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While looking for inspiration for today’s column, I found myself at a local sports bar with my son while visiting the East Coast. As local establishments go, it’s a nice place.

As someone used to 50-foot screens for watching football, they could make their screens a bit bigger. The place is called the Teaneck Doghouse. While there, I found my inspiration.

In the middle of the fourth quarter with San Diego already winning, 17-12, on a third down play the refs seemed to miss a passing interference call. The Chargers coach argued vehemently and got called for unsportsmanlike conduct, pushing his team back 15 yards and making a 37-yard field goal into a 52-yard field goal. Their kicker made it a moot point as he split the uprights.

But wait. On the field goal try, Oakland was called for defensive holding, which is an automatic first down! They showed the replay and I have to admit, I had a tough time seeing it and it is an odd call on a field goal try. If one didn’t know better, you’d think this was a make-up call. Refs realized they missed the PI call and made it up with this one. You think this only happens in Sunday softball with one ump on the field!

For those of you who are football fans, you may have noticed there have been a lot of these questionable or missed calls this year. I don’t know if it is really more than in prior years. Maybe it seems like more because so many have occurred in the Thursday night, Sunday night or Monday night games.

Also, these are not ones that are just water cooler talk. These are ones in which the NFL at some point came out and said “Ooops… bad call.” This has made me wonder if some sports gamblers have reduced how much they wager on games. It must not be a lot of fun to do all the research and all of the analysis, only to have the guys in the black and white stripes decide the game with a critical blown call in the final minutes of the game.

This made me wonder if this is part of the reason fantasy sports have become so popular. When you gamble on real football, you’re generally gambling on a relatively simple binary decision. The team wins or loses. It might be with a pointspread, but it is still a simple win or lose proposition.

When the refs blow a call and change the outcome it must be infuriating. In fantasy football, you are betting on the results of individual players within their games. While a bad call might affect some of your player’s results and it is possible this will alter whether you win or lose for the week, it is still not as black and white (pun intended) as with the outcome of a single game. A bad call against your player in game 1 might be balanced out by a bad call in favor of your player in game 2.

Have sports bettors decided they would rather gamble on an assortment of players across multiple games instead of specific teams (including their favorite) in order to smooth out the bad calls by referees? I have no way of proving this hypothesis, but I think it is food for thought. There are other reasons I can see as well. There is no doubt, though, fantasy football is changing how fans see the game.

Back in September, at the beginning of my softball season we had our practice week before league games begin. Several players from each team show up and we have a pick-up game to get loosened up. At about 10 a.m., one of the guys announced he had to leave – his team was about to start.

It took us a second to realize he meant football team (games in LV start at 10 a.m. local time). We asked which team and his response was his fantasy team. He wasn’t going home to watch “his team” (meaning his favorite team) play. He was leaving so he could start watch (or tracking) several games to see how his fantasy team was going. Whether their respective teams were winning or losing was for the most part meaningless. All that mattered was if particular players were picking up fantasy points. I’m an avid sports fan, but I’m not likely to leave the field to watch my real favorite team play, yet alone a fantasy team. But that’s just me.

In the end, whether you are betting on an actual team or a fantasy team, I can’t help but hear my dad’s words about betting on any event where the participants have two legs – “Don’t do it.” The outcome of a horse race is rarely decided at the spur of the moment by a judge. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen way too often lately, it is almost like every sporting event has three participants – the home team, the visiting team and the team in stripes!

Happy holidays everyone!

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Elliot Frome is a second generation gaming analyst and author. His math credits include Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud, House Money and many other games. His website is Email: [email protected].

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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