Tuesday, November 17, 2015
The Fix is IN! A Candid Conversation About Game Fixing in Pro Sports with Brian Tuohy
Everyone who watches a game, Football, Baseball, Hockey etc., wants to think that the teams are equally matched or slightly mismatched and that the playing fields are level. But, what if they are not? Is it possible to have games already decided before they were played and what if the answer is YES.
Brian Tuohy has written about this very subject and he joins me via email to take a look at this question. Brian thanks for taking time to talk about this very interesting subject.
Brian T.: No problem. Thanks for including me.
Cliff T.: Off the hop, got to ask the question are games fixed? If so what is the percentage or is that a, shall we say, well kept secret?
Brian T.: Well, I believe games are fixed for two reasons. The first is what most people think of when it comes to fixing: for gambling purposes. For example, to beat the point spread. The other way I believe games are fixed is by the leagues themselves. They manipulate their own games for better TV ratings, greater fan interest, and more profit.
As for how many games are fixed, there’s no way of telling. Most American sports fans don’t even believe it’s possible for a game to be fixed at the pro level, whether it’s by gamblers or by the league. But if you look elsewhere in the world, match fixing is rampant in soccer, tennis, cricket, and rugby. To know that World Cup soccer games – literally, the most watched sporting event on Earth – has had matches fixed during the tournament, and yet to claim that something like an NBA game can’t be fixed is naïve to say the least. But to the question at hand, I don’t believe every game is fixed, but more games are tampered with than people would expect.
Cliff T.: From what I seen on your site promoting your latest book Season of Abyss the amount of money in illegal betting is huge, something like 80 BILLION. That is staggering? And if I am not mistaken that is just for Football. What about say Hockey Baseball and Basketball?
Brian T.: No one can really say how much money is wagered illegally on sports in the US. It’s mostly controlled by organized crime, and the FBI believes it to be the mob’s top money maker. Estimates range from $80 billion to $500 billion bet illegally each year. Las Vegas claims it is responsible for one to three percent of all sports wagering in the US, and they booked approximately $4 billion in bets in 2014. If they are correct in their estimations, then the illegal sports gambling industry is pushing the higher end of that range. The NFL is the wagering favorite for most people, and likely accounts for over half of all bets made (well over $1 billion a week illegally bet on the NFL). From there, for the pro sports, the NBA, MLB, and NHL would follow in that order popularity-wise.
Cliff T.: In a nutshell what you are saying here is that sports is merely a business and that the notion of equal is simply a lie and that above and under the table the fix is in to ensure that big money players get a return on investments, both legal and an illegal is that a fair statement?
Brian T.: Some people believe that the leagues work in conjunction with the sports gambling world and manipulate games accordingly. I haven’t seen direct evidence of that, but have heard plenty of rumors along those lines.
But professional sports is certainly a business. A multi-billion dollar industry operating under the guise of “sports” when it’s admittedly “entertainment.” Many other multi-billion dollar companies – from Disney to General Electric to McDonalds to Nike and so on – profit off of sports’ back. And if you are to believe all of them, despite the leagues having the legal ability to manipulate their own games to make them more compelling for fans, they refuse to do so. Why? They claim it’s to maintain their “integrity.” Supposedly then, they leave their businesses completely up to chance. I don’t believe that. I don’t believe in coincidence, especially when billions of dollars are in play.
The smart business decision for the leagues, the TV networks, and their advertisers would be to alter the games as needed, to create story lines and star athletes in order to drive fans to the stadiums and their televisions in order to profit off of them.
Cliff T.: How long has this been going on for, or do you have an idea?
Brian T.: Game fixing in the US dates back to at least the 1850s, when baseball players were known to fix games for gamblers. It’s never left our sports, be it in boxing, horse racing, baseball, football, basketball – nearly every sport has seen a fixing/gambling scandal occur at some point in time.
As for this notion of a league fixing its own, I think the first good example of this was Super Bowl III in which the NY Jets upset the Baltimore Colts. This was an outcome the league needed to have. With the AFL and NFL merging at the time (they were two rival leagues in the 1960s), the owners knew that NFL fans (which outnumbered AFL fans about three to one) weren’t accepting of the AFL’s talent level. And the Packers blowing out the AFL’s best in the first two Super Bowls proved this point. Super Bowl III looked to have a similar outcome pending as the Colts were one of the best teams the NFL has ever seen (even up to present day). So I think the league fixed the game, had the Colts take a dive, and legitimized the AFL and the merger in the process. That business decision made the league the multi-billion dollar monster it is today. Yet fans are supposed to believe it just “happened” and all the benefits that came out of that outcome were mere “luck.”
Cliff T.: What I found very interesting is that there is no law against fixing games. In essence all the major leagues can legally fix a game, if they want to. What should the fan take from this?
Brian T.: They should look at the games they watch in a completely different fashion. Most don’t believe this to be true, but there is no law preventing a league from fixing its own game. The Sports Bribery Act of 1964 forbids a gambler/mobster from bribing a player, coach, or referee from altering the outcome of a game, but if a league (the employer) tells a referee (its employee) to favor one team/player over another and that changes the course of the game, it’s not bribery. Therefore, it’s not a crime. And this sort of action doesn’t even constitute fraud, for buying a ticket to a game merely entitles a person to see such an event. It doesn’t mean the stated rules must be followed or players have to perform up to a certain level. You bought a ticket to see an NBA game, they provided you with such a contest, and therefore the contract has been fulfilled. It really is just entertainment, and must be viewed as such. Nothing more.
Cliff T.: Knowing that a game can be fixed certainly does not make wanting to watch not to mention attend a game. Yet in many stadiums and arenas the seats are full. Is this because the fans are not aware of this or that fans just don't care.
Brian T.: It’s both. Fans don’t realize this is true, yet many don’t or won’t care once they learn this truth because sports is entertainment. It’s an escape from everyday life, much like other TV programs or movies are. And I don’t blame people for wanting to watch because it can be entertaining. I just want them to be educated of this reality, and not be suckers (or shills) for these businesses that call themselves “sports.”
Cliff T.: I'd put money down, bad pun, that you are not very welcome amongst those who are in the fixing games biz. What has been the reaction to your site and the books you have published.
Brian T.: 99.9 percent of the email I get from people is extremely positive. Most are happy to have found my work/research because they’ve had a similar thought/feeling but couldn’t find an outlet to confirm such suspicions. So the general public – at least those I hear from – are on my side. But the same can’t be said of the ESPNs of this world. I know I’ve been censored (what I call “censorship by omission”) because certain radio and TV shows (as well as some publications) refuse to have me on, or have asked me to be on, then later backed out, never to reschedule. If I can’t get publicity, then I can’t spread my message. Out of sight, out of mind.
Cliff T.: Why do you feel that it is important to share this stuff with the world, what do you want the sports world to do?
Brian T.: Well, asking for the sports world to admit to such things is a pipe dream. But, they kinda, sorta already do. Prior to and after each NFL game, they tell you, “The following is a presentation of the National Football League.” It’s just no one stops to think what’s meant by that statement, especially the word “presentation.” So my hope is just to stop fans from drinking this Kool-Aid, and look at sports rationally. Recognize them for the big businesses they are, and what that means. Be educated fans, and if you still decide to watch, fine. Just know what it is you’re watching.
Cliff T.: When you started to dig into this file were you surprised to see just how much, if I can use the word, corruption there is in sports? Or were you just like OK this is big, but never did I think this was huge?
Brian T.: I started this by accident. I was a sports fan growing up, but then I read two influential books: Interference by Dan Moldea and They Call It a Game by Bernie Parrish. I looked at sports differently since then, and started to see the corruption within the game. Once you see it, once you look for it, you can’t help but find it everywhere. The leagues outright lie to their fans, and instead of acting as a watchdog, the sports media world help them in this deception. The more I dug, the worse it got. That’s what led me to write my first book, The Fix Is In, and from there I just kept rolling. I never really meant to be a sports (corruption) writer, but since no one else will do the job, here I am.
Cliff T.: How do you go about getting the data, or is that one of those 007 secret things?
Brian T.: I did a lot of reading, and a lot of research. Much of this info was out there, it was just that no one bothered to stitch it all together. I also interviewed other experts. But the biggest thing I uncovered was the FBI’s investigations into game fixing on the gambling side of things. Through the Freedom of Information Act, I obtained every file the FBI had relating to game fixing. It amounted to over 400 files covering everything from college sports to the NFL, NBA, and MLB as well as horse racing and boxing. And what it showed was that when a league like the NFL claims to never have had a game fixed, it is glossing over a lot of information. The FBI had evidence that Hall of Fame NFL and NBA players were betting on their own respective sports and possibly fixing games. All of this formed the basis of my book Larceny Games.
Cliff T.: I could go on asking tons of questions, but I know you are one busy fella. That said I do want to thank you for dropping some knowledge on us with respect to this subject.
Brian T.: No problem. I’m always happy to discuss the subject. And people are always welcome to contact me through my website with their own questions or if they have information to share. Thanks!
Brian Tuohy, author and investigative reporter based out of Wisconsin. His website is a fascinating read. Visit at http://thefixisin.net/index.html and read for yourself what Brain has to say about sports betting and game fixing amongst other things.
Brian wrote to us from Wisconsin