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 na├»ve 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

Monday, November 9, 2015

Shakespeare's Twelfth Night Gets Jazzy - A Candid Conversation With Becca Kidwell Explains


To say that I am well versed in the plays of Shakespeare would be a stretch, though I have read two books, MacBeth and the Merchant of Venice.

I do like it when I find some interesting twists on the norm. Like the one I found the other day. Imagine Twelfth Night a Shakespeare play done to a jazz theme. A very interesting twist on a classic and to speak more about this I am happy to welcome Becca Kidwell from Swiftly Tilted Theatre Inc., the company bringing this show to the stage in New York.

Cliff T.: Becca, a Shakespeare play done in a jazz bar setting that is very different indeed.
 

Becca K.: Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s most musical plays; it had more songs in it because the new actor in Shakespeare’s company that played the Fool in many of his later plays had a musical background. Also, we are dealing with drowning in one of the first scenes of the play and that most of the characters are drowning in their own sorrows or passions or in drink and that a jazz bar is actually a logical choice for the show. 

Cliff T.: I Agree it is unique and very logical. As I mentioned I am not versed in Shakespeare. But from what I have read this is a story about love gone amiss, would that be accurate? Or to put it another way can you explain what Twelfth Night is about?  

Becca K.: Twelfth Night is about a group of relatively wealthy folks who spend their time longing after what they don’t have or what they’ve lost. The twins, Sebastian and Viola have lost their family and each other in a shipwreck and are really looking for life after their loss; they find love by accident. Sebastian is saved by the sailor Antonio and wanders around unsure of what his next move will be. Viola dresses up as a man and joins Orsino’s court as a servant. Orsino has seen a beautiful woman named Olivia whom he has never talked to himself, but he is lovesick for her and keeps sending his servants to court her, but she wants nothing to do with him. She falls for Viola (dressed as a man), and Olivia begins to pursue him (her). Toby, Olivia’s uncle, lives off of Olivia’s money and spends his time getting drunk and playing pranks on anyone he can. He has his friend, Andrew Aguecheek, court Olivia, but as the plot unfolds, it becomes evident is around largely for his bankroll for Toby. By the end of the play, all the lovers have found the partners they are meant to be with: Orisino with Viola, Olivia with Sebastian, Toby with Maria. Most of Toby’s pranks are unraveled and forgiven with the exception of the extremely cruel one played on Olivia’s Puritanical servant Malvolio, which more or less is forgiven in the text, but not in my production.  

Cliff T.: Can you explain why you decided not to forgive the prank in your production?

Becca K.: I have always thought it is an extremely cruel prank (they lock him away and make everyone thinks he's mad). They remember him as an afterthought. Malvolio is so uptight and thinks that he was more virtuous than everyone else that in my view, this prank would be the final straw. In his own way, he's going to drown himself in his own rage and look for ways to make others miserable.   

Cliff T.: I can see how this play could lend itself to a jazz theme given that many jazz tunes are about love lost. Yet this play is considered to be a comedy. In your adaptation of the play are you mixing humor with the theme of love gone wrong or are you planning on staying true to the original plot of the play? 

Becca K.: Shakespeare’s comedies actually tend to lend themselves to more dramatic—or at least melodramatic interpretations. (Much Ado About Nothing is one step away from being a tragedy, if the timing had been only moments off). These characters are highly choleric. Sebastian thinks Viola is dead and Viola thinks Sebastian is dead so they’re not too keen on carousing and partying, which is all the rest of the characters do. I’ve compared Orsino to Gatsby and Olivia to Daisy. These two characters love being in the depths of their own despair, which lends itself to comedy if you know they’re not going to have tragic endings. The other characters such as Toby, Maria, and Andrew provide the “low comedy” with the various pranks and drunken carousing.

Cliff T.: Ah I understand. What prompted the choice, why this play? What about the Twelfth Night caught your interest? And what kind of message do you want the audience to get and take away with them after they see the play?

Becca K.: My first reason was that I wanted a non-holiday play for the holidays. While the play is called Twelfth Night it is rarely played on or around this time. By it playing around Christmas and New Year’s, it has given me the opportunity to set the show between New Year’s Eve party and a Twelfth Night party (for US people, that is approximately the equivalent of Mardi Gras). I was looking to do a lighthearted piece after our production of Radiance, The Passion of Marie Curie by Alan Alda. I love Shakespeare and love sharing it with others. It’s fun and one of Shakepeare’s easier plays to understand, and I thought it would be a good place for our company to start with Shakespeare. I’m not really looking to send a “message,” but if I was to send one with this production it would be: to not take life to seriously and take time to enjoy all the little moments life provides. With the exception of the twins, everyone else’s misery in this play is mere hubris.    

Cliff T.: I also noticed that you are hosting some events, Twelfth Night Music Jam and a workshop. Both sound really interesting can you describe what people attending each will experience?   

Becca K.: The class will be an introduction/ re-introduction to Shakespeare using the text of Twelfth Night as its basis. This will hopefully add an additional level of appreciation for the production, which is why participants in the class get discounts on tickets and a copy of the text. At the music jam, they will hear the original jazz music composed for the show performed by the cast and composer in a small casual coffeehouse/bar atmosphere, QED Astoria. Additional music by Jenni Lark and Zac Pierce-Messick will also be performed. Both of these events should provide additional excitement to see the production.    

Cliff T.: Becca, how long have you been with Swiftly Tilted?

Becca K.: I created Swiftly Tilting Theatre Project, Inc. in 2013. I was a high school teacher encouraging students to go after their dreams, and I realized that I was not going after my dreams, directing theatre.    

Cliff T.: I know what you mean, I work in a call centre, not my dream but, doing interviews like this one is. Can you describe the mission of Swiftly Tilted?    

Becca K.: Our passion is To impact a small corner of the world and leave it a little better than before. To search for truth and to share love. To share our knowledge and skills in order to build a theatrical community, that provides affordable, quality, professional theatrical productions for the public through participation as artists, audiences, and students.    

Cliff T.: From the sound of it this is not just a job for you but a labor of love. How did you get involved in theatre and with Switly Tilted Inc.?

Becca. K: I wanted to be a theatre director since I was in high school, but took a long, circuitous path to end up working “in” theatre. I got my undergraduate degree in drama, but then I spent time in the business world, got my graduate degree in teaching, and taught high school for five years and starting the company. My husband and I moved to New York from Boston. He has been incredibly supportive of me getting the company going. I do not have a “day job”, but I really wouldn’t have the time or energy for one. This company takes my heart and soul into all of its work. 

Cliff T.: If I am not mistaken show times for the play run from December 27th to January 3rd. With a debut on the 24th, where and at what times are the performances going to be held at?

Becca K.: Due to the holidays, the schedule is somewhat irregular. The dates and times are: 12/24/2015 - 2:30pm – Preview, NO SHOW DECEMBER 25,12/26/2015 - 7:00pm, 12/27/2015 - 4:30pm,12/28/2015 - 7:30pm, NO SHOWS DECEMBER 29, 30, 31, 1/1/2016 - 7:30pm, 1/2/2016 - 7:00pm, and 1/3/2016 - 4:30pm. The performances are all held at The Secret Theatre, 4402 23rd St, Long Island City, NY. 

The Shakespeare class is being held on 12pm on 12/6/2015 and The Twelfth Night Debut Music Jam is being held at 7:30pm. Both of these events are being held at QED Astoria, 2716 23rd Ave, Astoria, NY.  Both of these locations are a short trip on the subway from Midtown Manhattan. 

Cliff T.: Excellent thank you so very much for taking time in your busy schedule to chat with me and my readers by email.

Becca K.: My pleasure. Thank you for your interest!

Becca Kidwell is the Director and the person who has adapted and directed Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night a play that will be presented by Swiftly Tilted Project Inc.

As mentioned the play will be held at The Secret Theatre, 4402 23rd St, Long Island City, NY. For dates times and tickets visit http://swiftlytwelfth.brownpapertickets.com, or call 1-800-838-3006. 


BIO: Becca C (Rebecca Cecilia) Kidwell, Artistic Director is directing Twelfth Night, and directed Swiftly Tilting Theatre Project’s other productions: Radiance, The Passion of Marie Curie; Don’t Speak Cabaret; and Priscilla Dreams The Answer (staged reading). 

Some of her favorite directing projects are: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Julie Johnson, and Measure for Measure. She also sings in cabarets such as Seth’s Talent Show & Metropolitan Room’s Kiddie Kabaret. 

She is the author of Feeling Pain Is Normal: An Analysis of Parental Grief in Next To Normal and the original author and editor of The New England Theatre Geek Blog. She has a BA in Drama from The University of Georgia and a MAT in English Education from Boston University. http://beccackidwell.glump.net

To learn more about Switly Tilted Project inc. visit swiftlytiltingtheatre.org. Becca Kidwell wrote to us from New York, NY.