Sunday, November 16, 2008

If the NFL Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

While we didn't have a wager on the game between the Chargers and Steelers, in a way, everyone lost.

Especially the NFL. Well, them, and the people who bet on the Steelers.

With the Steelers ahead of the Chargers 11-10, San Diego had time for one last desperation play. It went just about how you'd expect a dump-off-and-lateral-from-inside-the-20 play to go, with Philip Rivers throwing a short pass to Ladainian Tomlinson, Tomlinson flipping it back to Chris Chambers, and Chambers lateralling it to nobody in particular.

Chambers' heave was knocked down and scooped up by Troy Polamalu, who ran it in for a touchdown, giving the Steelers a 17-10 lead. Unfortunately, due to an illegal forward lateral by Tomlinson, the touchdown was wiped off of the scoreboard. Still, the Steelers won, so no harm done, right?


The Steelers may have won, but anyone who took the Steelers at anywhere from -3 1/2 to -5 didn't share the victory. Okay, so Steelers bettors caught a bad break, happens all the time, right?

Sure, but does it usually happen when 66% of the action is on the Steelers as opposed to 34% for the Chargers, with bookies looking at a huge profit if the Chargers win? Does it also usually happen when the Steelers are penalized 13 times for 115 yards as opposed to two times for five yards for San Diego? And does it usually happen on a call so clearly wrong? Take a look at a couple of screenshots of Tomlinson's pitch back to Chambers. Notice the arm going behind Tomlinson, followed by the ball.

As you can see, Tomlinson tosses the ball backwards to Chambers, and pretty obviously at that. Could this have anything to do with the fact that, as RJ Bell of points out, Vegas was on the receiving end of a $64 million swing as a result of this lateral? From the looks of it, the referees did everything in their power to make sure the Steelers didn't cover. The zebras even admitted to making the wrong call at the end of the game.

So, was this just a huge mix up, or are we just scratching the surface of an NFL betting scandal bigger than the Chicago Black Sox of the MLB (White Sox players rigging the World Series in 1919 for the youngsters out there) or Tim Donaghy in the NBA?

We might not even want to know the answer to that.


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