Brian Tuohy's The Fix Is In: Nothing In Sports Is As It Seems

As hard as it might be to believe, every Super Bowl since 1996 has been fixed. No, not fixed by gamblers or players trying to throw the game. But instead fixed by the NFL. Sure it sounds a bit far-fetched, but that's the allegation made by Brian Tuohy in his book, The Fix Is In: The Showbiz Manipulations of the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and NASCAR.  

The thesis of Tuohy's book is clearly stated in the title. Professional sports, as we know it, are as fake as professional wrestling.

The NFL fixed the 1999 season so that the Tennessee Titans and St. Louis Rams would play in the 2000 Super Bowl. This was their reward for letting the NFL move their franchises from Houston and Los Angeles to two cities that had lost out when the NFL expanded to Carolina and Jacksonville. The Ravens got to win the Super Bowl as a reward to Ravens owner Art Modell after he let the league move his team from Cleveland to Baltimore to make up for Baltimore losing out on expansion.

There's much, much more in Tuohy's book touching on every sport. For instance, the 1919 World Series wasn't the only World Series that was fixed. Only many of the others weren't fixed by gambling, but were instead fixed by MLB and the networks so as to assure more games and bigger television audiences. And no sport is more crooked than the NBA, which has done everything from order the refs to not foul out certain players in the playoffs to fixing the draft lottery so that various college stars would end up in certain cities -- yes, he rehashes and gives credence to the urban legend of David Stern knowing what envelope to pull out so as to ensure Patrick Ewing went to the New York Knicks.

There's a thread of truth to just about everything Tuohy writes -- everything about which he writes comes from previously published sources, factual game stories, or quotes from bitter athletes on the losing end of a contest. But all of his conspiracy threads, just like those of Glenn Beck that Jon Stewart so easily pulls apart most nights on The Daily Show, fall apart with a simple reading of his writings.

First, Tuohy offers up no original reporting nor actual evidence. His reasoning that the 2002 Super Bowl was fixed by the NFL so that the New England Patriots would win is that it was post-9/11 and the NFL was pushing patriotism (Not addressed however is why MLB didn't fix the 2001 World Series so that the New York Yankees, playing in a city affected by 9/11, and riding one of those moments when a majority of baseball fans might actually cheer on the Yankees, would actually win). There's no evidence produced to back these Super Bowl contentions. Nada.  

For instance, the Carolina Panthers lost the infamous Janet Jackson Super Bowl because the NFL knew that multiple Panther players had tested positive for steroid use and the NFL used the potential exposure of this information to leverage the Panthers into losing. Why the NFL wanted the Patriots to win this game isn't addressed, and the fact that names of the players were actually released offsets the theory that the game was thrown to keep this information quiet.

And Tuohy flat out gets a simple fact wrong early in the book, and that blown, simple, easily verified fact puts into question just how factual this so-called factual sports expose really is. Tuohy declares that the NBA ordered that the Hornets be moved from Charlotte to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The problem being, of course, that the Hornets had moved to New Orleans before Katrina and, because of Katrina, played most of their 2005-2006 season in Oklahoma City.

I like a good conspiracy, and I like a good conspiracy book. But this isn't such a book. There's no original reporting. There's not even any real linkage drawn between the various incidents, and as with most conspiracies, like the fake moon landings or anything from the mind of Oliver Stone, the whole thing falls apart when you consider the large number of people who had to not only have been involved for all of these sporting events to be rigged, but also had to have remained silent over the years.

As I said at the start, there's a hint of truth to the premise. We know from Tim Donaghy that all is not as it seems in the NBA. And we know that Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots did cheat, and we know that gamblers fixed the 1919 World Series. But that doesn't mean that, as Tuohy alleges, every important game in the history of professional sports has been fixed.

The theory of Occam's Razor is popularly defined as the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. And in the case of sports, the simplest explanation is that teams, even good teams, do actually lose on occasion.

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