Let The Games Begin …

I wonder if any of the coaches of highly seeded teams that will tip off today in the NCAA tournament will remind his team to “Beware the Ides of March” lest they be upset.  I also wonder how many of his players would get the reference if this admonition was presented to the team.

Verne Lundquist will not be calling any of the games this year for the first time in a long time.  CBS Sports has moved the team of Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel up a notch to take the #2 slot in their announcing rotation previously headed up by Lundquist.  Long-term readers here know that I have always enjoyed the Eagle/Spanarkel tandem; so, while I am sad to know that Verne Lundquist will not be there, I am also glad to see the “new guys” get a promotion.  Eagle and Spanarkel – along with Allie Force as a sideline reporter – will start their coverage this year on Friday afternoon with the Purdue/Cal St.-Fullerton game.

The lead announcing team for the Tournament – the folks who will call the Final Four games and the Championship Game down the road – is the same as it was last year.  Jim Nantz will do play-by-play with Bill Raftery and Grant Hill providing commentary and Tracy Wolfson handling the sideline duty.  This has been an excellent announcing crew for the past couple of years and I am glad to see that the network mavens have not chosen to make a change simply for the sake of making a change.

The American Gaming Association (AGA) is a trade group that represents and promotes the casino gaming industry.  I mention that because they have a vested interest in proclaiming some of the numbers I will cite here.  According to the AGA, Americans will wager $10B on the 2018 NCAA Tournament.  That is a whole lot of cheese even when you consider that there are 67 games involved.

The AGA also says that it estimates $300M of that wagered money will flow through the Nevada casinos where sports wagering is legal.  In case the batteries on your calculator are dead, that means 3% of the money will be wagered legally and 97% will be wagered “illegally”.  Lumped into all of that “illegal” wagering are all of the Bracket Pools that are constructed and conducted around the country.  [Aside:  I mean the ones that are always won by Gladys in HR as I noted in my rant two days ago.]  It makes no sense to get bogged down in the numbers themselves here except to note that there will be lots of money bet on the Tournament in ways that are not sanctioned by the laws on the books.

Again, according to the AGA, approximately two-thirds of the states have extant laws that make it illegal to participate in sports pools including Bracket Pools.  I seriously doubt that the State Police and State Prosecutors will be swooping in to arrest Gladys in HR and the people who organized every Bracket Pool in those 30+ States; but technically, all those people are “lawbreakers”.

Every person reading this has either been a part of a Bracket Pool or knows someone who has been.  All of those people are not hardened criminals despite their behavior here – even if they have repeated this behavior every year for the last 20 years.  This situation simply makes it clear that these laws are ineffective and out of touch with the reality of human nature.

One reaction to all this could be:

  • Well, since no one is ever arrested or prosecuted for these “crimes”, the laws on the books are harmless.  Let well enough alone.

I prefer to look at the situation through a different lens:

  1. The same – or companion – laws that make Bracket Pools illegal also make it illegal for lots of folks to wager on the basketball games themselves.  Like the laws regarding Bracket Pools, that does not prevent that behavior; it simply drives it underground to illegal bookies and/or offshore Internet sportsbooks.  If the Truth In Advertising laws were applied to the laws that forbid sports wagering on individual games, those laws should be labeled “The Local Bookies’ Full Employment Acts”.
  2. Simply because millions of people choose to participate in Bracket Pools recognizing that – technically – those pools are against the law, it breeds a disrespect for the extant laws.  If the citizenry is expected to honor and respect the laws, there should not be silly laws on the books that are routinely ignored by tons of people for whom there are no consequences.  In those situations, either enforce the law(s) or change them.

I am not a member of the AGA; moreover, I am suspicious of statistics tossed out there by trade associations simply for the fact that they have an axe to grind.  In this case, I do not have to believe their stats are completely accurate to know for certain that there are lots of good folks out there who are going to be “lawbreakers” as soon as the first game of the Tournament begins just after noon (EDT) today.  Like Gladys in HR – who will win many of the Bracket Pools out there – these folks are not hardened criminals.

Recently, I cited a comment from Memphis basketball coach, Tubby Smith, who decried all the transfers made by athletes.  His point was that as soon as things did not go the way the athlete expected, they simply transferred schools; Smith called that quitting and said the system encouraged/taught the athletes to quit.  Well, that will not be a burr under Tubby Smith’s saddle for now.  Memphis fired Tubby Smith as its head coach earlier this week citing a drop in attendance and “unrest” among the boosters of the program.  Memphis has not made the Tournament in either of Smith’s two years at the school.

Rumor has it that Memphis will try to get Penny Hardaway to take the job there.  Hardaway played at Memphis during his collegiate days and has become a successful high school coach after his NBA career ended.  Time will tell who winds up with the Memphis job, but in the meantime, do not shed copious tears for Tubby Smith.  He will get a payment of $9.7M to stay home and not be the coach at Memphis.

Finally, you will quickly realize that Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle is all in favor of increasing the pace of play in MLB when you read this comment:

“MLB players rejected a 20-second pitch clock. OK. How about a big loudspeaker next to the mound.  After 20 seconds: ‘THROW THE DAMN BALL, MEAT!’   Speed up the game? Shoot relievers out of a bullpen cannon.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “Let The Games Begin …”

  1. I wonder about that statement about pools being illegal. IANAL but my understanding is in NY if someone is taking a cut from the pool, it is illegal, but if all the monies are returned to the winners it IS legal. Like a Super Bowl box, 100 boxes, each at $5. If the prize pool is $500, legal. If Bob in the mail rooms takes $50 for running the pool, it’s illegal. AGA could say there are bracket laws, but they may not apply to a lot of the office brackets.

    1. Ed:

      Your description of the law in NY is my understanding too – – and like you, I am not a lawyer. The AGA is a Trade Association so one must be very careful about taking everything they say as 100% truth. I would not be shocked to learn from a legal eagle that indeed there are some states where the classic office Bracket Pool where no one takes a cut to run the pool is an illegal enterprise.

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