By Ed McGranahan
Some of the most distinguished and many of the richest people in the world have gambled, in a fashion, so this isn’t about wagging fingers or disapproving looks.
Gambling is no longer illegal and in most cultures not immoral, but for some it may not be wise.
It’s around many of us most of our lives; the penny ante poker games, office pools and the proliferation of state lotteries. Investing in the markets is a gamble.
Linking Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd’s name to gambling was troublesome on several levels. A football player linked to gambling raises issues that can taint many of those around him because the first inclination is to wonder if he bet on his own team then tried to manipulate the outcome, and that’s cheating.
Boyd has never struck me as a person who would intentionally compromise the outcome of a game, never cheat his teammates or himself. Boneheaded as that fumble was Saturday, the thought of him taking his high school team to a state championship on a torn knee ligament speaks more to his character.
The reason this became a topic was because a website that sells “insider” information to gamblers said Boyd has $80,000 in gambling debts. It cited “sources,” and the writer calls himself Incarcerated Bob, a sophomoric attempt at dark and shady. Bob could be a pasty faced blob transfixed to monitors in his mother’s basement.
Earlier this year a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter, who has covered the gaming industry for five years including contributions to ESPN and The Sporting News, attempted to reach Incarcerated Bob for an interview. Incarcerated Bob had been a caller to a radio talk show in New York. In his blog “Bald and Sensitive,” David Purdum wrote in June, “All I really wanted was an interview.” Instead, Purdum said, he was harassed and threatened.
The betting line for the game opened with Florida State favored by 3½ despite being lowered ranked and the visiting team. The line held until Saturday when, shortly after the story published, the line moved to 5½, a significant difference.
In a response to an email, Incarcerated Bob said his information “comes from direct sources in Vegas that have ties to the bookies,” and that bettors who would drive a line already had it before his story.
Replying to a Twitter message I sent him, Purnum said the site “has continually made up stories (without) attribution for publicity. No reason to believe this is any different.”
Benjamin Allbright, who writes for Bleacher Report, sent a Tweet saying there was “zero truth to the rumor.” And Matt Miller of NFLDraftScout called it “a complete lie aimed at hurting the player.”
If the story was fabricated, it’s another example that makes this new age of media so frightening. Everyday people fabricate or distort facts to reflect an agenda. Balance and fairness are rarely considered. It bares scant resemblance to journalism and cripples the credibility of those who try to work within some ethical range.
Boyd’s parents are angry and considering legal action. If they can prove malice, and the story has no basis, they may have a case. My bet would be that Incarcerated Bob disappears.
“It’s disappointing that we live in this world where things like that happen,” Dabo Swinney said, clearly bothered by the timing in the wake of Saturday’s game. “I have no reason to think that he lied to me. He’s never lied to me before.”
Athletic Director Dan Radakovich asked the Clemson compliance office to examine the report. The department’s due diligence included interviewing Boyd and examining the site’s track record. The information was forwarded to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Had there never been a quarterback at Ohio State in the ’70’s named Art Schlichter, the story may have passed with a shrug. Had I confessed to my dad when I was 15 to betting on three high school football games, or the string of parlay cards in college, the possibility wouldn’t seem so real.
Schlichter, the guy who threw the pass Charlie Bauman intercepted in the 1978 Gator Bowl game, finished in the top six in the Heisman Trophy balloting three times. The fourth pick in the 1982 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts, his career was littered with his gambling addiction which was probably in trips to the harness track during high school.
By all accounts Schlichter was a good guy, as are John Daly, Michael Jordan, Pete Rose and Charles Barkley.
When the questions began Sunday, Boyd was backed into a corner that’s difficult to escape in the best circumstances. If he has done nothing, Boyd must wonder why he needs to prove himself. There may never be an opportunity to face his accuser and demand accountability, let alone an apology.
“Obviously it would be a major problem if you have somebody lying to you about something like that. You’d have to move on in a different direction. It’s that simple,” Swinney said.
“I have no reason not to trust him, absolutely. No question, his integrity is impeccable.”
Clemson is favored by 14 for Saturday’s game in College Park, Md., and Boyd needs to prepare for the verbal assault he’ll face. It won’t be any easier in Charlottesville, Va., or Columbia.
And even if Incarcerated Bob apologized tomorrow, the damage has been done. Hopefully it heals after Boyd leaves Clemson.