Sportswriter Tuohy (Larceny Games: Sports Gambling, Game Fixing and the FBI, 2013, etc.) presents, in depth, the seamy world of football gambling.
Sports are betting games, and football is no different. Tuohy, who has written about sports for many publications, including Vice, here effectively brings to light what he sees as the illusory nature of football’s vaunted integrity. Financially strapped, amateur-status college players generate significant money for vested interests, so, to the author, it hardly seems hypocritical when they accept rewards under the table. But Tuohy’s biggest bugbear is the National Football League, which presents a squeaky-clean image to the world. The NFL says it doesn’t condone gambling, but such talk is meaningless, the author says, when gambling is legal and vigorous in Nevada. Tuohy admits that there’s “no record” of the biggest, most shadowy operators. But the records of police departments, the FBI, and investigative reporters offer clear evidence of an army of bookies ready to service bettors and organized crime: “Bookies are the foot soldiers of this illegal empire,” writes Tuohy. “They make the wheels turn, grinding those profits into the mob’s coffers.” They also may generate some $80 billion a year in unlawful bets, he says. His book also has much to report on the ruinous fallout from gambling, including addiction, players missing a block or faking an injury for payola, and the consequences of repeated concussions. Overall, Tuohy, who’s written at length about sports gambling in the past, is an excellent Virgil for this inferno. What makes his history of football wagering particularly pungent is that it comes in the wake of so many other football-related scandals, such as those involving physical abuse, cheating, and brain trauma. His tone is tough and common-sensical throughout, and he writes at times like he’s talking around a cigar: one “legendary oddsmaker,” he says, “was pinched by the feds” before he could hoodwink any more “noobs.”
A fresh but dispiriting spin on an old sports story: money corrupts—and lots of money corrupts absolutely.