone else is scared to ask:

Do any of these referees have wagers on the games?

Seriously, after watching in disbelief, the Seattle Seahawks walking out of CenturyLink Field with a 14-12 win over the Packers on a last-second touchdown that occurred on a “simultaneous catch” between Seattle receiver Golden Tate and Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings, you’re telling me there’s no one else who wondered what I did?

The Packers, who were up by 5, and would have covered the 3-1/2 point spread. Instead, they lost outright.

Okay, it’s a bit far-fetched. I mean who really knew we’d have a pair of Hail Mary passes in Week 3; I know the refs can’t control what these games come down to. They didn’t know the Detroit Lions would be able to make a comeback in the final 20 second of regulation. And they certainly couldn’t have known what was going to take place in Seattle.

Still, after hearing about side judge Brian Stropolo being removed from the Saints-Panthers game in Week 2 after the league was made aware through Stropolo’s Facebook Page that he is a Saints fan, you have to wonder what other conflict of interests there might be with these substitute zebras. I mean, this dude was seen wearing Saints gear while tailgating at an Aug. 25 preseason game.

I’m sorry, but I’d love to run through the roster of roughly 130 replacement referees‘ social media pages, and scroll through timelines to see if I can find something regarding sports betting – even the garden variety comment. Cause, yeah, that’s a no-no.

You’re telling me you didn’t want to scream ‘What in the name of Tim Donaghy is going on here’ after:

  • Line judge Jeff Sadorus worked the Cardinals-Seahawks opener despite reportedly having been paid by the Seahawks in previous years to officiate in-season practices?
  • Referee Bruce Hermansen mistakenly gave the Seattle Seahawks a fourth timeout during the last minute of their Week 1 game against the Arizona Cardinals?
  • Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy told 94WIP, a Philadelphia radio station, that a replacement official said “McCoy, I need you for my fantasy team.”
  • Referee Ken Roan mistakenly allowed San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh to use two replay challenges after his team had called all three of their timeouts?
  • And, after last night, side judge Lance Easley signaled touchdown at the end of the Seahawks-Packers game, while he and his colleagues failed to call offensive pass interference on the same play?

CHALLENGE IT! WHERE’S THE RED FLAG?

Don’t get me wrong here; I’m not insinuating any monkey business. I’m not accusing any referee of wrongdoing. I’m just wondering when the red flag goes up, challenging much more than the integrity of the game.

David Salas, the deputy chief of the enforcement division at the Nevada Gaming Control Board, said he cannot comment from a professional standpoint on what he’s thought of the NFL refereeing thus far with replacement refs, as that is not the agency’s place to pass judgment.

“The fact is, right, wrong or indifferent, that is the official end of the football game,” Salas said during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “That’s the official result. We’re not going to have any opinion.”

Though bookmakers around the world have their stories about Monday night, about disgruntled bettors, Salas said his agency hadn’t received one call as of Tuesday morning from anyone to indicate their displeasure with the NFL’s surrogate officials.

“Whatever the NFL does is between them and their customers,” Salas said. “The board is going to rely on the official results, the outcomes of the ball games. However they get there, outside of any wrong doing or criminal activity, we can’t alter those results or form an opinion.”

Salas said his division would “have to see a pattern, or concern from the NFL” in order to initiate an investigation on the state level, into any type of fixing of NFL games by the replacement referees.

Until then, Salas said: “There is no evidence of malfeasance or criminal activity.”

What is important to the board, according to Michael Lawton, a senior research analyst with the Gaming Control Board, is the bets keep rolling in.

“Our concern is how this might affect the handle,” Lawton said. “Are people going to stop betting? That’s the question. And we haven’t seen a pull back on wagers; in fact (the numbers) have been up.”

Lawton was quick to clarify that is purely on speculation, as there is no specific information on gaming wins or handle numbers reported through the first three weeks of September for football. That particular information is not provided to the Nevada Gaming Control Board until October, and then released to the public in November.

Salas added to that point: “We have no way of measuring how much money has come in (on a specific game). I just think it’s the board’s position that we want to have a competitive environment and sports betting to continue as it has.”

THE GOLD STANDARD

I personally contacted famed gambler Billy Walters, largely known as the most feared sports bettor in the world. And even though he declined to comment for this story, I do know Walters has always considered the NFL an organization that stood for the highest amount of integrity, calling it the ‘gold standard,’ if you will.

I turned to his 60 Minutes interview, just prior to the 2011 Super Bowl, remembering something he’d always made clear to me in the past, in that he felt the NFL – or, all sports for that matter – had much more integrity than Wall Street.

“I ran into a lot of bad guys, a lot of thieves, they’d steal the Lord’s Supper,” Walters said during the television interview. “But I can tell you, percentage-wise, I ran into many more with the suits and ties on, than I have with the gamblers.”

Longtime Las Vegas bookmaker John Avello, director of race and sports operations at the Wynn, said during a phone conversation he has a concern there’s a certain portion of the sports-betting population that will pack it in after last night’s debacle.

“If you bet (Monday) night’s game, would you continue to bet this week?” Avello asked.

Though he doesn’t think it’s going to affect the professional bettors, he does believe the swarms of general bettors who like to bet weekly simply for the love of the game could dwindle.

“I think the numbers have been good,” Avello said. “I can’t speak for the state; I can only speak for the Wynn. The handle has been good. Whether it’s up across the state I don’t know. I won’t say it’s down. It’s at least equivalent to last year.”

Although Walters engaged in lively conversation on other matters while we caught up on lost time, he neither denied nor confirmed whether he has been, or will be, betting on games involving replacement referees.

Avello weighed in on my theory of a potential conflict of interest situation, concerning any referees emerging with a betting interest on the game, saying “there are other red flags that may go up, patterns we may see. And there may always be conversations when things like this happen. But it’s not a concern at this time.”

Nevertheless, he also said he believes this could happen regardless of who is officiating the game. It’s not the type of referee who is on the field; it’s the character of the person refereeing the game.

“That could happen with not only replacement referees, but regular referees as well,” Avello said. “If you’re a bettor, you’re a bettor – you’re going to do it.”

Exactly.

This takes me back to my original question.

Do any of these referees have wagers on the games?

When Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate apparently hauled in the last-second touchdown amidst three Green Bay Packers, to win the game at CenturyLink Field on Monday night, the ripple effect included Las Vegas and Offshore Sports Books.

Green Bay closed a 3-point favorite over Seattle, with scattered 3-1/2s out and about, but thanks to a controversial call by the NFL’s replacement referees, the Seahawks won outright, 14-12. The total closed around 45.5 while the moneyline was +150 or +155 at most places.

If ruled an interception by Packers safety M.D. Jennings, the Packers win by five and cover the spread.

Forget about the time NFL games have taken to conclude, and forget about the mechanics and flow of a football game, now most believe the replacement refs have cost a playoff-contending – a Super Bowl-contending – team a victory.

I’m not sure I necessarily believe that last statement (hint: look for another Blog later today), but the reality is we have a real issue with a group of officials who undoubtedly are doing the best they can, yet are taking the onslaught of criticism.

“Not only last night, what’s re-ocurring, the referees have lost control of the game,” former coach and ESPN analyst Herman Edwards said Tuesday morning during the Mike and Mike show. “They seem to me like a rookie quarterback.

“The officials do not contol these games.”

Unfortunately, in a world of sports betting, they’re unassumedly controlling the outcome of how tickets are being cashed, or shredded. Some might say with the replacement refs on the field, the NFL has brushed up against the same integrity the NBA emits. After all, when you have fans and critics beginning to wonder if your product is on the level, said product suddenly becomes controversial.

Michael Lawton, Senior Resarch Analyst for the Nevada Gaming Control Board, told me personally this morning via phone interview: “We haven’t received any complaints or calls from last night’s game.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean sports bettors didn’t want their money back.

“We had about a dozen people asking for refunds,” Sportsbook.ag spokeman Mike Perry said. “(It) ended up being good for (the) book, as 75 percent of the money was on Packers (minus the points).”

And while many believe the Packers won that game on the field, it was a loss on paper. An outright loss.

“This is the biggest turnaround on a bet like this, since Ohio State beat Miami in the BCS title game in overtime thanks to a late pass interference call that didn’t appear to be pass interference at all,” Perry said.

Known as “The Call,” Perry was referring to the pass interference call by football official Terry Porter in the 2002 BCS national championship game. Quarterback Craig Krenzel fired the ball to Chris Gamble, who was tussling with Miami cornerback Glenn Sharpe. The ball was incomplete, and when Sharpe turned to line judge Derick Bowers just a few feet away and didn’t see a penalty flag thrown, he and the rest of the Hurricanes began celebrating back-to-back national titles.

Moments later, Porter tossed his flag from the back corner of the end zone for pass interference – approximately three to four seconds after the play ended. Ohio State went on to score a touchdown three plays later and went on to win the national title in double-overtime, making “The Call” one of the most controversial in college football history.

Ohio State was a 12-point underdog in that game, and ended up winning outright, 31-24.

Next up: Thursday night’s AFC North game in Baltimore, where the Ravens are laying -13 points to the Cleveland Browns at Sportsbook.ag. The total is 43. Game props haven’t been posted, and though Perry has confirmed there have been no penalty props discussed, there has been discussion about putting up a: “Will Regular Refs Return to NFL before the first Week 5 game?”

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Will you be betting? Tweet me @CJSports2 with your thoughts on all of this.

Last Sunday Peyton Manning returned to the field in historic fashion, becoming just the third quarterback in NFL history to reach 400 career touchdown passes. It was quite a game for both him and the Denver Broncos, as he joined Dan Marino and Brett Favre in the record books, while leading his new team to a 31-19 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. In his Broncos debut, Manning completed 73.1 percent of his passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns.

Tonight it’s another big return, to the Monday night spotlight, where he is 11-3 straight-up and 10-4 against the spread during his career. It’ll be his first Monday night appearance since Nov. 1, 2010, when he led the Indianapolis Colts to a 30-10 win over the Houston Texans.

The Broncos visit Atlanta, and it’s the Falcons laying -3 points, with a total of 51, at Sportsbook.ag, as of 2 p.m. pacific time.

And while the Broncos got off to a fast start with last week’s victory against the defensive-minded Steelers in Denver, this one could come down to how much Manning magic is left in the 36-year-old’s arm, against the Atlanta Falcons’ electric offense.

What I can tell you is the Falcons better plan on bringing the heat against the first-ball Hall of Famer, who is on winning runs of 9-1 SU and 8-2 ATS on Monday Night Football since 2003.

During his career, in those 14 total appearances on Monday nights, Manning has thrown 29 touchdowns versus 13 interceptions. He’s also completed 66.4 percent of his passes (367-of-492) for 3,746 yards (average of 267.5 yards per game).

Below are Manning’s Monday night superlatives over the years:

Year

Games   Played

Comp/Att

Yards

TDs

INTs

2000

2

36/60

522

4

0

2001

1

19/32

173

0

3

2002

1

32/48

304

1

3

2003

1

34/47

386

2

1

2004

1

23/29

268

4

0

2005

3

65/94

757

7

2

2006

1

29/36

282

4

0

2007

1

23/37

259

1

1

2008

1

26/41

223

2

2

2009

1

14/23

303

2

1

2010

1

26/45

268

2

0

Below are the Betting Superlatives with Monday Night Football games involving Manning:

Year

Final   Score

Opponent

Point   Spread

SU   Result

ATS   Result

2000

43-14

v. Jacksonville

-3-1/2

W

W

2000

44-20

v.   Buffalo

-7

W

W

2001

6-41

at Miami

+4-1/2

L

L

2002

10-28

at   Pittsburgh

+4-1/2

L

L

2003

38-35*

at Tampa Bay

+4-1/2

W

W

2004

31-28

v.   Minnesota

-7-1/2

W

L

2005

45-28

v. St. Louis

-13-1/2

W

W

2005

40-21

at New   England

-4-1/2

W

W

2005

26-7

v. Pittsburgh

-7-1/2

W

W

2006

34-16

v.   Cincinnati

-3-1/2

W

W

2007

29-7

at Jacksonville

-3

W

W

2008

21-31

at Tennessee

+4

L

L

2009

27-23

at Miami

-3

W

W

2010

30-17

v.   Houston

-5-1/2

W

W