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Weekend Wrapup

2008 November 17
by Brad Humphreys

Quite a weekend in sports economics…

Pittsburgh, San Diego, and Vegas

There was an interesting finish in the game between the Chargers and the Steelers. On the last play of the game, Steelers defensive back Troy Polamalu appeared to return a fumble for a touchdown that would have given the Steelers an 18-10 victory. However, the referees later ruled that an illegal forward pass occurred prior to the touchdown, resulting in a final score of 11-10. This was reportedly the first 11-10 final score in NFL history, an odd outcome since 10 is a common score and 11 can be generated a number of ways (3FG+Safety, the outcome in this game, TD+2 Point Conversion+FG, and the unlikely FG+4 safeties). The interesting angle on the game is that the Steelers were a 4 or 4.5 point favorite in the game. If Polamalu’s TD counts, the Steelers cover; after the reversal, bets on the Chargers paid off. According to the betting volume data available on Sports Insights, 70% of the straight bets against the spread were on the Steelers, the home favorite, so the reversal put a lot of money into the pockets of Vegas sports books and bookies.

Mark Cuban and the SEC

Dallas Mavericks owner, and wanna be Cubs owner Mark Cuban has been charged with insider trading. According to reports, Cuban owned 6.3% of the shares in search engine Mamma.com in 2004, making him the largest individual stockholder. The SEC claims that Cuban dumped his 600,000 shares prior to a public offering of additional shares that he had inside knowledge of, thus avoiding $750,000 in losses.

In March of this year, Cuban’s estimated net worth was $2.3 billion, which begs the question of why he was willing to break the law to avoid a piddly $750k loss. Recall that Martha Stewart did five months in a federal correctional facility for insider trading a few years ago. I wonder if Cuban will also wind up in the slammer?

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