The first rule for any professional sports athlete is that you cannot bet on games. Technically it’s called Rule 21 and you can find it at every Big League club. Pete Rose would pass by every day for decades as a player and manager, without paying attention, so his lifetime ban is the appropriate punishment. This is the cardinal rule.
Rose claimed he never bet against the Reds but that doesn’t really matter. If Rose has bet on the Reds three days in a row and hasn’t made the fourth, well, we know what’s going on. The same goes for Calvin Ridley. What he has been doing, betting on his team’s matches, has everyone wondering if everything we see on the pitch is up to par. Again, listen to any caller on a sports chat station and then think about how many fans really think everything they see is on the rise.
Except it’s not like that anymore, is it? Not exactly, and certainly not what we remember. Ridley was reported by an NFL gaming site. And it feels like it’s who’s interest is really being protected here. At least more than the NFL.
Because if the NFL made the integrity of its games the real priority, as my colleague Stephen Knox has pointed out Yesterday in reporting this story, why isn’t Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross under serious investigation? He was accused by a credible source, his own goddamn coach, of asking said coach to dive his team for a better draft position. Should it matter if it was for a draft position or financial gain? Doug Pederson has also been accused of pitching his last game as Eagles coach for a better draft position, although he claims he was “training to win”.
The NFL has always been beholden to the game. It has the most open disclosure policy on injuries specifically due to the game. Teams have been fined for playing the injury list throughout the week. Who was it really for? Their opponents or fantasy football players trying to define their lineups?
No, it’s like DraftKings and PointsBet and everyone else asking their new steed, the NFL, to make sure their interests are protected. It’s not that the NFL is worried about games being tarnished when it comes to what each team is really looking for, we’ve seen. It’s that these game outlets worry about people being hesitant to play games that they’re not sure are all they’re supposed to be. This is why justice/punishment came so quickly for Ridley. They are bedfellows now. It makes sense that they were actually looking for a player to make bets on and therefore willing to report him to the league. Beer companies also buy a bunch of ads and sponsorships, but Budweiser doesn’t call league offices when a player is pissed off on a Wednesday.
Especially with the expansion of the game. You can go down this road as far as you want. With individual games available to bet, quarters, halves and any other combination you can think of. The smaller the scale, the easier the manipulation, one might say. Players are not likely to throw games or even shave points as we remember from childhood. The money they make is too much (but not if MLB owners get what they want, which should cook everyone’s noodles). But do we play here or there to dispute a certain result for a half or a quarter or even possession? Makes you wonder.
If you’re wondering why Ridley can be suspended so quickly and completely when Ben Roethlisberger just enjoyed a head-of-state-like sendoff of networks and fans, know that it’s really not the NFL that has administered the suspension. These are the new overlords of the NFL.