Digital DNA - Chapter 7: Conclusion

(This is Chapter 7 of a seven-part short story by David Grant)

“It’s almost as if those video frames were inserted intentionally,” Turner said. “Why on earth would someone want to do that?” asked Bev. “Maybe to structure the game somehow?” Bill asked. “What would structuring the game get anyone?” Rich asked. “Well, the casinos have been losing money; certainly, structuring the game could affect them,” Turner said. “Wait a minute. The game is played live, the fans are there, the media is there, there are fans watching on TV. If the games were structured, wouldn’t someone see that, especially if it related to the score, which is only what the casinos are about anyway? So, I still don’t get it,” Mindy said. "But the IFL has stated that the television feed isn’t live in real-time . . . it goes to the Hall first. I think something is going on there,” Rich added.

“The casinos make money on the score of the game to be sure, but they pay on a time schedule, like an ACH or automated clearing house transaction. It’s the process banks use these days to move money around,” Turner said. “The casinos are all electronic now and, consequently, are also getting their game feeds from the Hall data center like everyone else.  What if the live game feed had small video clips inserted to electronically lengthen or modify certain games that favored the IFL, due to the current score, before being sent out to the audiences watching? If the video clips were matched from a database and under 30 frames per second, certainly no one at the game would notice, and neither would a TV audience. So, if the end of the game could be electronically extended or structured, that might be something,” Turner said. “Good point. The human eye would not be able to catch any alterations to a video feed if under 30 frames per second, which is the broadcast standard,” Mindy added.

“There is an old agreement that none of the new owners know about but the league has not tried to abolish, mostly out of respect for Doss, that says that payouts under the spread go to the league. Since that rarely happens these days, due to sophisticated electronic profiling software used by the casinos, and since we saw very little money, we have ignored that agreement,” Bev stated. “Interesting,” Turner commented. “I know for a fact that the bank transactions for the casinos happen at a certain point just before the game has ended, unless there is overtime. The league has gotten to the point where a three-hour game is so routine, the casinos have written software to push the envelope on getting their money as soon as the game is nearly over.”

“Every second of interest counts, when you are talking about billions of dollars. If the league were somehow able to extend or structure certain games to their benefit based on the over-under, casino payout transactions could go thru electronically before the actual end of the game, and the league would pocket the money.” And even if the casinos knew about anything the league was doing, they probably wouldn’t say anything, for fear of a scandal that might hurt a very profitable gambling business,” Turner finished explaining. “Using cataloging software, a database of cataloged video and the time-code, you could find and insert video of a player from a previous game in nearly the same conditions and extend the game electronically or manipulate it any way you wanted. And if the change to the video is just a few seconds here and there, no one would know,” Keith said. “And the casinos would not want to have this public for fear of losing their licenses and or the possibility that exposure of a secret deal with the league could have legal ramifications, especially if word got out that the league and the casinos might be fixing games electronically somehow,” Bev added. “We would have a whole new set of legal battles never before tested in court,” Bill added. “But the league forgot that the old video would have a time-code stamp and be different from the live feed,” Rich stated. “Gotcha!” Molly said.  “But the real question is, who’s behind all of this?” “Leave that to me,” Bill said. “Hey Bev, how do you know about that old agreement between the league and the casinos?” asked Turner. Bev replied, “What agreement?”

Two days later, just one day before the championship game, Bill contacted Beverly. “Hi Bev, I have some interesting news.” “Lay it on me,” Bev said. “Based on phone records, Bobby contacted Roger just before the news conference. Seems their conversation had to do with a call Bobby got from Mindy. Mindy wanted to know from Bobby why there seemed to be time-code on some live video they were watching at the network. Bobby gave them a hair-brained explanation, which seemed to work, until the media broke with Rich’s unusual video. The text of Bobby and Roger’s conversation has been conveniently sealed, but my source says that it’s very incriminating and has a lot to do with what is going on at the Hall of Fame. Bobby’s response to Mindy was apparently a half-baked attempt to appease her and make the time code discovery go away. I think that Bobby is your rat, and that Roger knows all about it, and that this new technology center could have some other secret use, besides being just for the fans. Roger has also gotten calls and emails from a certain Zebra1. I haven’t been able to figure out is who Zebra1 is, however. It sounds like it should be Bobby, but something doesn’t quite add up.”

“Wow, a scandal that involves the commissioner, the head of our officiating department and possibly someone else?” “Could be,” replied Bill. “Any connection to our game officials?” Bev asked. “I didn’t find any link to support that the game officials are involved,” Bill added. “How were you able to trace it all out?” asked Bev. “I have the bank accounts and casino ACH transaction numbers, and they match the exact games for which the IFL received payments,” Bill stated. “Wow, you do good work. Tell me, how were you able to get all this information?” “Let’s just say I have a congressman that owed me a favor and maybe an FBI agent, too,” Bill laughed. “I think congress may look into that old agreement between the league and the casinos,” he added. “Thanks Bill, let me know about Zebra1 if you find anything,” Bev finished. “Sure thing,” Bill replied.

The case against Bobby and Roger involved not only the league but also the casinos in the Valley, and that was in Turner’s jurisdiction, so he took the case. Turns out that while the data center at the Hall of Fame had worked well as entertainment for the fans, as stated by Roger, it had also been set up as a clandestine operation to artificially structure select games and drive up payouts to the league by inserting video frames from past games that had been matched to current live game conditions. The investigation revealed that the true culprit behind the deal was Doss Robinson, who everyone assumed had also become Zebra1. Robinson wanted to regain money he felt had been held back by the league and the casinos for many years because of the secret agreement. Bobby and Roger were the eyes and ears of the operation, although with Doss’ help, Bobby was the true mastermind. The motive for them to carry out the task was a promise by Doss that one of them would one day own the Chicago franchise. Doss wanted to find out which brother wanted it most.

As for Roger, he was granted immunity for his testimony against Bobby. He was dismissed as commissioner and given a job in the PR department for the LA Surfers. As for Bobby, he was sentenced to 20 years for money laundering, since he had basically run the rogue operation. The casinos kept quiet and were not part of the trial. During the court proceedings, Doss Robinson passed away at the age of 82 and was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame. The Chicago franchise, as stated in his last Will and Testament, went to his wife Martha Blackmon-Robinson.

As the judge handed down Bobby’s sentence, Turner turned to Bev and said: “I’m sorry your league had some trouble, but the good news is that we can move on from here. Who do you think should be the next commissioner? “I’ll vote for Rich Hamilton,” Bev said. “And the long-standing gentleman’s agreement with the casinos?” “Abolished,” said Bev. “How about who will be the head of officials, now that Bobby is behind bars?” Turner asked. “I think it’s time for Johnny Mac to come off the field and get us back on track. I have talked to him, and he has agreed to that.” “What about Bobby? Turner asked. Bev replied, “He’s done with this league. “That’s seems harsh,” came Turner’s reply. “Hey, you would have banned him, too, if he had been your crooked brother!”

In the championship game, the LA Surfers defeated the Texas Ranchers in one of the biggest blowouts in history. The Surfers covered the spread, the game was live, and the editing came AFTER the game feed. The casinos were in the black again, for now, and Chip Coleter was still waiting for that trophy.

Just two months after his sentencing, Bobby Blackmon was found dead in his cell at the state penitentiary. One week later as Roger got into his car after leaving the Surfers offices late one evening, it exploded. In the mess, police found documents from the largest video game software company, Avitron, still in a briefcase near Roger’s body. A quick read of those documents showed that the IFL had signed a 15-year contract with Avitron to send the IFL’s live game feed directly into the popular football video game, in real-time, with full and exclusive broadcasting rights, starting with the next season. The major networks had no idea, or at least Roger had thought they didn’t have any knowledge, that they were going to get cut out of any profits, even though they had signed new contracts that guaranteed the IFL billions in new revenue.

As the new season approached, the authorities still did not have any suspects for either murder. Just before kickoff between New York and Tampa Bay in Week 1, Rich Hamilton, the league’s newly elected commissioner was just sitting down in the owner’s box to watch the game when he received a text message on his cell phone. “Rich, you need to call me.” The text message was from Zebra1!
David Grant is a former NCAA official and currently resides in southern California. He is the site's NFL Briefs writer.

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