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Jayson Tatum. OK, first, of all the funky spelling of common names, Jayson with the extra "y" is the coolest. Better than Geoff or Sean or any of the others I can recall. (No offense Geoffs or Seans out there.) But buckets, Tatum was legendary in Sunday's Game 7, and when you etch your name in Celtics green in the postseason, well, you are among the all-timers. Moreover, Tatum was a red-hot fourth quarter in Friday's Game 6 comeback at Philly from being the weekend's biggest loser. Tatum scored 14 points in the final 6:30 in Game 6 to help force Game 7. Sunday, he dropped a Game 7-record 51 points. So, in the final 48 minutes of game time in this series win over the 76ers, Tatum was just 21-of-34 from the field and 10-of-14 from distance for 65 bleepin' points. Winner.
Jason Day. One of my all-time favorites to cheer for on the PGA Tour. Seems like a really good dude, and to end his five-year winless skid on Mother's Day after losing his mother to cancer in March 2022, well, cue the soft music and pass the Kleenex.
(Side question: Hey, did Jasons everywhere win the weekend? I think so, because I do not have anything close to a better nomination that either of the above.)
Jason Bateman. Easily my favorite Jason of the current comedic Jasons (Sudeikis, Segel and Alexander to name but three, but "Ted Lasso" is certainly enjoyable), Bateman's career is Hall of Fame-worthy, folks. And is there a better straight man working than Bateman right now?
Jason Momoa. Wow, what a sculpture that dude is. Seriously, the actor that made his first splash as Daenerys' hubby in the early days of "Games of Thrones" and eventually became Aquaman is ripped like a middle school love note passed in study hall.
Jason Bourne. Way better than Jason Voorhees as a movie killing machine, right? Right?
Ja Morant. Dufus cost himself tens of, if not potentially hundreds of millions of dollars with his latest wannabe-gangster, gun-waving social media exercise. He has been suspended for what is at least his third handgun run-in (that we know of) and as the Grizzlies are pondering whether the uber-talented point guard is worth a max-contract offer, this assuredly can't help. Side note: The folks trying to make this a "What about Ja's Second Amendment rights and his freedom of speech," it's a non sequitur. He has not been arrested for the Instagram post waving around a firearm. Freedom of choice to do or to say something allows you the option to do those things without fear of prosecution. Not without fear of consequence from your employer. I could choose to steal another writer's words or make up stuff, and that's not illegal. I'd be fired, of course, but again not illegal. Maybe a better sports analogy would be Colin Kaepernick had every right to kneel during the National Anthem. Completely legal. NFL owners also had every right to weigh his ability as a QB against the cost his protest was accruing among the fan base. Same with the NBA and Ja, but constitutionality remains unchanged just because the other side of the political discourse supports gun rights more than flag protests.
Joel Embiid and James Harden. Yeah, about those MVP votes Embiid collected, uh, anyone want to be like Myra Fleener's momma and scream "I say we vote again" after Jimmy said he'd play if Coach Dale stays? Yeah, thought so. Embiid's a great player. That said, is Harden anything more than a third (or fourth) option on a contender at this point. Sunday was brutal — 3-of-11, nine more points than Spy — and made me wonder, "Is he now a dribble-addicted Vinny Johnson?"
The Braves. Uh-oh. Good teams will mean trouble for the good guys from Smyrna. Getting swept by the Blue Jays(ons — weekend winner?) was bad. Staring at more holes than the PJs of Charlie's Grandpa Joe in "Willy Wonka" in the rotation is even worse. (Side question: How bad would that bed where Grandpa Joe and the rest of Charlie's freeloading grandparents were holed up have smelt? Like Moc Bend on a 96-degree July afternoon bad right?)
My Friday plays. Ouch-standing our first bagel in more than a month. (That said, we did say take any and all home teams in Game 7 and lay the number, so unless you had Boston minus-25, we got back into the win column on Mother's Day.)
Rest easy Doyle Brunson. The poker legend died over the weekend. He was 89. Seriously, can you recall a legend in his industry who saw more change in that industry — in terms of perception, popularity, all of it — than Brunson and the poker legends over the last two decades? Gates and Jobs in the 1980s maybe?
Sunday was the five-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to allow states to decide on the legality of sports wagering.
Five years. It feels way longer than that, right?
Granted, sports betting and the conversation around it has been the wink-wink, nod-nod part of sports coverage long before New Jersey won its fight to have legalized sports wagering May 14, 2018.
Jimmy the Greek. Hammerin' Hank Goldberg. Point spreads in newspapers. Heck, other than his Jeff Dedmon "Don't Wear Plaid" and Bert "Be home" Blyleven nicknames, Chris Berman became the biggest star on sports media's biggest platform in large part because of his odds-aware picks as the swami.
And maybe that distorts the feel of the five-year cycle of legalized sports betting. But it can't hide the scope.
Since becoming legalized and operational in 33 states — plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico — with three other states having approved the measure but in the process of finalizing their procedures, sports betting has become a ubiquitous part of all the games.
Whether it's Charles Barkley offering FanDuel picks before — and during — NBA playoff games on TNT or the onslaught of commercials from betting sites with jovial A-list stars like Peyton and Ben Affleck or Kevin Hart, it's harder to recall non-legalized betting than to believe it's only been five years.
Consider this: The NBA had the 3-point line for almost two decades before the shot was truly embraced. The DH spent three decades as a controversial, AL-only topic. Heck, did you know the yellow first-down line that now is as synonymous with football coverage as gratuitous cheerleader shots and announcers telling us that "turnovers could decide this one" is a quarter-century old this football season?
But betting's history allowed the immersion and the consumption to reach Bo Jackson-like speeds in the transition.
The numbers are staggering.
Almost $250 billion — that's a quarter of a trillion — has been bet legally in the U.S., according to the American Gaming Association.
Of that number, ESPN's David Purdum reported the sports books have made more than $17 billion and more than $3 billion has been collected in taxes for the states with legalized sports gambling.
Tennessee, which joined the legalized sports betting fray in November 2020, collected $8.8 million in taxes in March. The state received almost $110 million in taxes from the calendar years 2021 and 2022, and that number could increase as the state senate has passed a new tax code looking at charging a 2% tax on the amount bet rather than a 20% tax on the revenue created by the sports betting hosts.
Simply put, it's big business, but not without a downside.
College sports have been hit by multiple sports-betting scandals in the past month, with Alabama firing its baseball coach over allegations of inappropriate bets. More than 40 student-athletes at Iowa and Iowa State are being investigated for sports-betting activities, too.
On the professional level, Major League Soccer suspended a player who was allegedly paid to get a yellow card — something the new betting services allow bettors to wager on — and even the most popular of all the American sports has been affected.
After having zero players suspended for gambling offenses in the 2000s before the SCOTUS ruling, the NFL has suspended former Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley for a year in 2021 and recently suspended seven players for sports betting connections.
But like all things in the betting realm, the stakes and the rewards make the risks seem smaller somehow.
FanDuel and DraftKings — two of the biggest online sports betting services in the country are spending tens of millions a year in advertising and in licensing agreements to be the "official betting site" of everything from your church picnic cornhole game to the Super Bowl.
Plus several states have approved betting venues and kiosks to be opened at the sites of professional sports events, which means owners can cash in on a captive audience with betting options live and in living color.
We've covered a lot of ground since the days of Jimmy the Greek, and the last five years have been as quick as the Kentucky Derby.
Big business indeed.
This and that
— Saw this on Twitter and it may be worth more of an examination later this summer, but as a switch-hitter Ozzie Albies is a dynamite right-handed hitter. With almost 718 career ABs (close to a full-season sample size) Albies is slashing .336/.363/.581 with 52 doubles, 38 homers and 124 RBIs. Lefty, hee's .246/.305/.423 with 108 doubles and 70 homers and 251 RBIs in 1,930 ABs. Hmmmmm.
— Speaking of struggling Braves, uh, whoever is wearing the "Mission Impossible" version of the Austin Riley suit, can we please have that removed and last year's Austin Riley returned to the clubhouse? Thank you.
— You know the rules. Here's TFP sports editor and prep sports guru Stephen Hargis on the Chattanooga area's emergence as a bona fide hot bed of hot shot prep football recruits. Quite the change of course in my more than two decades in town.
— There are few things better in baseball than the perfectly executed silent treatment in the dugout, like the Astros did after Yanier Diaz's first homer over the weekend. Enjoy.
Weekend Jasons and losers, go.
As for multiple choice Monday, let's go this way:
How would you describe your betting activity over the last five years?
— I bet more.
— I bet less.
— I bet about the same.
— I never bet and you are the devil for talking about it. (Sinner.)
As for today, May 15, couple of pretty stout sports superstars from my lifetime celebrate birthday today as George Brett turned 70 and Emmitt Smith turns 54.
June Carter Cash died on this day 20 years ago. This is a tough category, but does Reese Witherspoon — who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Carter Cash in "Walk the Line" — make the Rushmore of acting biopic performances of a real-life musician?