A few minutes after the lights went out during Super Bowl XLVII, with Baltimore beating San Francisco 28-6 early in the third quarter, I tweeted an inside-jokey bit that was more or less intended to make only me laugh:
Malaysian Betting Syndicate having a great second half.
I was referencing an English Premier League scandal from the 90’s when the stadium lights suddenly went out on two separate matches, causing them to be abandoned. This resulted in a windfall for a gambling syndicate from Malaysia that had placed huge bets on the teams that were leading at the time of the blackout. After a third attempt to cut the lights at an EPL match was stopped, four men involved with the plot were arrested and jailed.
I didn’t think much of the tweet after I sent it (or at the time I sent it, really), until news broke that Europol, the law enforcement arm of the European Union, had 680 football matches around the world under investigation for match-fixing. These included games at the highest level of the sport, including qualifying matches for the World Cup. It’s a huge, ongoing scandal that threatens the very fabric of a sport beloved around the world.
Suddenly, the idea of a gambling syndicate getting its hooks into the biggest sporting event in North America didn’t seem so insane. The power went out at a time when Baltimore, the underdog, was way ahead and the favorite San Francisco 49ers were struggling to move the ball, let alone score. Could the Super Bowl, a game so big it’s literally called “The Big Game” have been fixed by criminals or gamblers? Or by a ratings-hungry network desperate to keep people hooked on a game that was spiraling out of control? And were the Illuminati involved, spurred into action by a series of secret hand signals given in plain sight during the halftime show?
I’ve previously written on Skeptoid about the lack of influence gamblers have on professional sports in America. To put it simply: pro athletes make way too much money to be taken in by bribery. Professional referees are also paid well, and all are scrutinized for any sign of gambling influence. This is a direct contrast to the match-fixing scandal, which involves mostly low-paid players and refs in poor countries or second-tier leagues, and bets made in areas where gambling laws are either non-existent or unenforced.
With the NFL, law enforcement and Las Vegas watching betting activity like vultures circling a dying gazelle, there’s simply no credible way that any betting syndicate, no matter how wealthy or well-connected, could have influenced the game or the people involved in it.
Even if a betting syndicate or conspiracy of Vegas bookmakers had managed to cut the power, what would the point have been? There’s no chance the league would have simply called off the game, no matter what the score was at the moment of the blackout. And if the power had been cut AND the league called the game off, Las Vegas sports books would have simply voided all of the betting action, and bookies aren’t in the business of giving people their money back.
No matter the cause of the blackout, the books still managed to win over $7 million collectively. Just as many high-powered gamblers wagered on Baltimore, and wanted the beating they were laying on San Francisco to continue. And with the popularity of proposition bets, casinos and bookies had already raked in a swimming pool of cash by the time the lights went out.
Finally, American sports aren’t popular betting vehicles in the rest of the world. So there’s not much chance any Asian betting syndicate would have had the motive, much less the means, to try and influence the outcome of America’s biggest sporting event.
A crime that’s virtually impossible to commit and that has no motive is a crime that probably didn’t happen. And the blackout probably had no real impact on the field of play anyway. Some say it changed the momentum of the game, but “momentum” in sports is a nebulous concept that has no statistical quantifiers. As ESPN writer Bill Barnwell put it:
Why was the blackout supposed to offer the 49ers momentum, anyway? Because it stopped Baltimore in their tracks for a half-hour after they had been dominating the game? […] The power outage giving the 49ers momentum is an argument that only gets applied after the fact by people who can’t remember (or be troubled to read) the play-by-play. Don’t let abstract, entirely arbitrary concepts stand in for actually watching what happened in the game.
Sounds like good skepticism to me.
Another theory is that CBS caused the blackout in order to increase their ratings. This is ludicrous. At the moment the lights went out, ratings were down just 4% from the start of the game. While it’s true that ratings probably would have eroded further if the game was a blowout, television networks don’t get people to turn in by having things not happen, and that’s what the blackout was: 34 minutes of nothing happening. It was painful television. And while there might have been more airtime to run ads, it doesn’t matter, because CBS had already sold all of the ads they were going to sell, and were forced to repeat spots. Which is exactly the opposite of what they wanted to happen.
In fact, it recently came out that the cause of the blackout was the failure of a device specifically designed to prevent blackouts from occurring. It’s a good lesson to all of us not to ascribe sinister motives to events that could just as easily be human error or mechanical failure.
Of course, no major event of any kind in our modern world is complete without rambling, incoherent proclamations of a “false flag” attack to come. As I’ve written about before, what conspiracy theorists call false flags and what reality calls false flags are quite different, and we know now that the Super Bowl went off without any major security hitches or attacks, faked or otherwise. The only false flags on display in New Orleans were some questionable calls by the referees. Which is part of the game.
And then we have the Illuminati rearing their finely coiffed heads, in the form of Beyonce’s halftime show. A popular notion among certain dank basements of the internet is that the popular R&B singer and her husband, rapper Jay Z, are high-level members of the shadowy organization that pulls the strings for the world. Theorists scour their lyrics, actions, clothes, celebrity connections and even the name they gave their child, looking for signs that they (along with just about every entertainer, banker and politician) are part of this secret society, and the signs would appear to be everywhere.
The “proof” that Beyonce was giving a shoutout to her world-dominating brethren is supposed to be a hand sign she flashed during her performance, an inverted diamond made with both hands. While it’s certainly possible that this was some kind of signal or code, it’s far more likely that Beyonce was making a reference to Jay Z, who has used the inverted diamond as a kind of non-verbal catchphrase for his entire career. And just how mere peons who are non-Illuminati would know that her hand sign was a secret symbol from a secret society is unknown.
That’s one of the most amusing aspects of any conspiracy theory: that they’re both incredibly secret and incredibly easy to deduce. If there are real secret societies or shadow string-pullers out there, we don’t know anything about them, or at least much less than we think we know. They certainly aren’t flashing hand signs for hundreds of millions of people to see.
Unless Beyonce was telling the Malaysian Betting Syndicate that it was time to cut the power. But now I’ve said too much.