Sports Law Roundup – 7/21/2017

aslr

I used to write the sports technology roundup at TechGraphs, an internet website that died, and now I am writing the sports law roundup at ALDLAND, an internet website.

Here are the top sports-related legal stories from the past week:

  • Tennis match fixing: The Tennis Integrity Unit, an organization dedicated to investigating cheating in tennis, is investigating cheating in tennis. More specifically, the TIU is investigating four matches– three at Wimbledon and one at the French Open– for potential match fixing. Suspicious betting patterns triggered the investigation into these matches, for which additional information is not yet available to the public. While allegations of match fixing in major tournament matches are rare, tennis is particularly susceptible, given that it is an individual sport, and that most matches involve low-earning players and are not tracked by the general public. Three years ago, FiveThirtyEight’s Carl Bialik wrote an illuminating feature on the data-driven rise in tennis gambling, later cautioning that betting patterns alone were not conclusive evidence of match fixing.
  • Hou-Hugh Feud: One week after Houston Nutt sued his former employer, Ole Miss, for breach of his severance agreement for disparaging statements by school officials, including head football coach Hugh Freeze, Freeze has resigned. Athletic Director Ross Bjork, whose statements also appear in Nutt’s complaint, referred to Freeze’s unacceptable “pattern of personal misconduct” in connection with Freeze’s resignation and said that the school would have fired Freeze, who will receive no buyout on his $5 million annual contract, had Freeze not resigned. While the litany of alleged NCAA violations have been public for some time, the catalyst for Freeze’s sudden departure just a week after he represented Ole Miss at SEC Media Days appears to be new evidence that, on one occasion, Freeze used his university-issued cellphone to contact a Detroit-based escort. Freeze’s call records are under scrutiny as a result of the Nutt complaint, which cites those records in detail but contained no mention of the escort call. (And a note to those who see an opening for Lane Kiffin to return to the SEC in a head-coaching role, Paul doesn’t see it happening for Kiffin in Oxford, so you can bet it won’t.)
  • Simpson paroled: After serving nine years in prison for his role in a Las Vegas robbery, O.J. Simpson received a unanimous grant of parole from the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners and could be out of prison as early as October. This week’s parole decision hardly could have come at a more perfect time: Norm Macdonald Live returns to the digital airwaves for a new season on Tuesday.

Sports court is in recess.

World Series Game 7 in two tweets

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Last night’s World Series finale had everything, and it was amazing to watch. You’ll find plenty to read about it across the web today. For now, anyway, my contribution to that plenty will be, like the bulk of what you usually find here, minimal, derivative, and frivolous.

The game had numerous memorable moments, and one of the most memorable was Rajai Davis’ game-tying home run off Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning. You can see on the graph above right where it happened, and, if you want an even more graphical recollection, the video is here. As the above starkly illustrates, the Cubs were, more or less, cruising by this point. Sure, Chicago manager Joe Maddon was doing his best to keep the game interesting by mismanaging his pitching staff, but the Cubs’ lead appeared as solid as a lead reasonably can appear late in a game-seven setting. Roughly an hour before Davis’ world-inverting homer, though, when things seemed relatively quiet on the eastern front, came this tweet:

Then, a moment before Davis came to the plate, a second tweet arrived:

And then the rains came. What a night.

The Final Countdown

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The final episode of The Late Show with David Letterman is tonight. We don’t write too much about television here, but I’ve enjoyed Letterman since before I ever saw his show by way of digging through the Web 1.0’s trove of top-ten lists when I was a kid. He hasn’t changed my life or been a special inspiration for me, as it appears he has for many others. The purpose of this post is to share the above photograph, which I did not take.

As a bonus, here’s a link to Norm’s final appearance on the Late Show a few days ago.

The only surprising part of Will Ferrell’s tour de baseball

will ferrell baseball chopper

Everybody had a good time with Will Ferrell’s Major League Baseball debut last week, and that’s no surprise. Will Ferrell is funny and good at making people laugh, and, it’s always seemed with him, the bigger the stage, the bigger the laughs. Ferrell started Thursday as an undrafted amateur free agent signee of the Oakland Athletics, and he finished the day as a San Diego Padre. In between, he appeared in games as a member of eight other teams and played every position, including designated hitter (pictured above). He even has his own Baseball-Reference page!

All of this feels like it belongs within Ferrell’s entertaining wheelhouse. Close examination of his B-R page reveals a little surprise, however:

wfb-rWho knew Cincinnati held Norm’s rights to begin with? Maybe it has something to do with the Marge Schott joke he made on Weekend Update nineteen years ago, forever “preserved” on this broken NBC.com video? Baseball, like Norm, proves to be a continually unfolding mystery of the most enjoyable variety.

Who’s conflicted about sports? World Series of Poker edition

While the idea of writing about the cartographic results of ESPN SportsNation polls long has percolated in my mind, it (obviously to you, erstwhile ALDLAND reader) never took off. In part I suspect this is because there’s little categorical variety in the types of conclusions we ordinarily draw from these maps, those being 1) the one state associated with the obvious minority view holds out, probably irrationally, against the weight of a nationwide majority and 2) shoot, there really aren’t too many people with internet connections in Mississippi are there? After a very short time, this would become boring to read and write.

We are living in the post-peak-SportsNation world, though, which means that, if this thing’s going to work at all, we’ve got to try it now, but with a slightly different angle of approach. Instead of focusing on the people who supported a poll choice, we’ll look at those states where the voters were not able to reach consensus.

For those unfamiliar with the mechanics of these voting maps, ESPN assigns colors to each of the poll options and presents each state as the color of the option most popular among that state’s voters. Where there is a tie between leading options, however, the state appears grey. These indecisive states are the focus here.

ESPN (I assume from the existence of this poll and Norm Macdonald’s late-night tweeting) has been televising the World Series of Poker this week, and SportsNation, in a totally happenstance, non-marketing-driven poll, casually asked, “How would you rate your poker game?” Here are the results:

nv-pokerWhile we could postulate that Louisianans spend too much time playing Three-card Monte and Arkansans are just people who picked up the rudiments of poker as a post-hoc character alibi while on the run from an out-of-state murder rap, but we don’t really know any of that for certain, and it’s more– though still, extremely mildly– entertaining to note that Nevada, home to the nation’s largest casinos, has no opinion on the matter.

UPDATE: A plurality of Nevada voters now say they do not play poker at all. Click the map above to see the very latest results.

R.C.M.P.: The Return of Canadian Mounted Podcasts

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I am not a television critic, and I haven’t had anything to say about podcasts not our own in a long time, but ostensibly uncoordinated events this week compel me to again address the field.

As I described at length a few years ago, I was never much for podcasts until I found The Jalen Rose Show. Although I still check in periodically, changes in my daily schedule caused me to fall off the regular listening (and now viewing) train. I did not think I would find another non-ALDLAND Podcast podcast that would entertain me and hold my interest.

Last year, however, I found two. The first was Norm Macdonald Live, a live video podcast with weekly episodes that started in March 2013. My insatiable appetite for Norm‘s material notwithstanding, I do believe the show worked on two levels: i) it had the basic element of funny guests being casually, unscripted-ly funny, and, ii) by its structure, it operated as a deconstruction of the talk-show format. (If I try to write any more than that, they’ll revoke my liberal arts degree and make me turn in my semicolon license.) After about a dozen episodes, the seemingly successful program inexplicably went off the air in the summer of 2013 with no indication that it might ever return.

The summer of 2013 offered new video podcast life, however, in the form of the (re)birth of the Jay and Dan Podcast. Jay and Dan are Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, the lead anchors of Fox Sports 1’s Sportscenter-ish program Fox Sports Live. Before joining FS1, Onrait and O’Toole held the same job at TSN on Canadian Sportscenter. Their podcast existed in some form in Canada, but they reinvented it as a weekly video podcast through Fox, targeted at a more heavily American audience. Like Norm’s, Jay and Dan’s podcast regularly makes me smile and laugh. Also like Norm Macdonald Live, the Jay and Dan Podcast inexplicably disappeared with no indication that it might ever return.

In perhaps the first Canadian comedy and entertainment conspiracy of the internet age, both podcasts made surprise returns to apparently regularly scheduled programming this week. While both were a little rough on reentry, it’s nice to have them back on a weekly basis. Watch for Norm Macdonald Live on Monday nights and the Jay and Dan Podcast on Wednesdays.

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Related
Smackland podcast: The Jalen Rose Show

ALDLAND Podcast

Few things call for a special emergency ALDLAND Podcast, but the US playing Canada in hockey is one of them. Join your two favorite cohosts and a special guest as we run down why the United States of America is the best country ever and why Canada comes up short. For real though, we love Canada and our Canadian readers/listeners. Just not today. Or tomorrow. And you have to give us Neil Young and Rush if we win. Sorry.

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Download the ALDLAND podcast at our Podcasts Page or stream it right here:

Wrapping up the 2013 Masters

Just over a week ago, Adam Scott became the first Australian to win the Masters, beating Angel Cabrera in a sudden-death playoff to claim the green jacket.  It’s true that such a playoff in a major golf tournament always is exciting, but the way we arrived at this one– Scott holding steady as numerous golfers faded back to (in Cabrera’s case) or below him on the leaderboard– felt a little anticlimactic. Still, among those leaders, Scott did the best job of holding steady while the course conditions did anything but, and after near-misses on his putts all day, he finally sunk them when he needed to on eighteen and the playoff hole.

A big thanks to guest blogger Luke Watson, who stopped by to lend ALDLAND the benefit of his golf acumen and insight as a guest blogger. (His posts are here and here.) Back at his own site, Hotdogs and Golf, he recently published a very thoughtful post-Masters post that’s worth your time.

While Luke’s collaboration with this site was the big media story of the tournament, another story about a broken golf collaboration has received almost no attention anywhere but these very pages. Continue reading

Final Super Bowl XLVII Notes: The Baltimore Ravens will win

How do I know the Ravens will win? Read on…

Len Dawson, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, after losing Super Bowl I

Len Dawson, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, after losing Super Bowl I

First, the important details: Kickoff is at 6:30 pm, according to the NFL. CBS has the television and online broadcast rights, and Dial Global will have the radio broadcast. In reality, I have no idea if 6:30 represents kickoff, or just “kickoff,” and the real thing won’t happen until 7:00. I guess we’ll all find out together.

Second, before you read further, remember that if enough of you sign this petition, you don’t have to go to work tomorrow.

Third, I think our Super Bowl preview coverage over the last two weeks has been pretty good. Some highlights while you wait for “kickoff”:

Fourth, assuming you’ve covered that ground already, the best of the rest of the web:

  • When the final score doesn’t matter: How prop bets changed the way we gamble on the Super Bowl – You’ve done well to hang in this far into the post, degenerates. The prop bets themselves aren’t shocking or even chuckle-inducing anymore, but this history of how they came to be is an interesting read. (Hint: the house wins.)
  • The Best Super Bowl Documentary You’ve Never Seen – Ok, I get it. You’re ready to stop reading and watch TV. Instead of another hour of CBS’s refried game preview, this documentary is what you need. In 1976, the Bicentennial, a group of kids– including Bill Murray, Christopher Guest (aka Nigel Tufnel), and Harold Ramis (aka The Comic Genius Who Defined A Generation) took some of the first portable video cameras and had unprecedented (then or now) access to the players, fans, and everything else surrounding Super Bowl X. Lynn Swann, Johnny Unitas, and Bob Irsay all are there, among many others. It’s available at that link in four brief Youtube videos, and it’s one of the best sports things I’ve seen in recent memory.
  • Beyond Legend: Stories paint picture of real Randy Moss – A couple gems in here. Bill Murray-esque in some respects. (HT: Laura)

Fifth, as promised, your guaranteed winner tonight is the Baltimore Ravens. I admitted I’ll be cheering for San Francisco, but I have it on the best authority that the streets of Baltimore will be the ones to host a Super Bowl victory parade this year. You can read the full explanation here, but the short story is this logical truth: Norm Macdonald has a lifelong sports gambling problem; when he bets, he rarely wins; when he isn’t gambling, however, he can’t miss; he is gambling on these NFL playoffs, including the Super Bowl; a friend uncovered Norm’s early season, pre-return-to-gambling pick; by its untainted nature, that pick will be correct; that pick was Baltimore to win the Super Bowl. Unassailable. If you take it to the bank, be sure to break off part of your winnings for Norm (and me).

Enjoy the Super Bowl, everybody! Thanks for spending some of your pregame time with ALDLAND. Follow us @ALDLANDia for withering insight during the game.

The NHL is back. Here’s the best thing you can read about it.

The NHL freezeout finally thawed a few days ago, and like the slow, first drips of a spring melt, hockey writers’ earnest material is starting to trickle out. Breakdowns of the new CBA. Recommendations for how the league can bring back the fans. Wonderings about whether the league is better off as a lesser sports entity. Psychoanalyses of players who might not want to come back to the NHL. Discoveries of a beauty pageant winner’s role in the 2011 Vancouver hockey riots. Something about junior hockey championships. Remembrances of the Great One. I’ve read it all.

I’ve read it all, and it’s all fine, but none of it really satisfies. Just textual workouts over the same old themes. Nothing revelatory or even thought-provoking. None of it, at least, until the last hockey article I read, which might be the last stretch of hockey writing I read until I can get my hands on a commemorative magazine retrospective of my team’s Stanley Cup-winning run.

I don’t care if you call me biased. (Our phone lines are down anyway.) But if you dismiss this piece because I’ve declared my position on the author’s merits and you assume I prejudged the article and was going to like it and highlight it regardless, you’ll miss out on the best bit of post-most-recent-lockout hockey writing and the best swatch of sports writing in recent memory.

Norm Macdonald’s latest article is a short story in two parts– two short stories, really– with some light humor, of course, but more compellingly, real, emotional, suspenseful, rising action conveyed in absolutely compelling fashion with two lovely turns of phrase, one for each part.

I hope I haven’t over-hyped it for you the way that one girl over-hyped Shanghai Knights back in high school. Bring your expectations back to norm(al) levels and click here.