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Same set of rules should always apply

It’s hard to navigate through the sports universe and not encounter hypocritical ideas at every turn. They may come from fans, from media, from players, even from the leagues. Ideas and ideologies clash constantly, often times with themselves.

A couple of these scenarios came to a head this week in very different arenas. Monday night’s NFL game between the Seahawks and Lions was a defensive struggle that appeared to be tilting toward Detroit in the final minutes. Calvin Johnson was stripped as he struggled to cross the goal line and the ball bounded through the end zone. Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright batted the ball out of bounds and assumed, like most of us, that meant Seattle would get the ball on the 20-yard line.

Apparently that’s not the rule. By intentionally knocking the ball out of bounds, Wright committed a penalty and Detroit should have maintained possession inside the 1-yard line. The referees decided not to enforce that rule and the Seahawks moved to 2-2 while the Lions crumbled to 0-4.

All Detroit got was an apology from the league and an acknowledgment that the call was missed. That doesn’t move them a game closer in the standings. It only adds frustration to what has been a very frustrating start to 2015.

Did the referees not know the rule? Or did they choose to ignore it? Because neither should be acceptable. A few years ago, Commissioner Roger Goodell said that “ignorance is not an excuse” when he suspended New Orleans head coach Sean Payton an entire season over “Bountygate.”

If players are fined and penalized for anything from uniform violations to excessive celebration — I mean, why should they be happy about scoring a touchdown at the most elite level of competition? — then how is there seemingly no way to rectify the league screwing up beyond it just saying “I’m sorry?” Players and coaches have to answer questions from the media and not insult officials in the process. The league gets to issue a press release and expects everyone to move on.

Something else that cropped up this week was an issue regarding daily fantasy website DraftKings. It’s a business that seems determined to completely ingrain itself within the minds of every living organism on this planet and beyond. So many DraftKings ads are being shown on TV and the Internet that even people with no sports interests have begun to feel infiltrated.

Yet somehow this form of wagering has been deemed acceptable while regular sports betting and online poker are widely illegal and considered games of chance, rather than skill. I think there is skill to all three, but I’d argue you need a much higher level of skill to be successful at the latter two.

I don’t play daily fantasy sports, but I don’t want it to be considered illegal. I’m just not sure why it has received a pass not extended to online poker when many of the same perils are in play. A DraftKings employee won a huge sum of cash on competitor FanDuel’s site by being able to interpret data from his site and apply it to the other. This opened the door for criticism and saw the end of ESPN’s advertising deal with DraftKings.

Yet daily fantasy sports is not advertising as free entertainment. It is clearly a pay for play product and the NFL and its broadcast partners have peddled it relentlessly. Yet the mere mention of a betting line or acknowledging that gambling is a huge part of football’s popularity makes Goodell squirm like a cornered centipede.

Many of us are sports hypocrites. I’ve considered Kevin Garnett a longtime villain but maybe I’d have his poster on my wall if he’d been a Knick. But when the powerful entities like the NFL or NCAA hold themselves to one standard and their associates to another, they deserve the same level of questioning and investigation they dish out.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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