Today we revisit the devilishly fascinating world of daily fantasy sports — Slogan: “Winners Get Paid Every Day, Twice a Day If You’re a DFS Employee” — to examine the NFL’s hilariously evolving stance on America’s latest gambling passion.
(By the way, I know we’re all fantasy-fatigued by those DraftKings and FanDuel ads, but I guarantee you those two palookas sitting in the car in those annoying Sonic commercials play DFS, too.)
The NFL remains anti-gambling but pro-fantasy. As I’ve said before, that’s like being anti-slaughterhouse but pro-chateaubriand; as I’ve said before, if fantasy isn’t gambling, then Penthouse isn’t pornographic.*
(* Boy, I said a lot of things before that are smarter than things I say now.)
Now, the NFL’s longstanding anti-gambling policy makes sense, in terms of not wanting its players, for somewhat obvious reasons, to be gambling on any game, NFL or otherwise.
But the NFL has treated fantasy differently. There is the nfl.com/fantasy Web site, 28 NFL teams have deals with fantasy partners, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Patriots owner Robert Kraft have invested in DraftKings and, now — and it feels like I must be making this up — NFL players are allowed to play fantasy.
Think about this:
Tom Brady cannot bet on, say, the Falcons-Saints game. But he can bet on DFS, in which he assembles a fantasy roster that might include himself, teammates and players who are his on-field opponents any given week. So the next time Brady targets a tightly covered Danny Amendola instead of a wide-open Rob Gronkowski on third and 15 in a close game, I’ll just figure Brady has Amendola on his fantasy roster that week.
(I do not mean to pick on Brady here — he just happens to be the face of the NFL and, well, he seems untouchable. I mean, he could associate with Ponzi scheme operators, gamblers, swindlers, grifters, hustlers, fraudsters, double-crossers, bamboozlers and deflators from here to next Sunday and still be the starting quarterback in Super Bowl 50.)
In the NFL’s defense, it does not allow any player to win a fantasy prize in excess of $250.
The $250 limit is an unintentionally funny, arbitrary figure. “That prohibition,” according to league policy, is “to avoid any appearance of impropriety which may result from participation in fantasy football games by individuals perceived to have an unfair advantage due to their preferential access to information.”
Uh, that seems to be a clunky way of saying that people might get the wrong idea due to the fact that NFL players can be financially tied to fantasy results.
Which brings us to the Keeper Of The Shield, NFL Commissioner and integrity/impropriety bon vivant Roger Goodell.
Just from this year alone, here are some Goodell sound bites on his favorite topic of integrity:
“As you would expect, we take seriously anything that potentially impacts the integrity of the game. . . . This is my responsibility to protect the integrity of the game.” (Jan. 30, 2015)
“The integrity of the game is the most important thing. The integrity of the game is something we will always protect.” (Aug. 7, 2015)
“We will continue to uphold the integrity of the game and will do it as vehemently as we can.” (Oct.7, 2015)
So when you sign off on having players betting on player performances, this is upholding the integrity of the game?
(Incidentally, this marks the 17th consecutive time Goodell has been on the wrong side of a critical league issue, breaking the all-time commissioner record set by MLB’s Bowie Kuhn from 1973 to 1978.)
Integrity in the NFL commissioner’s office?
Now, that’s a daily fantasy.
Q. Is Louisville the first Division I university to institute an on-campus strip club, and do you see the NCAA supporting these establishments at other schools to help protect today’s student-athletes from the evils of commercial clubs? (Bob Appel; Rockville, Md.)
A. Just stumbled on an interesting fact — Rick Pitino’s great-great-great-great-Uncle Ridley was the vice presidential nominee in 1856 for the Know-Nothing party.
Q. Kirk Cousins was on the front page of the Washington Post celebrating the Redskins’ third win of the season. Did you make the front page after your third marriage? (John Estanich; Monrovia, Md.)
A. No, but I had registered for bread makers so many times at Bed Bath & Beyond, I got a 10 percent frequent-wedding discount.
Q. If Harold Reynolds were your postman, wouldn’t the prudent choice be to opt for a
P.O. box? (Scott D. Shuster; Newton, Mass.)
A. Harold Reynolds could outtalk a hostage negotiator.
Q. Do you have any explanation as to why my bridge buddies erupt in raucous laughter and loud applause every time I bid “NO Trump!”? (Jeff Morris; Spokane, Wash.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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