THE COUCH SLOUCH

NFL, Goodell's stance on betting is a losing proposition

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Before going any further, let's briefly summarize Couch Slouch v. The National Football League on a key, burgeoning issue:

-- I remain pro-gambling (as in it should be legal) while encouraging most people not to gamble.

-- The NFL remains anti-gambling (publicly) while maneuvering (privately) to make truckloads of more cash from gambling.

So with bemusement and a pinch of salt, I watched the NFL recently call out and suspend Arizona Cardinals cornerback Josh Shaw through at least the 2020 season for betting on multiple NFL games this year.

Naturally, Shaw – who has been on injured reserve all season – had to be disciplined; it is very, very bad for business to have your own players betting on your own product.***

But it was the manner the league ran Shaw up the morality flagpole and occupied its faux high ground that made me roll off my NFL-licensed beanbag chair with snort-filled laughter.

Let's start with the official response of NFL Commissioner Roger "I'm Shocked, Shocked to Find That Gambling Is Going On in Here" Goodell:

"The continued success of the NFL depends directly on each of us doing everything necessary to safeguard the integrity of the game and the reputations of all who participate in the league. At the core of this responsibility is the longstanding principle that betting on NFL games, or on any element of a game, puts at risk the integrity of the game, damages public confidence in the NFL and is forbidden under all circumstances. If you work in the NFL in any capacity, you may not bet on NFL football."

Have you ever noticed that whenever Goodell makes a public statement, he uses "integrity" multiple times? To borrow from Inigo Montoya, "Mr. Goodell, I don't think that word means what you think it means."

(*** I'd love to be more sympathetic to Shaw, but according to ESPN, he was betting a three-team second-half parlay last month and he was betting against his own employer. Parlays are fools' gold – it's hard enough getting one game right; trying to get several games right for a rip-off payoff is professional gambling malfeasance. Plus Shaw's Cardinals might stink, but they're actually quite good against the point spread this year. Don't bite the hand that feeds you if it's a winning hand. Geez.)

Anyway, let me see if I understand this correctly:

All NFL employees are banned from betting on the NFL in any manner, and this prohibition includes fantasy football leagues with a payoff higher than $250. So beyond players, coaches and front-office types, what are the chances that no other NFL wage earners besides Shaw – we're talking team trainers, game officials, personnel at the league offices in New York, nfl.com, NFL Network, et al – are breaking the NFL's gambling statute?

Uh, I would say the chances are ZERO PERCENT.

DraftKings is the league's official daily fantasy sports partner – Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft each has invested in the company – and between DraftKings and its chief competitor FanDuel, the two have sponsorship agreements with nearly every NFL team.

And as gambling becomes more mainstream in the aftermath of the 2018 Supreme Court ruling allowing states to authorize sports betting, clearly more money will flow to the leagues and gambling sites and all the losers will be sports bettors. Hypothetically, in fact, if we all live to be 800 years old, everyone gambling eventually will go broke.

So I get tired of hearing Goodell peddle his integrity-of-the-game patter as he reaches deeper and deeper into his fan base's pockets.

Heck, if the NFL truly cared about its gambling customers, it would open its own sports book, offering no vig and the best parlay odds anywhere.

In the meantime, while Josh Shaw is suspended from the league, I'll take his action.

Ask The Slouch

Q. You were labeled a pessimistic and unfaithful alum because you questioned Maryland's wisdom of hiring a 3-31 head coach to rescue its football program. Now that the Terps have finished yet another losing season with regression at nearly all levels, have your detractors issued an apology? (Randy Waesche; Thurmont, Md.)

A. I'm still waiting for an apology for the mediocre higher education I received in College Park while Norman Esiason was given an athletic scholarship.

Q. Golfer Patrick Reed was caught on camera improving his lie in a sand trap, but he says he wasn't cheating. Not guilty or guilty? (Jaclyn Ramirez; Houston)

A. When reached in Ukraine, Rudolph W. Giuliani said Reed had done nothing wrong and will continue to do it.

Q. Aaron Rodgers last week mentioned he can see the 18th hole of his career. Can you see the 19th hole of your career? (J. Jackson, Dunkirk, Md.)

A. I only play miniature golf, so I can see the whole damn course (and the bar).

Q. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently proposed handing Russia a four-year ban from global sports. Should they instead be investigating Joe and Hunter Biden? (Joe Salo; Latham, N.Y.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!


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Game One Is Pivotal For Both Teams

ALWC Game 1 Preview: Astros vs. Twins

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

It might not have been pretty, and may not have met pre-season expectations, especially with all the injuries and headwinds along the way. Yet, the Astros' regular-season was enough to get them into the playoffs, and as we are likely to find out with this aptly-named Wild Card Round, all it takes is a ticket to the dance.

A losing record at the end of the first 60 is now a thing of the past. Everyone starts 0-0, needing to take two of three against their opponent to move forward into the Divisional Series. Here's a quick breakdown and some facts about Houston's first game against the Minnesota Twins:

Game Facts

When: Tuesday, 1:00 PM Central

Where: Target Field - Minneapolis, Minnesota

TV: ABC

Streaming: ESPN App

Pitching Matchup: Zack Greinke vs. Kenta Maeda

Series: Tied 0-0.

Series Schedule

Date & Time (Central) Location Pitching Matchup
Game 1 Tue 9/29, 1:00 PM Target Field, Minneapolis Greinke vs. Maeda
Game 2 Wed 9/30, 12:00 PM Target Field, Minneapolis TBD vs. Berrios+
Game 3* Thu 10/1, TBD Target Field, Minneapolis TBD vs. Pineda+

* If necessary.
+ Projected starters.

Game Storylines

Did Houston pack their postseason bats?

Over the last three years, the Astros have started the playoffs with wins in their first game, and it may be in part due to one key component: scoring first via home runs. In 2017, it was an Alex Bregman solo homer off of Chris Sale in the first inning to start the scoring against the Red Sox. In 2018, it was Bregman again, this time a solo shot in the fourth off of Corey Kluber of the Indians. In 2019, it was Jose Altuve with a two-run bomb against Tyler Glasnow as they'd go on to take game one against the Rays.

Can they make it four straight years? If so, they'll have to do it against another formidable pitcher in Kenta Maeda, who allowed just nine home runs in his eleven regular-season starts, only two of which were at Target Field. Also, those three games mentioned earlier were at Minute Maid Park, where the Astros had the support of their home crowd, along with the comfort of their own stadium. This year, they'll start on the road, and in the now-normal audience of cardboard cutouts. Having said that, if they can get their signature score-starting home run in the top of the first by one of their key bats, that could very well set the momentum in their favor to upset the Twins.

Which Greinke will we see?

On September 3rd, Zack Greinke went six innings while allowing three runs to the Rangers, still coming away with a win to improve him to 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA. That was his eighth start of the season, two of which he went six or more innings without allowing a single run, including an eight-inning gem at home against the Rockies.

In his final four starts after that, Greinke went 0-3 with a 6.53 ERA over that span, allowing four, five, three, and three earned runs, respectively, and unable to go more than six innings in any of them. That finished his year at 3-3 with a 4.03 ERA, not exactly riding a high into the postseason. So, can he hit the reset button and deal as he did in the early parts of the season? Or, will the Twins, who own the sixth-most homers as a team in 2020, find a wrinkle against him early that they can exploit? The answer to that, along with what run support his offense provides him, will be one of the game's deciding factors.

I don't need to tell anyone the obvious here; in a best-of-three series, taking the first game will be pivotal for both sides. Winning the first game and only needing one more is a tremendously more advantageous position to be in, instead of needing to win two straight to advance. It sets up for an entertaining series and set of matchups across the league. Get your popcorn ready.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

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