Why I don’t gamble on sports, ep. 37

I don’t shy away from writing about sports wagering. I think it should be legal, and I expect it will be as soon as the major sports leagues want it to be legal, which I suspect they will sooner rather than later. The leagues already have a taste of that sweet gambling coin, and they’re going to want more of it once their over-leveraged insurers (i.e., the sports-broadcasting networks) go belly-up and no one can or will pay the exorbitant broadcast-rights fees that fund the owners’ and players’ ballooning salaries.

That’s all speculation, of course, but I’m certain of this: I am not good at betting on sporting events. I know this from personal experience, a bit of which I have detailed here and displayed elsewhere. Unlike my favorite comedian, Norm Macdonald, who has lost all his money three times in pursuit of the thrill of sports betting, the alleged excitement of gambling never has captured me emotionally, and my experiences, which serve as mental reminders that staying away is the right move, have exacted minimal financial cost.

Typically, I keep these little reminders– like my embarrassingly low ESPN Streak for the Cash winning percentage– to myself. Sometimes, though, they’re too perfect not to share:

Good luck out there.


Lose money playing DraftKings or FanDuel? File a lawsuit.MLB Rule 21(d)
The Invaders: A racetrack, a killing, and the history of organized crime in Hot Springs, Arkansas (via Grantland)
This is what is right with Grantland
Text messaging competitions: Non-sports vs. no sports


Book Review: Paul Finebaum’s Conference has Beaten Your Conference (Probably)

IMG-20140814-00138For someone who spends twenty hours a week on national airwaves as the host of an eponymous radio show, now simulcast on cable television, and makes regular television appearances on a major network, Paul Finebaum sure does manage to keep himself hidden.

I am not a longtime listener of Finebaum’s show by any means. I first remember hearing about him when I moved back to SEC country during the 2012 football season and he was still broadcasting on Birmingham’s WJOX. Due largely to my own preconceived misconceptions, I was surprised when I first heard the show following its move to ESPN Radio in 2013 to find that it was an extremely caller-driven show, to the point where Finebaum rarely asserted his own voice for purposes other than briefly sparring with or otherwise egging on his admittedly bombastic callers. At that time, the majority of those callers remained Alabama-based, and the Alabama-Auburn football rivalry served as nearly every item on the host’s go-to menu.

While a lot of this struck me as fairly standard cheap talk radio tactics, I remained intrigued by this person, who had risen to such prominence and reported influence, despite, I thought, hardly taking active steps to exert much in the way of influence. I therefore read the then-recent and still-surprising long feature on Finebaum in The New Yorker with great interest and anticipation. I found the piece to be more an introduction for Manhattanites to the other SEC and its attendant culture than a deep dive on Finebaum himself. Finebaum as access point, rather than Finebaum as subject. (A long Deadspin feature from the same year had a similar effect.) It’s a worthwhile read if you like college football. Still, I did not feel like I knew or understood this man, though, or why he was so widely regarded.

Fast forward (the lazy blogger wrote) to August 14, 2014. The SEC Network, an ESPN entity, launches (on Tim Tebow’s birthday, naturally), and Finebaum’s book, My Conference Can Beat Your Conference: Why the SEC Still Rules College Football, arrived in my mailbox.

Continue reading

The OKTC-Fox Sports merger is complete

I’ve been keeping an eye on Clay Travis’ SEC-football-oriented site, Outkick the Coverage, since its inception, more recently tracking changes associated with the site’s acquisition by Fox Sports. As detailed in the comments here, certain small changes indicating the Fox connection had been appearing on OKTC as early as last July, and today, that transformation appears to be complete, as evidenced by the site’s facade redesign.

oktcnewEven the base URL and browser tab icon have become those of FoxSports.com:

oktctabPerhaps most importantly, OKTC now has a permanent link on FoxSports.com’s college football portal page, favorably situated right under the College Football header.

fscomThis can only portent well for Travis, who has continued to expand his television role with Fox Sports 1, even parlaying that into a Super Bowl assignment. Travis has been public about his expiring contract with what has been his main employer, WGFX, 104.5 FM in Nashville. While Clay seems unlikely to leave Music City and the SEC football beat entirely, he definitely is expanding his reach and the scope of his coverage. The only thing that seems unlikely for Travis in the near future, given his deepening ties with Fox and a possibly distant relationship with Paul Finebaum (or at least Finebaum’s callers), is a move to ESPN’s SEC Network, which launches this August. Fox undoubtedly recognizes the value of the SEC and the Southeast. How heavily they’ll rely on Travis to bring that audience to Fox remains to be seen, but they certainly aren’t running away from him.

Monday Morning PR Quarterback

wwwThe rise of the internet fad, such as it is, presents a challenge to the viability of traditional print media. Nowhere in the world of sports media is that clearer than with Sports Illustrated, the onetime king of the written sports word.

SI hasn’t necessarily shied away from the Worldwide Web, but it hasn’t exactly been fleet-footed about it either. Here‘s the earliest archived version of SI.com, Continue reading

Tuesday Afternoon Inside Linebacker

tailSince “Monday Morning Quarterback” and “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” are taken and uninspired, and because I’m preempting my own exhaustion of “Monday“-themed alliterations, ALDLAND’s regular football/weekend roundup will move to Tuesday afternoons, which also permits incorporation of the Monday night NFL game. With week two of college football and week one of the NFL in the books, here goes:

College Football


  • Brendan and Physguy were in Ann Arbor for ESPN College Gameday, and the only evidence is a couple cryptic tweets from Brendan.

The games — No surprises:

  • I was able to find Michigan State’s game against South Florida on television in the Southeast, which may be thanks to USF’s participation in the game, but which also felt like finding a unicorn in the wild. MSU’s defense continues to outscore their offense, and that’s with three quarterbacks! Even Sparta only ever had two kings at once. Michigan State 21, South Florida 6.
  • I also found Vanderbilt-Austin Peay on TV, which is a reminder that it’s week two for the broadcasters as well. VU had no problem with its Middle Tennessee neighbors, winning 38-3.

Sensational Sporst Synergy: Clay Travis and Fox Sports

oktcfoxsportsAs of last night, Clay Travis’ Outkick the Coverage has merged with Fox Sports. The exact nature of the relationship is not clear. According to Fox Sports, “Clay Travis has officially joined FOXSports.com as a contributor.” As Clay tells it,

Outkick the Coverage and FoxSports.com have entered into a partnership agreeement. OKTC won’t change at all, we’ll just have a much broader audience. And those times when you try to hop on the site and we’re overloaded with traffic and you can’t get to our article?

Yeah, that won’t happen again.

Which is why FoxSports.com is hosting our latest story.

Did that ever happen to anyone? Anyway, Clay continued (as he always does): “After a lot of conversations FoxSports.com made the most sense and I’m excited about what’s to come.” He promises more details in the future, and for now says: “I have editorial control and Fox doesn’t want us to change at all.”

Together with MSN, Fox Sports already owns Yardbarker, which it bought in 2010, and through which it has a relationship with similar sites, such as Larry Brown Sports. Fox Sports seems to like to keep all of these formerly independent blogs underneath the umbrella of its Yardbarker Network. Major questions at this point include whether OKTC will receive the same treatment, whether OKTC itself will become a mere FoxSports.com reverse-portal, and what it means for Clay to be a FoxSports.com “contributor” (and why Clay did not reference that label on his own site).

As for clues about what Clay thinks– or thought– about Fox Sports, we can turn to the premiere source of information on all things Clay, Clay Travis, who in August 2012 responded to a question about ranking the major sports media outlets’ college football coverage by rating Fox Sports last among the given options, adding

I would rank Fox Sports last in its coverage of every sport. In its humor. In everything that it does online. I truly have no idea what this company is doing. FoxSports.com is a complete and total disaster of a site. So it’s no surprise that it’s also bad at college football. It’s also behind SBNation, Bleacher Report, and even OKTC.

Less than a month ago, he wrote that he had not visited FoxSports.com in over a year: “I barely have a conception of what [the page looks] like on direct entry.” Now that his article is plastered atop the front page of FoxSPorts.com, though, it’s probably his homepage.

On paying college athletes: Schools’ obligations under the status quo

Last week, Clay Travis argued, credibly, that all Wonderlic Test scores should be made public. For whatever reason, these scores are the only NFL combine results not made public. Every year, though, someone leaks a few of the scores to the media, and this year was no exception. According to the testing company, a score of ten indicates literacy, while a twenty indicates average intelligence. The three leaked scores were a twelve (Justin Hunter, Tennessee), an eleven (Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee), and a seven (Tavon Austin, West Virginia). Travis explained his larger takeaway point:

So all three of these wide receivers tested borderline literate, and substantially less intelligent than an average security guard would test.

Yet all three receivers have been eligible to play college football for years.

Isn’t this prima facie evidence of academic fraud? I mean, if you can barely read the Wonderlic test, how in the world have you been eligible at a four year college without significant cheating?

Travis goes on to writhe in the muckety muck of “academic fraud . . . one of the great untold stories of major college athletics” and cast  now-common aspersions on the NCAA.

It’s the NCAA that tends to bear the brunt of the building criticism of the college athletics status quo from the likes of Travis and his former employer, Deadspin, and the NCAA probably deserves most of that criticism. On this issue, though, it’s the schools themselves that deserve a critical assessment, not the NCAA.

The boom-bust cycle that is the volume of the discussion over whether college athletes should be paid is in a boom phase at the moment, but the substance of the conversation has not changed much over the years. Those in favor of paying college athletes point to the large revenue streams college athletics produce for schools and the NCAA and argue that it’s wrong that the athletes are not allowed to share in those profits; those opposed argue that the student-athletes are being compensated in the form of a free college education. The two sides actually seem to agree, at least implicitly, on the fundamental premise that college athletes should be compensated, and their disagreement is with the degree to and manner in which the athletes should be compensated: Proponents want new cash payments, perhaps held in trust, for the students, while opponents believe a free education constitutes sufficient compensation.

Test results indicating that students are flirting with illiteracy after three or four years of college are evidence that schools are not even keeping up their bargain to provide student-athletes with an education.

Instant reaction: South Carolina 17, Vanderbilt 13

As football season regularizes our schedule, ALDLAND’s regular Monday recaps will return in short order, but given the hype of last night’s CFB season-opener, some instant reaction seems appropriate.

We go now to the most reactionary of instant reactors. Clay Travis writes:

Every time I see SEC commissioner Mike Slive at big games, he tells me the same thing, he’s not rooting for either team, he’s just rooting for the officials.

On Thursday night en route to a South Carolina 17-13 victory, Slive’s team lost.

SEC officials missed a crucial and clear pass interference call that would have given Vanderbilt a first down at the South Carolina 47. Would the Commodores have scored a touchdown to win? Maybe not, but we’ll never know.

Instead fans left fuming over the latest, greatest near miss Vanderbilt Commodore upset victory.

Read the rest here.

The 2012 NBA finals: Resurrecting the Zombie Sonics allows attention-seeking bloggers to go all-in on LeBron James

The very elemental 2012 NBA finals tip off tonight between the Heat and Thunder, and while we don’t know which way Captain Planet’s going with this one, I did think everybody outside of South Beach was on board with cheering for Oklahoma City. Probably more accurately, I thought everybody was on board with rooting against LeBron James & co.

Now that King James is (again, admittedly) on the verge of winning his first NBA championship, the internet’s writing hands are rushing to join his camp. Whether they really are tired of harping on James for The Decision, the pep rally, and his promise of eight championships in Miami or they’re just following the old, adhere to one view for a long time and then publicly and suddenly change positions to get attention model, or maybe they see that James’ time is here and they want to be on the right side of history, everybody’s suddenly all-in on LeBron James.

How to accomplish this switch? Remind everybody saying OKC “did it the right way” that OKC did it the wrong way first, by ripping the franchise out of Seattle. Continue reading