The "nation's most skeptical fan" airs his thoughts on an NFL season rife with intrigue.
By: James Swift
Just in time for Super Bowl XLIX, Uncommon Journalism recently conducted a video interview with Brian Tuohy, the author of "The Fix is In: The Showbiz Manipulations of the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and NASCAR" and "Larceny Games: Sports Gambling, Game Fixing and the FBI."
Part one of the video interview, which is also embedded in the article below, can be viewed in its entirety here. Part two, also embedded below, can be screened here.
Unsurprisingly, in the midst of an oddity-plagued NFL postseason -- topped off by the ongoing "Deflategate" brouhaha -- Tuohy has much to say about the current state of America's Game.
"I think if fans take that fan hat off and look at these games objectively, and understand this is a big business," he said, "the bad call in the Detroit/Dallas game, the questionable call in the Dallas/Green Bay game, the collapse of the Green Bay Packers even against the Seattle Seahawks ... you see things seem to be random and haphazard, but all these things end up benefiting the league."
A grand illusion?
Featured in Sports Illustrated and Vice, among other publications, Tuohy has also made media rounds on the Dan Patrick Show, the Artie Lange Show and the Alex Jones Show.
It is clear Tuohy is not your run of the mill ESPN junkie. A Mencken quote on the bottom of his official website puts it about as delicately as a helmet-to-helmet collision at full speed: "I hate all sports as rabidly as a person who likes sports hates common sense."
Tuohy said his books, both published by Feral House, were born out of a displeasure with the seedier elements of the sports world. If league officials were going out of their way to cover up steroids and gambling scandals, he said, then is it really that much of a stretch to assume the same upper brass might be tampering with game results, too?
After extensive research, Tuohy concluded that just about every professional sports association -- from FIFA to the UFC -- is likely taking a few shortcuts to make their products as exciting, and therefore as financially rewarding, as possible. According to Tuohy, this is not a recent trend, either, as he suspects the NFL of altering game outcomes going as far back as Super Bowl III. "It doesn't have to be some massive conspiracy that involves the league and the advertisers and the networks," he said. "Only a certain, select few people need to know in order to alter the outcome of a game, and I think it happens more often than people realize."
Tuohy is pretty forthright about his theses. While he believes there is a strong -- if not outright obvious -- likelihood that National Football League contests are manipulated to produce more favorable outcomes, he also said he does not have a conclusive "smoking gun" to prove that the league fixes its own match-ups.
"You'd have to find a whistle-blower, and unfortunately, I don't think that'll happen," he said. "The FBI couldn't prove games were fixed, despite the fact that had foreknowledge from gamblers and other sources, bookmakers, that players were working with organized crime elements to fix games ... they couldn't get confessions."
Tuohy said the inevitable backlash from former teammates and coaches -- not to mention the improbability of profiteering -- would leave players with little to gain from spilling the proverbial beans, outside of perhaps a "clean conscience." And even if a big name player were to step forward and claim he participated in match-fixing, Tuohy said a paper trail to back up his claims is not likely to exist.
"It would be very difficult to reveal all of this, unless there was a whole groundbreaking thing that came out," he said. "I just don't see that happening."
Why fix football games ... and how would it be done?
With annual revenue approaching $10 billion, Tuohy believes the NFL has plenty of economic reasons to pursue game-fixing.
"The most watched things in the history of American television are Super Bowls," he said. "There's all kind of money involved in this, and really, manipulating it and making sure its' entertaining is profitable to all those involved."
Tuohy said many pro football storylines, such as the rise and fall of the New Orleans Saints post-Hurricane Katrina, are just too good to be true. He also finds it peculiar how many teams pursuing new stadium deals tend to see a dramatic uptick in performance, only to witness a drastic decline in on-field performance once those billion dollar developments are finished.
Case in point? The San Francisco 49ers, who went from a sub-.500 squad prior to financing what would become Levi's Stadium to a team who made three consecutive NFC Championship Game appearances while their new digs in Santa Clara was under construction. The 2014 season was the team's first playing at the new state-of-the-art stadium; they finished with an 8-8 record and missed the playoffs. "I think the league uses teams and players like cogs in a bigger machine," Tuohy said, "and that machine is just geared to make profits."
While NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell has been widely criticized for his decisions, Tuohy said he is basically nothing more than a figurehead. The real power in the National Football League, Tuohy contests, is within the hands of leagues' 32 ownership groups.
"It's the owners that really run the league," he said. "Goddell is just merely the P.R."
As to how individual games could be fixed, Tuohy said there are several scenarios. Citing the Tim Donaghy scandal that rocked the NBA in 2007, he said the likeliest way to skew game outcomes is via referees.
Furthermore, if the league is indeed handing out edicts to officials on which calls to make or not make, Tuohy said there are no federal laws that would effectively penalize the league -- not even the Sports Bribery Act of 1964.
"If the league is doing this within itself, it's not bribing anyone," he said. "It's merely telling employees how they want a certain job to be done."
While NFL ticket purchasers are buying licenses to view games, Tuohy said the league has no legal obligation to provide spectators with a contest on the up-and-up. After an incensed Jets fan filed a consumer fraud suit in the wake of "Spygate," a 2010 United States 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling declared game attendees were guaranteed nothing more than entertainment -- be it genuine or manufactured -- whenever they paid money to see NFL events.
A not-so-bold prediction for Super Bowl XLIX
Although Tuohy has published damning criticisms of the National Football League, he said he has yet to be personally accosted by any league officials. That's not to say the league isn't leery of him, though; before an interview with Warren Welsh, the former head of NFL security had to receive league clearance -- this, despite the fact that Welsh had not been employed by the NFL for years.
Currently, Tuohy is hard at work on his third book, which is sure to inspire more headaches for the NFL upper echelon. Set for a summer release, the tentatively titled "Season in the Abyss" examines the shady -- and lucrative -- world of professional football gambling.
As to picking a winner in this year's big game, however, Tuohy remains rather dispassionate. If Seattle wins, he said the league has itself yet another decade-defining dynasty to endlessly tout and celebrate, and if New England wins, it would serve as a sort of redemption for the controversy-shrouded franchise, which has reached pro-wrestling super-villain-like levels of infamy over the years.
"Honestly, I don't think it matters," he said. "I think the league makes out either way and myself ... I just don't care who wins."
Uncommon Journalism, 2015.