It’s buyer beware when betting the NFL

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Last week, I attended the NFL betting seminar at Sunset Station. Toward the end, the audience was allowed to ask questions of the panel.

One elderly gentleman was wondering if the outcomes of games these days were predetermined, like professional wrestling. He based his hypothesis on the officiating and how strange calls come up at the most critical times of games, thus altering their eventual outcome.

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The panel basically pooh-poohed the guy. But trust me, he’s not alone. There are lots of people who believe the NFL is rigged. There was a guy in my Brooklyn neighborhood back in the 1970s who was absolutely convinced that then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle had a list of the outcomes of every game played that week before the first game kicked off.

One of the guys I sit with in the race book at Red Rock Resort said the officiating is so corrupt, he refuses to bet on the NFL anymore and he can barely watch a game, even one involving his beloved Los Angeles Rams.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist perse. But I can see the other side of it and why people feel the way they do when it comes to watching and wagering on NFL games.

The officiating is sketchy. It does impact the outcome of games. There’s little to no accountability for what happens when the flags are thrown. And when they screw up, the league offers up a mea culpa on Monday or Tuesday and it’s on to the next week.

And you want to know the weirdest part? The league has had instant replay of some form since 1986. It was supposed to make the game better by getting the calls right.

But there are so many caveats to the system, so many loopholes, it was easier to do your own income tax return than to officiate a football game. Now, the NFL is allowing more challenges to its calls on the field. Games that are three-plus hours may be pushing four hours this season.

So if you think you’ve been frustrated before, wait. It’s gonna get worse.

Why weigh in on all, this? Because the NFL kicks off its 100th season Thursday night and tens of millions of people are going to place bets on the outcome of these games this year. And in 12 states, they’re going to be able to do it legally (Welcome, Indiana). They have a right to bet on an event that has some integrity to it.

And that’s why the NFL’s officiating is so critical and comes under such great scrutiny. It’s not hard to know the rules. Anyone can read a rule book. What’s hard is to know how and when to implement them. How to use the right judgement.

The reality is, this is nothing new. The battle between the refs and coaches and players has been going on for the 100 years of the NFL’s existence. I’m guessing the refs could have called holding on every play when the Decatur Staleys met the Chicago Cardinals in 1920.

But back then, there was no TV, no Internet, no Twitter to take the zebras to task and bash the league for its complicity. Today, the nonstop vitriol on social media every weekend has become part of the watching and betting experience.

I wish there was an answer to improve the quality of officiating — in all sports. You watch a baseball game and the umpiring, especially behind home plate, is a joke. I was watching a game recently and a pitch that was a half-foot off the plate was called a strike. The batter muttered something and got himself thrown out of the game for “arguing” balls and strikes.

The consequences to the ump who blew the call? Nothing. He was on the job the following day.

For those of you who wager on sports, especially those who do it for a living, you probably look at officiating and consider it an occupational hazard. But whether you are betting $5 or $50,000 on a football game, you deserve a professional, competent, unbiased effort. You should have officials who know how to properly implement the rules, show discretion when need be and not rely on replay to cover up for their mistakes.

So as we kick off another NFL season, I wish you good luck and much success. And caveat emptor when you go to the windows, or hit “send’ on your mobile account to place those bets.

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About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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