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Gaming Guru

Ed Graney
 

Graney: No surprise that NFL canceled fantasy football convention in Las Vegas

8 June 2015

The screams and tweets and disparaging comments predictably began within seconds of the announcement, all fair and accurate.

The rule is stupid, the NFL is immersed in hypocrisy, and Roger Goodell just might be the most sanctimonious turd of a sports commissioner in history, which is saying something when you consider the list includes Bud Selig and Gary Bettman.

(OK, so Sepp Blatter was really the all-time worst before stepping down last week, but only because he always referred to FIFA as a “humble nonprofit association,” despite it now being embroiled in a historic bribery scandal and having more than $1.5 billion on reserve.)

But this is also true: When the NFL season kicks off Sept. 10 with the New England Patriots hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers, our eyes will be glued to the TV and millions will have already purchased RedZone and Fantasy Zone and the Sunday Ticket and any other Zone or Ticket that gives us more football and more stats and more injury updates while preparing for the first full weekend of games.

They have us, and they know it.

No matter how many fantasy conventions they scrap.

The biggest surprise that came from an inaugural National Fantasy Football Convention in Las Vegas being canceled is that anyone was the least bit surprised.

Set to be hosted July 10 to 12 by The Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino and featuring Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and several other premier players such as Dez Bryant and Rob Gronkowski and DeMarco Murray, the league stood behind its policy that “players and NFL personnel may not participate in promotional activities or other appearances in connection with events that are held at or sponsored by casinos.”

Pause here for laughter.

“I saw the promotion for this a month ago and could have told you then it was never, ever happening,” Las Vegas-based NFL agent Steve Caric said Saturday. “I live here. I know the town better than any (agent). If there was a loophole around the rule, I would have been on the telephone getting my guys involved. I’m perplexed how those who represent players of the level we are talking about thought this could happen. They all know the rules.

“I agree. It’s stupid. The NFL has again turned its back on this city when, in fact, it could be a great marriage. But this rule has been around for some time.”

Hand it to those at the NFL. They’re hardly duplicitous in playing the role of hypocritical boobs. They pretty much throw their fascist ways in our face, and we keep buying their tickets and jerseys and cable TV packages.

Should you visit the league’s website at nfl.com, you will find that before links for news or scores or schedules or stats or tickets or merchandise, is one for fantasy football. In fact, the homepage includes a sign-up link to create your own fantasy team, complete with information on mock drafts and player rankings and those considered potential sleepers and busts for the season.

This is an NFL that in 2011 printed an advertisement on its site touting fantasy football with an accompanying picture of Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles being carted off the field with a season-ending knee injury.

The ad read: “Injury ruined your fantasy season? Start again on NFL.com. It’s not too late.”

I’m telling you. Goodell and his minions have no shame.

That the NFL continues to brazenly champion an anti-gambling stance when it knows a profit margin that handsomely lines the pockets of owners is directly linked to those who wager on games and play fantasy football is a disingenuous ruse that has grown boring. Gambling, more than anything else, is responsible for the league’s global popularity. Fantasy football, more than anything else, has brought millions of eyeballs to the game that might otherwise glance elsewhere to be entertained.

Players are subject to fines and/or suspensions if they attend a fantasy convention in Las Vegas and are compensated for it, but the league annually plays a game at Wembley Stadium in London, where fans bet on the NFL at sports books across the street from the facility. Players can’t attend the convention, but Gronkowski can publicly promote and host his weekendlong birthday party last week at Rehab, a poolside club at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

You don’t think he was paid to appear in some manner?

Come on.

I have always believed this sort of Wild West approach to rulings a simple case of inflated egos within Goodell’s office. The NFL isn’t run by idiots. Just narcissists. They understand gaming in Las Vegas is legal and regulated, but still choose to turn a blind eye to the industry that provides them the most support.

Those who were partnering with Romo to run the convention, which was scheduled to feature more than 100 players and include interactive seminars, exhibits, question-and-answer sessions, autograph signings and other opportunities designed entirely for fantasy football fans, declined comment Saturday. More than anything else, they’re concerned about those who had already registered for the event and possibly spent money on travel and hotel costs.

“Those fans are the ones who end up getting screwed in this,” Caric said. “But the rule won’t change. You have a sport at its peak with a commissioner who has mishandled case after case after case and yet viewership isn’t going down and attendance hasn’t dropped.

“I’m just wondering if the people who were going to put this convention on covered all their bases. There was no way with a casino being involved as a host that this would happen. I’m surprised it took the NFL this long to shut it down.”

Romo and his partners announced the event in March, and you can bet the NFL knew well before Friday that it wouldn’t allow its players to participate, even though the sessions would have taken place at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, which has no on-site gambling.

Why it took so long for the NFL to get involved is anyone’s guess. The league can be shady like that.

But it’s done now, and those behind the project have said they will work on holding an inaugural convention next year in Los Angeles.

The NFL suits have spoken again.

In the same tired, foolish, single-minded, hypocritical voice as always.

But we will continue to watch their games and line their pockets.

They have us, and they know it.