Jeff Smith on Bill Maher as a Mets Owner

Michael Jordan was one of the first people in pro sports to realize that politics and sports don’t mix.

When asked to endorse black Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt in an epic 1990 Senate race against longtime civil rights opponent Jesse Helms – a nod that could’ve had a profound impact in Jordan’s home state – MJ famously declined. “Republicans buy shoes, too,” he is reported to have said.

As a Gantt supporter I was very disappointed in Jordan’s refusal to get involved, but it was probably smart business. And I suspect that the Mets may be about to learn as much.

(Cross-posted, with permission of the author, from Politico’s Arena)

Jason Grill: Come on, Congress — Sports Gambling, Not Bounties

Politics and sports are two things that incite strong emotions in nearly every individual in this country, but they should very rarely converge. Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee announced there would be an upcoming hearing about bounties in professional football and other major sports as a result of recent allegations that the New Orleans Saints employed a system in which players would receive extra cash for hits that hurt high-profile opponents.

Are they serious? Well, yes they are. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) wants to examine whether a federal law should make bounty systems a crime. This week reports have surfaced that the IRS is now poking around and monitoring the situation about the payments that were made to players. The dominos are beginning to fall and political grandstanding has already begun. I am not a pollster, but if I had to guess I would assume more Americans are concerned with their pocket books and the economy right now than on professional sports bounty programs. Shockingly, I know I am going out on a limb here. Seriously though, Congress should only involve itself in sports-related matters on very rare occasions. One of those is sports gambling.

The Final Four [took place] in New Orleans with four historically good programs. More than six million people filled out NCAA tournament brackets on alone. Last month the Super Bowl game garnered the prize as the highest-rated television show in United States history with an estimated 111 million people watching.

Reports have shown that nearly half of all American adults make some sort of wager on the Super Bowl. The time has come for Congress to open its eyes when it comes to sports gambling.

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Jason Grill: Come on, Congress — Sports Gambling, Not Bounties

John Johnson: The Kid Passes On

1985 was the first baseball season when I truly became a fan of the sport. 

My team was the New York Mets.  I became a fan through the legacy fandom passed on
by my Uncle John, who used to take me to Shea stadium.  That summer we constantly exchanged stories about the team, the pitching, and hated St Louis Cardinals, and one very special catcher–Gary Carter. 

I remember that summer being the first when I really understood box scores and baseball standings.  As Fall approached, I anxiously counted the number of wins the Mets needed to overtake the Cardinals.  Realizing as the days of the regular season dwindled the Mets were going to run out of time..there only chance to clinch the NL East was a sweep the last weekend.  Time ran out…a 98 win season just wasn’t  enough.  And disappointment filled me realizing that only one team can win the
championship…and even in a season as long as baseball, there was still such a
thing as having not enough time.

Time running out on the 1985 season was the first thing I thought about today
when I heard that one of the bedrocks of the Mets team in 1985 and 1986, Gary Carter, died tragically yesterday of brain cancer at the age of 57.

The next season–1986–the Mets exploded our of the gate to run away with the NL East.  I followed every game that season.  1986 was, to steal a phrase from this website, a season of “recovery”….the unfinished business of a season where they got oh so close but time ran out.  Gary Carter was right in the middle of so many of those 108 wins that year.  He was the steady presence in the battery raising the game of Doc Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Bobby Ojeda, and Rick Aguilera.  He was a constant home run threat to drive in Lenny Dykstra, Wally Backman, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry.   The stats speak for themselves…24 homeruns, 105 RBIs. 

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John Johnson: The Kid Passes On

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Making It Interesting

Thought for the day.

This comes from a story I’ve retold many times. It’s a good story and may or may not be true. I just can’t recall clearly. But it’s plausible it happened the way I recall.

But, as the saying goes, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

So, here goes…

When I was a boy I collected baseball cards. The cards had quotes by the players on the back. My favorite was a quote be Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee, outspoken and colorful pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Lee was quoted as saying,

“Sometimes I pitch myself down 3 balls and no strikes, just to make it interesting.”

I was fascinated by that quote. I loved it and saw something in it that was profound–yet funny.

Do you do this in your life? Out of boredom, create a difficult situation you must extricate yourself from–just to “make it interesting?” Just for the adrenaline rush?

I have to admit I do on occasion. And I regret it…and am going to try not to do that today.

The RPs Debate Gambling: Artur Davis Responds

Artur Davis‘ First Reponse

[The RP’s Provocation, Artur Davis’s Rebuttal #1; Ron Granieri’s Rebuttal #2; Natasha Dow Schüll’s Analysis; Spectrum Gaming Group’s Analysis; Jason Grill’s Rebuttal #3; The RP’s First Defense; Jason Grill’s First Response]

I would add just a little to Jonathan’s arguments against sports gambling, which I think are entirely correct.  The NCAA struggles to police the rules that exist today; it is a notoriously weak investigator without subpoena power, and I cant’t imagine the strains it would face if policing the ties between amateurs and more powerful, more nationalized gambling interests were part of it’s charter.

It’s worth examining the question of why the current regime of legalized sports betting in a few jurisdictions doesn’t pose the same risks. In fairness to Jason Grill’s case, there are enormous sums of gambling money at work today, and it’s been over 25 years since there was a bona-fide betting scandal in college sports. The true answer is that we don’t know what changing the scale of sports betting would do to incentivize corruption; in my mind, however, that’s a strike in it’s own right. If we guess wrong, the likelihood is an irreparable stain on amateur athletics. It’s also likely that, as I have argued in the context of legalizing marijuana, criminals are far more likely to bend their business model to profit from looser regulations, than they are to forfeit a lucrative market altogether.

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The RPs Debate Gambling: Artur Davis Responds

The RPs Debate Gambling: Jason Grill Responds

Jason Grill‘s First Response

[The RP’s Provocation, Artur Davis’s Rebuttal #1; Ron Granieri’s Rebuttal #2; Natasha Dow Schüll’s Analysis; Spectrum Gaming Group’s Analysis; Jason Grill’s Rebuttal #3; The RP’s First Defense]

Sports gambling & betting is widespread and common place in our country and it’s being done illegally every minute.

It’s immoral not to legalize it and give states the option to reap the economic benefits of it for all of its citizens and visitors.

On Jonathan’s college argument:

The FBI estimates that more than $2.5 billion is illegally wagered annually on the NCAA basketball tournament each year. However, Nevada sportsbook operators estimate close to $90 million or less than 4 percent of illegal betting on March Madness is wagered legally on the tournament in their state. 

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The RPs Debate Gambling: Jason Grill Responds

The RPs Debate Gambling: The RP Defends

The RP‘s First Defense

[The RP’s Provocation, Artur Davis’s Rebuttal #1; Ron Granieri’s Rebuttal #2; Natasha Dow Schüll’s Analysis; Spectrum Gaming Group’s Analysis; Jason Grill’s Rebuttal #3]

I guess it’s fitting that the guy who opened up this can of worms will be the first to try to shut it a bit.

I’m agnostic about Jason’s idea when it is applied to professional sports.  I think players are paid too much these days for the threat of Black Sox-era thrown ballgames return.  Pete Rose’s stupidity is the modern exception; when most professional players cheat today, it is in reference to the substances they ingest or inject, not the influence of gamblers and loan sharks.

My problem with Jason’s argument is how it applies to college athletics.  I’ve written at this site — and more recently both Taylor Branch and Joe Nocera have written brilliant searing, substantive essays — about corruption in college sports, particularly of the extraordinary unfairness towards the unpaid athletes who are earning universities and their coaches millions of dollars.

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The RPs Debate Gambling: The RP Defends

The RPs Debate Gambling: Jason Grill Rebuts

Jason Grill: Rebuttal #3

[The RP’s Provocation, Artur Davis’s Rebuttal #1; Ron Granieri’s Rebuttal #2; Natasha Dow Schüll’s Analysis; Spectrum Gaming Group’s Analysis]

Lets change the direction of this debate a little bit.

It’s all about sports gambling ladies and gentlemen.

As a member of the Missouri House of Representatives, I sponsored a resolution calling on Congress to repeal the Federal Professional And Amateur Sports Promotion Act of 1992 (PASPA). The 1992 law prohibited all but four states from offering sports gambling. The four states exempted from this act were Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon.

Missouri currently allows twelve gambling casinos in the State. They should have the option to put a sportsbook in each one of them. The federal law is outdated and is truly discriminatory towards 46 other states. These states should have the option to share in the major economic and revenue benefits that sports betting can provide.

Guess what…The Super Bowl is this week. Lets take a look at a few stats…

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The RPs Debate Gambling: Jason Grill Rebuts

The RP: Watch the Trailer for “Hitting the Cycle”

As I travel across the country on business, I’m constantly asked what my much-smarter and much-more-popular sister, Jennifer Miller, is up to.

Of Jennifer’s many projects, one is soon coming to fruition.  Over the past year, she served as Co-Producer for “Hitting the Cycle,” a baseball-themed film that was written and directed by her high school classmate Richey Nash, and co-starring the legendary Bruce Dern.

I’m excited to report that the film’s trailer has just been released.  Watch it below and let me know what you think:

John Johnson: My Open Letter to Terry Francona — Reflections on Loss

Dear Tito,

I wake up this morning and can only imagine the shock.   September 1—everything seemed great and cruising to a world series title.  September 30- epic collapse and out of the playoffs.   Sports pundits everywhere likening this to every bad Red Sox memory…Aaron Boone, Mookie Wilson, Bucky Dent.  The bad part about history and having such a devoted fan base is they hang on everything—good and bad.   Its easy to recall all the bad things when bad things happen, just like its easy to remember all the good things when good things happen.  The truth is probably somewhere in between, but insane expectations, like the fans of Boston have, can be a career killer.

I can only imagine how bad you feel.  Real loss, especially when you think you have done your best, hurts.  And it also is much worse when you care so much.  I hate failure too…and yet I find I fail far more often than I ever want to.  Sometimes the harder I try, the worse I fail.  It seems like the Red Sox suffered from that a lot this month.

Terry Francona

There are all sorts of calls for your head—fire the manager.  Blame you.  But cooler heads usually prevail.   Boston will remember the glory of 2004 and 2007.   Boston will remember the way you comported yourself in the good times.  Boston will give you the benefit of the doubt for the classy way you have managed the team.  Or maybe they’ll just forgive you because we all are human, and even epic mistakes can be treated with compassion.

Take solace in the fact that you have fans, that a big loss hopefully will lead to a better team next year.  A chance to fix things that maybe seemed ok but weren’t, a chance to rebuild, and rebirth.  I always hate the flowery poetry of baseball—“leaving you when the seasons turn darkest, and returning in the Spring” but the good news is there will be another chance.   I really hope it is in Boston, but if somehow you do get fired, I’ll be a fan wherever you go.

It hurts now.  But try to learn a lesson from all this.  And keep your head up.  Can’t wait for Spring training and next year.

A devoted and sympathetic fan,


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