The Degradation of Sportsmanship in Athletics

CamNewton

I sat back and watched Super Bowl 50 on Sunday night – as did approximately 112 million other people – and, to be painfully honest, the game was a bit of a disappointment. Yes, I did pick the Panthers to win (more on that at the end of this essay), but it was more than that factor that caused the boredom. The game itself was more of a defensive struggle than most thought it would be. There were only two offensive touchdowns on the night (one by each team and both rushing TDs, surprisingly) and the defenses for both teams were the dominant forces. It was well deserved that the MVP for Super Bowl 50 went to Broncos LB Von Miller, who was a terror in sacking Panthers QB Cam Newton two and a half times and forcing two fumbles.

It was after the game that my appreciation for sportsmanship in athletics – at least here in the 21st century – took a further hit. In his post-game press conference, the Most Valuable Player for the National Football League, Newton, stepped to the podium to take questions regarding the game. Wait…perhaps it is better to say what he actually did. In every other game of the postseason prior to the Super Bowl, Newton had taken the time to dress splendidly following his wins, put a big smile on his face and entertain the reporters who peppered him with questions, of which he answered each with long answers that gave them and football fans additional insight into the game.

CamNewton2

Fast forward to Sunday night and it was like looking at another person – at least the NFL better hope so. Newton, clad in a black hoodie pulled up closely around his head instead of the splendid suits that he had worn, wasn’t standing proudly at the podium when he came to address the media following the Super Bowl loss. Slumped in a chair, gone was the glowing smile that Newton wore throughout the postseason, as were the lengthy answers for the reporters’ questions. Newton basically acted as a petulant child who, when not given what he thought he deserved, decided to pout his way through a requirement that he really didn’t want to do…and, in fact, he didn’t; Newton didn’t finish the post-game press conference, he got up and walked away while reporters continued to ask questions.

This is just the latest demonstration of the degradation of sportsmanship in athletics in the 21st century, and it also seems to be dipping down further into the amateur and even recreational ranks. Earlier this month, tennis champion Serena Williams – a living legend in a sport if there ever is one – acted as if there were about 1000 other places she would have rather been after losing the Australian Open to Angelique Kerber, where a victory for Williams would have tied her with Steffi Graf for second on the all-time list (and only two Grand Slam titles behind Margaret Court). She answered questions from journalists rather abruptly, only lengthening out her answers when it served her purposes, such as when she wanted to complain. “Everyone expects me to win every single match…as much as I would like to be a robot, I’m not,” Williams complained in the post-match news conference.

She was even worse at last year’s U. S. Open where, after being defeated by upstart Roberta Vinci and prevented from becoming the first woman to win the Grand Slam – winning all of tennis’ major titles in one season – since Graf in 1988, Williams basically slumped at the table during the post-match interview, scowling the entire time and actually said, “I don’t want to talk about how disappointing it is for me. If you have any other questions…” before storming out of the press conference early (perhaps we should call what Newton did “pulling a Serena”).

The general degradation of sportsmanship doesn’t stop there, however. Before the National Hockey League went on its All-Star break, defenseman Dennis Wideman of the Calgary Flames was knocked into the boards by a hit from a member of the Nashville Predators on January 27. As he arose and headed to the bench, he cross-checked (held his stick between his hands across his chest) linesman Don Henderson from behind in protest for a penalty not being called. Wideman attempted to say that he was “disoriented” and “never saw” the official until the last minute, but the video of him pulling back his hands and putting a little extra pop on the hit was hard to ignore. The NHL suspended Wideman for 20 games, which is currently under appeal.

This lack of sportsmanship isn’t just in the professional arena either. In September 2015 at the start of high school football season, two Texas high schoolers targeted an official – one knocking him to the ground while the other speared him in the kidneys with his helmet – for his supposed poor officiating and alleged racial remarks during the game. Investigation revealed that one of the coaches for the team ORDERED the players to go after the official; that coach resigned before any action could be taken and the players were suspended for the remainder of the season.

According to the Associated Press’ Paul Newberry, it can get worse. In 2013, a soccer referee in Utah was killed when a 17-year-old player didn’t like one of his calls and hit him with a punch; that player was sentenced to juvenile detention. Another player in an adult soccer game in Michigan killed a 44-year-old referee after receiving a red card in another altercation. That player now is serving 15 years in prison for manslaughter.

Sportsmanship is something that is critical to the conduct of sporting events and it extends to the requirements off the field, no matter how much you don’t like them or that the questions become repetitive. For interviews and dealing with fans, athletes have to be able to treat the press and their fans responsibly and with respect. To sit and act as if it is a burden to answer questions about your chosen profession – the job YOU chose to do, the one that has given you millions of dollars – or to be a complete bitch or bastard about having to be there, perhaps you should try to live among the “common people” for a bit and see how it is to live there.

An outstanding example of how to handle people and the media is tennis player Novak Djokovic. The video of him at the French Open during a rain delay with a ball boy has become famous and there are several other occurrences where “The Joker” has endeared himself to fans and the media alike. Other athletes such as Derek Jeter, Stephen Curry and others also treat the fans like gold, the media well and, win or lose, always try to respect the game.

And perhaps that is the problem with some of the athletes nowadays. They don’t respect the game that they play, they just came for the millions of dollars that it graces them with and screw any responsibility for having to actually do something you might not want to do. For some, they’re set in their ways and aren’t going to change. For Newton, he’s only 26…there’s perhaps time for him to have a change of attitude and become more of a sportsman than he showed on Sunday night.

WRAPPING UP THE NFL SEASON

Hey, at least I got the 24 points for the Broncos right! (To remind you, the prediction was Panthers 28, Broncos 24.)

There were three picks that I made for the actual game on Sunday night. The Broncos came through for me on the spread by winning outright, but the two teams didn’t even come close to going over the 44 O/U line. Add in that “straight up” pick of the Panthers and I went 1-2 to finish the season 56-39-5.

When it comes to the prop bets, I was pretty sharp there! I said to pass on the bet of whether there would be a missed extra point (there was a missed field goal but not an extra point); that the first touchdown would be something other than a passing TD (it was), the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry (-4.5) would score more points on Saturday against the Oklahoma City Thunder than the Panthers would against the Broncos (he did, 26 points versus the Panthers’ 10);  that Lady Gaga would go UNDER 2:20 for the National Anthem (this was a cause of some argument…some sites say it is when she ends the note on “brave” and, the first time, it was under, when she did it the SECOND time, it did go over…as always, the House makes the rules); the Golden Gate Bridge WAS shown, Mike Carey missed a replay call and the Broncos dumped ORANGE Gatorade on head coach Gary Kubiak.

That means I got six prop bets versus one on the Super Bowl itself…perhaps next year I’ll just do prop bets!

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Super Bowl 50, Part One: Got Money Burning a Hole in Your Pocket? Here’s Some Crazy Prop Bets!

SuperBowl50

We are just a couple of days away from the spectacle that will be Super Bowl 50. The Carolina Panthers, led by their becoming-iconic QB Cam Newton and looking to finish their stupendous season with only one loss, will be taking on the Denver Broncos and the legendary QB Peyton Manning in what could be his swan song. What better way to celebrate this matchup than – racking up prop bets on things that don’t even have anything at all to do with these men, these teams or sometimes the game itself!

It is estimated that over $100 million is legally bet on the Super Bowl in Las Vegas and upwards of $3 billion worldwide on the game, legally and illegally. More than half of the Las Vegas total is on something that is called “proposition bets.” These bets aren’t your normal “point spread” occurrences or even something that might go on within the actual field of play itself. They are based on some of the activities that may or may not occur during the play of the game – sometimes not even involving the players themselves.

Prop bets come from “proposition betting” where gambling sharps would rope in rubes with a nicely set up short con, basically. In these “propositions,” the sharp would say that they could do something normally unthinkable – such as the legendary road gambler “Titanic” Thompson’s prop bet that he could drive a golf ball 500 yards (legend has it he pulled this trick against notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone). After getting people to place their bets – normally against him – Thompson would then wait until wintertime, activate the bet and go to a nearby lake, where he would indeed proceed to drive a golf ball 500 yards across the frozen surface.

Prop bets today aren’t far removed from something along the lines of what Thompson did. They sound so outlandish that you don’t think that they will happen but, if you do your homework, you can actually make some hay out of the bets. There are also those that you should stay far away from because they are an obvious setup bet. Over the next few choices, we’re going to take a look at some of these prop bets, examine them closely and try to decide whether to take a shot at them or not.

Will there be a missed extra point in the game?

Yes – +300
No – -360

(Remember, this means that, if you want “yes,” you’d have to wager $100 to win $300, for “no” you’d have to wager $360 to win $100)

This was the first year that the National Football League experimented with a longer extra point attempt. Previous to this season, all extra point attempts were from the two-yard line, resulting in a roughly 20-yard attempt for a point. In 2015, however, the NFL backed the kick spot up to the 15-yard line, making the kick a 32-yard attempt. As a result, 71 extra point attempts were missed this year, a 94.2% conversion rate (the lowest rate since 1982). Using that factor, there should be a better payout for those looking to bet the “yes” route. Add in the statistic that Graham Gano of the Panthers and Brandon McManus of the Broncos only missed a grand total of four extra point attempts between each other this year, I’d pass on this one as it isn’t likely to occur. Still, a bet on “Yes” wouldn’t be out of the question…two years ago, the Seattle Seahawks defense scored a safety for the first score of Super Bowl XLVIII, a traditional long-shot prop bet that paid out handsomely for many people for the first time in the history of the Super Bowl.

The first touchdown of the game will be:

Passing touchdown – -165
Any other – +145

The Panthers have scored their first touchdown eight times on the ground, six times through the air and two times via an interception. The Broncos have gotten their first touchdown six times via a passing play. For some reason, the odds makers are saying that the first touchdown is going to come through the air when it is slightly more likely that it will come through other means. I like taking the “any other” route with this one as Newton’s legs or a defensive TD would be a winner.

Stephen Curry (-4.5/-110) scores more points than the Panthers (+4.5/-110)

Here’s where things start to get fun. When you start throwing the results from two sports into the mix, then you really either know your stuff when it comes to sports betting or just like to set your money on fire. In this case, we will put the reigning Most Valuable Player from the defending National Basketball Association’s champion Golden State Warriors, guard Stephen Curry, and put him up against the entire Carolina Panther offense in a simple challenge:  who will score the most points?

Just a couple of nights ago, Curry went unconscious in scoring 51 points in a game, including scoring 25 in the first quarter alone. Currently he is averaging 29.8 per game to lead the NBA in scoring so, allowing for the spread, the Panthers would have to come within 4.5 points of Curry’s output against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night in Oakland. With the Thunder/Warriors game on primetime television – and the fact that Curry will be taking on two other superstars of the NBA in the Thunder’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook – I’m expecting Curry to go off in this game; take Curry and give up the points. Don’t bother about betting the money line on this one because whenever you see both sides with the same payoff, there’s no side for action.

GRAMMY Awards 2015

Length of time for Lady Gaga to sing the National Anthem:

UNDER 2:20 – -200
OVER 2:20 – +150

It wasn’t announced until this week that Lady Gaga would take on the National Anthem prior to the start of the Super Bowl and, once she was named, the wagering began on how long it would take her to sing the song. There is actually a precedent for Gaga with the National Anthem; in 2013, she performed the National Anthem in public and brought it in five seconds under the 2:20 that the line is currently set. You can also consider that, off the last ten Super Bowls played, only one (Alicia Keys in Super Bowl XLVII) went longer than 2:20 (Keys’ was 2:35).

Personally, I think that the scheduling for the Super Bowl has gotten so precise that there is no way that it will go beyond 2:20. I’d like to see a Lady Gaga prop bet on whether she’ll be dressed normally – like she was when she performed on the Academy Awards last year when she performed her stirring tribute to Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music – or whether she’ll come dressed as the Vince Lombardi Trophy. For this bet, though, take the UNDER.

How many times will the Golden Gate Bridge be shown?

OVER .5 – -400
UNDER .5 – +250

This is an intriguing bet. All the Golden Gate Bridge would have to do is show up once to either win someone a nice payday or, if it doesn’t show at all, let someone else pick up some nice green. You might think this one is a no-brainer, but some are overthinking it way too much. The game is being contested in Santa Clara, CA, at Levi’s Stadium, quite some distance from the Golden Gate Bridge, which makes some believe that the iconic span won’t be seen at all during the game broadcast. But the stadium IS the home for the San Francisco 49ers, the Super Bowl festivities for the week have consistently been focused around the Bay Area (that’s where the NFL Network and ESPN has parked their carcasses for the week) and the two teams are both staying in hotels in San Francisco. That means the stock footage shot by the CBS crew has got to have some of the San Fran surroundings in it and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge is a part of that. If you’re going to bet this angle, take the OVER and pick up an easy payday.

Will Mike Carey be wrong on a challenge?

YES – +145
NO – -190

It is tough enough for the seven guys on the field – the officials assigned to the game by the NFL – to determine what happens in a football game, let alone the Super Bowl. In that rare case when there is a replay challenge – either called by one of the coaches or by dictate of the rules – it can be even more difficult for the replay official to make a determination of the call. That is where CBS’ replay guru Mike Carey comes into play.

Carey, a veteran official who worked one Super Bowl, has caught a great deal of grief for some missteps he has made through the season regarding review calls. With hope, there will be no need for Carey’s (or the replay official’s) services in Super Bowl 50 but, just in case there is a couple of instances where Carey is called on, let’s go ahead and pick YES here for a nice $145 score if we bet $100.

What color will be the Gatorade dump?

Orange – +125
Blue – +300
Clear – +400
Yellow – +400
Red – +600
Green – +1000
Purple – +1000

You might think that, with the Panthers favored to win the game, that a bet on BLUE would be a good call here. That isn’t necessarily the case; after winning the NFC Championship Game, the Panthers doused head coach Ron Rivera with ORANGE Gatorade. In fact, three of the last six Super Bowl winners have chosen the ORANGE bath and that seems to be the safe way to go. I’ve looked around and the one bet that I haven’t been able to find…what if, for a change, there wasn’t a Gatorade bath? I’d like to put a wager on that one myself.

And that’s the thing about Super Bowl prop bets…if you look around long enough, if you find the right spot online or you find yourself in the right locale to be able to get someone to set the bet for you personally, you can bet on pretty much anything about the game. It also gives you something to think about, especially if the game turns into a blowout (see Super Bowl XLVIII, Seattle vs. Denver, as an example).

In Part Two, we’ll actually look at the reason everyone will be tuning in on Sunday…THE COMMERCIALS!!! No, we will take a look at the game and see who will be lifting the Lombardi Trophy come Sunday night.