NFL a Hypocrite In Regards to Betting; Kings Lukewarm NHL Favorite; Turnovers Change the Game

nfl hypocrites

Hypocrisy with NFL in regards to betting amazes me
by Ted Sevransky
Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and current boss Roger Goodell were instrumental in getting the anti-gaming Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act attached to the Port Security Bill in October 2006. The NFL has taken this stance despite the fact its enormously popularity is, in no small part, due to the prevalence of betting on games.

The hypocrisy of the NFL in regards to betting is almost laughable. The facts, as you will see, clearly show the league was founded by gamblers for gamblers. From the NFL’s first television appearance in 1939 through the current TV deals that pump nearly six billion dollars per year into the league coffers, the NFL’s popularity rests upon the shoulders of those who wager on the outcome of the games.

Here in the 21st century, the NFL is the most popular and profitable sport in the United States. NFL owners are among the richest men in the world. Lesser franchises like the Buffalo Bills are bought and sold for more than a billion dollars. However, the league’s humble origins were anything but the extravagant bonanza that is the NFL today.

The NFL was founded in 1922 by changing its name from the American Professional Football Association, a short lived league that lasted only two years. The NFL was a Midwest-oriented league, with teams in Akron, Canton, Dayton, Rochester, Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and other smaller Midwest cities. Every year throughout the 1920’s – often in mid-season – franchises folded, and new clubs were added to the mix.

In 1925, Tim Mara founded the New York Giants, the first East Coast team, for the paltry fee of $500, having never actually witnessed an NFL game himself. Mara’s ownership of an NFL franchise was a secondary profession for him. He was first and foremost a well-connected trackside bookie, taking bets on horse racing from a coveted spot inside the clubhouse.

Mara’s bookmaking prowess was well publicized in the New York newspapers, and he earned a small fortune during the roaring twenties, setting odds and taking large wagers from upper class bettors. But he saw the writing on the wall for trackside bookies, as police crackdowns and paramutual betting threatened the industry. His attempt to diversify his holdings was, and is, a common and sensible Wall Street strategy. Mara’s first major attempt at diversification hit the jackpot, and his descendants still own the franchise today.

The league’s finances were still on shaky ground when the depression hit. The NFL’s fee to form a franchise was only $2,500 when Art Rooney founded the Pittsburgh Pirates, who later were re-named the Steelers. Where did Rooney get the money? From gambling, of course!

Rooney was an avid horse player, the most popular form of sports betting in the pre-pointspread era. His success at the track was legendary. In a single day at the famed Saratoga Racetrack, Rooney beat the bookies for $124,000, picking six winners on a seven race card. Back in Pittsburgh, Rooney was a bookie, running a “wire room” that took bets from horse players from all over Western Pennsylvania. He parlayed that success into NFL ownership. Rooney’s descendants still own the Steelers today.

Charles Bidwell was a racetrack owner in Chicago in the 1920’s. He had very close ties with Al Capone and the Chicago mafia, and was an avid bettor himself. Bidwell bought the Chicago Cardinals in 1932 for $2,000. His son still owns the franchise, currently located in Arizona. Early Detroit Lions owner George Richards was also strongly linked to both the mafia and gambling interests.

Even the commissioner of the league, Bert Bell, a former co-owner of the Steelers with Art Rooney, had significant gambling interests. Bell’s father was a prominent man in society, the attorney general of Pennsylvania. That connection certainly helped keep the heat off his own gambling interests and operations during his stint as a player and coach in the 1930’s, continuing through his ascension to NFL commissioner in 1946.

The All-American Football League was founded in 1946 as a rival to the NFL. The new league’s most successful franchise was the Cleveland Browns. The Browns won all four league titles before their three most successful franchises were absorbed by the NFL in 1950. Cleveland’s first owner, Mickey McBride, was another known horse betting wire-room operator and gambler.

These early owners all had one thing in common – a strong connection to the horse racing industry. The horse racing industry skyrocketed in popularity for one reason, and one reason only – gambling. But there was one leak in the horse racing industry. The so called “blue laws” prohibited race tracks (and many other businesses) from operating on Sunday.

When the NFL was founded in the early 1920’s, games were scheduled haphazardly throughout the weekend, often competing with the racetracks on Friday and Saturday evenings. The owners soon realized their core audience of bettors needed something to do after church on Sunday.

Since NFL games on Sunday weren’t strictly prohibited by the blue laws, the league’s founders latched onto the idea of Sunday afternoon football games. By the 1930’s, largely due to Mara’s influence, NFL games kicked off at 1 p.m. on Sundays without competition from the racetrack.

And that is why pro football is played on Sundays – for the gamblers.

Ted Sevransky is one of the nation’s premier sports handicappers and analysts. Find Teddy’s work at Follow Teddy on Twitter @teddy_covers or visit his page at Contact Ted Sevransky at


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NHL is still favoring the Kings in the new season
by Nick Pellegrino

Following more than 40 years of epic failure, “my” Los Angeles Kings shocked the hockey world by finally garnering the Stanley Cup. To do something twice over a three-season span offered me thoughts of retiring (which would please many of you, but I digress).

So here comes the bandwagon jumpers, all wanting a piece of L.A.’s only “Silver & Black” team (sans you Raiders fans). Thus, the Kings (+175) are the betting favorite to claim the Pacific Division title over Anaheim (+250).

Let’s look for value in selecting division winners.

Pacific Division

This lineup may be deep at the top half, yet only three sides advanced to postseason competition, as the Central Division’s fifth-place team (Dallas) nosed out the Pacific’s No. 4 team to gain the final seed in the conference tournament.

The Kings should again re-join the Ducks (my projected division winner) and San Jose, with Vancouver still in rebuild mood, Arizona (formerly “Phoenix”) looking forward to a potential move to nearby Seattle in less than five years, and waits on Calgary and Edmonton to return to their 1980s glory.

L.A. is a poor pick to capture the division because, simply, they could not care less about winning it. GM Dean Lombardi and Coach Darryl Sutter use the regular season to gain playoff position and seek matchup advantages. If that means sacrificing a game or two along the way, no problem.

If there is a team that could drop, obviously a re-working of the Sharks may not be quick turnaround. Pulling the captain’s “C” from Joe Thornton is cosmetic at best, but remember this about the Sharks:

If not for some injuries, they complete a first-round sweep of the Kings on Apr. 24 (“The Day the Music Died”) and maybe they are the ones hoisting the Cup.

The physiological damage – both long- and short-term – of the disappointing Sharks may be the key for those placing wagers on teams in this division.

Central Division

Chicago again is the best team, but Colorado shocked everyone to skate past the field to claim the banner. This year, it could happen again, but St. Louis, Minnesota and Dallas all are capable.

Like the Kings, the Blackhawks play for postseason success, so if the others want to waste their energies, all the better.

The Avalanche are a curiosity. Coach Patrick Roy utilized the college “rah, rah” approach to take the division, but were winless all preseason before scoring an overtime winner to nip the Kings in the teams’ annual contest here in Las Vegas.

We look at Nashville as a rising contender for a playoff berth. Following the dismissal of Barry Trotz, the only coach in Predators history, Peter Laviolette arrives with experience in building winners. The acquisition of James Neal from Pittsburgh ignites a transition from a defense-minded team into one that looks for offense first.

Among the teams that could drop, a drastic free-fall by Colorado seems unlikely. Minnesota may get edged out since we like the progress being made by Dallas, while Chicago and St. Louis are too strong.


As told in this column last season, Boston is the better overall team, but Montreal designed its roster to defeat the Bruins – and it worked. Of course the Canadiens then had matchup problems with the Rangers, but that’s another story.

The Bruins (+150) have the shortest price of any division favorite, with Tampa Bay (+400) a nickel better than the Habs (+450). The Lightning are the upset favorite to win the division, thanks to Norris Trophy contender Victor Hedman and acquiring C Brian Boyle.

We all wait for Detroit to finally miss the postseason. If the Red Wings do fail, Toronto and a healthy Ottawa could step up. Florida and Buffalo are years away.

The Maple Leafs may be the UNDER play on a nightly basis, bolstered by defensemen Stephane Robidas and Roman Polak. The Senators will find the net for years to come if they can sign Bobby Ryan to a long-term contract.


Sure, on paper the Penguins will claim a fourth division title in five seasons. But failing to lower-seed opponents forced ownership to clean house, welcoming a new GM and coach, plus a host of new players in a “win or bust” mentality.

The Pens also need to help Kris Letang, the team’s lone true defensive-minded defenseman of any quality. Thus, looking to the OVER is a good first step when considering the betting board.

The N.Y. Rangers, already bolstered by G Henrik Lundqvist, saw D Ryan McDonagh blossom during the playoffs, joining Marc Staal and Dan Girardi to anchor the best back end in the division.

If Dan Boyle can come in and be the puck-moving defenseman needed to alter the fortunes of the power play, the Blue Shirts could contend for the division crown.

We told you all about Columbus last season, while New Jersey and Washington both inserted missing pieces, meaning Philadelphia may be on the outside looking in come playoff time.

The N.Y. Islanders, the one East Coast team most fans seem to want to talk about when in town, finally filled their goalie hole with Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson. With the Metro easily the NHL’s weakest division, maybe the Isles could sneak into Cup competition and win a series for the first time since – gulp! – the 1992-93 campaign.

In Washington, Trotz takes over behind the bench, but just how healthy – physically and emotionally – is Alex Ovechkin?

Contact Nick at



Turnovers can change the tide of winning bets
by Jim Feist

A few weeks ago a big NFC South matchup took place on national TV between the Bucs and Falcons, two teams with something to prove off 4-12 campaigns.

Many were expecting a close duel between these rivals. Atlanta turned the ball over 4 times – at home, no less! So did the visitors hang close as a big dog? No, Atlanta won 56-14!

What happened? Tampa Bay was even worse, turning it over 5 times along with 11 penalties for 110 yards. Throw in the 488 yards the Falcons rolled up and you can see why it was a blowout.

A year ago at this time the 49ers and Seahawks clashed in a preview of the NFC title game. But it wasn’t close as Seattle rolled, 29-3. Seattle won the turnover battle, 5-1.

That was similar to another showdown on national TV between the Ravens and Jets, as the Baltimore offense had just 267 total yards and was a measly 6 of 18 on third down. In addition, they averaged 2.8 yards per rush. What a terrible offensive performance! Oh, and by the way the Ravens won the game, 34-17.

The difference again was turnovers, with the Jets coughing it up 4 times (3 fumbles, 1 pick). Turnovers are one of the most basic fundamentals of winning football, both straight up and against the number when analyzing football picks.

Defensive coaches have been preaching more aggressive, attacking stop units over the last 15 years. Coach Steve Spurrier has spent three decades coaching college and pro football, at Duke, Florida, South Carolina and the Washington Redskins.

When asked about what the biggest change he had noticed in the college game, Spurrier spoke not about the wide-open passing attack he helped popularize, but about defenses. He said when he first took over at Duke in the 1980s, defenses were basic and reacted to what the offense would try and do.

However, since that time, defenses have become far more aggressive, trying to attack the offense rather than sit back and react. The Chicago Bears’ famed 46 defense caused havoc around the league during a 1985 Super Bowl season.

The Bears that year were 18-1 straight up and 15-3-1 against the spread, led by a devastating, attacking defense. They pitched four shutouts and held 14 of 19 opponents to 10 points or less.

Defensive coaches in both the pro and college ranks have been teaching players to not only tackle properly, but to aggressively strip the ball from opposing players. Jim Harbaugh, Bill Belichick, and the Ryan brothers have used their teaching talents to upgrade defenses.

A key component of aggressive defenses is to force more turnovers. They are a huge part of any contest. The last team to win the AFC East other than the Patriots was the surprising Miami Dolphins, who came out of nowhere in a stunning one-year turnaround.

It’s no coincidence the Dolphins led the NFL (+17 in turnover margin) that season, then were minus 8 in TOs the next year, going 7-9. The Patriots went 14-2 SU, 10-5-1 ATS in 2010, setting a record for positive turnover margin.

Two years ago the worst turnover-margin teams were a combined 34-61-1 ATS and three years ago 55-75. A quarterback who throws too many picks can kill the momentum of his offense, and his confidence can get worn down. It can even spill over onto the sidelines.

Be careful backing teams that are sloppy at taking care of the football when analyzing football picks. Chances are they don’t win or cover the number as regularly as those that play smart, mistake-free ball.

Jim Feist, author and leader in sports information for over 40 years, hosts TV’s Proline as well as running National Sports Services since 1975. Follow him on twitter: @JimFeistSports . Reach him at


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