Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The NFL (Pick Your Sport) is Fixed!

I remember back in the late 70's I'd go to Sunday dinner at my aunts and uncles, and on one occasion the final round of the Masters was on.  Lanny Wadkins or some other golfer of the era made a putt and my uncle exclaimed, "I knew that was going in, they want him to win, this is all fixed."

A curious little fellow, I asked why and his explanations didn't seem to make much sense. It was just fixed. All sports were. 

I found out later - talking to many people with grandpas and uncles like him - this seemed to be a common theme with some immigrants like my uncle from the "old country", where communism and socialism reigned. You don't believe "the state" because the state has everything figured out for you. 

Weakening my life experiences conclusions, fast forward to free and open twitter in free and open countries, and forty years later - the fix was in on Sunday for the Chiefs-Bengals game. The calls went one way, the NFL wanted this match up, etc. It's all over the web. 

I understand there is some evidence of this. In fact, studies have been done and books like Scorecasting delved into home-away or chalk dog biases. We watched the Bortles led Jaguars against the Brady Pats a few years ago in the AFC Championship where the Jags were thrashing them and the Pats didn't have a flag until late in the 3rd quarter. Perhaps there was an iota of "how is this underdog ahead, are we doing something wrong" from the officials. But replaying the game it's really hard to see that. The calls were kind of fine, and the better team did win.  

We might lament the inquiry at Santa Anita that "they won't chuck Baffert" but really, would they have chucked any horse in this position? And who in California racing really, really loves Baffert anyway at this point? Perhaps a better argument is the other way around. 

The problem I find with "fixes", is that when we do the math, they're really hard to conclude. It's like the old Trump-Russia threads by that internet celebrity prof who had 400 tweet strings. He'd start with a premise that might be 50% true and add 50% possible truth's to it, weaving a story. You'd read the end conclusion and say "wow this makes sense". But mathematically we were looking at a conclusion that was 0.5 to the power of 400 of being true. In other words, zero. 

Maybe the fix was in when they pitched my horse, or my team got called for holding. Maybe the officials wanted Patrick Mahomes to be in the Super Bowl (Joe Burrow is not marketable, I guess). Hey, I'm the first to admit that I don't know for sure. But when I apply a little math and common sense, I can't help but conclude it's just simply the randomness of it all. 

Have a nice Tuesday everyone. 

1 comment:

TheDukeofNuke said...

I think Super Bowl III was fixed. The Colts were favored by 19 1/2 points and big favorites lose games but usually when they are transfixed on next week's game against their division rival. Not in the Super Bowl. The Colts had just shut out the Browns 34-0. They were 13-1 and their only loss to those same Browns.

The Packers had snuffed out the first two AFL champions and the word was that if there was another drubbing the merger wouldn't happen. No merger meant millions of dollars to NFL owners wouldn't happen. There was a very good reason to fix this game.

How was it fixed. My conclusion is based on Earl Morral, the MVP of the league, playing like a rookie. The other is Don Shula waiting until at or near the forth quarter to put in a healthy Johnny Unitas.

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