Jim Armstrong: Sportswriters debate departure from Denver Post in wake of gambling case

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jim armstrong1.jpg
Denver Post
Jim Armstrong, longtime sportswriter for the Denver Post, left the paper this last Friday -- it's unclear if he jumped or was pushed -- after his name popped up in a grand jury indictment targeting a sports-betting operation. Should he have had to leave? That's one subject of debate at SportsJournalists.com, among the nation's main online forums for sportswriters -- and a number of those posting say "no."

The announcement of Armstrong's fate in the Post's Saturday article about the operation qualifies as a bit odd. He's described in the second paragraph as "former Denver Post sports reporter and columnist Jim Armstrong" without any initial contextualizing about why the "former" descriptor was attached.

Only after a note about Armstrong using the account password "cheese" and often combining his bets with Blake Street Tavern managing partner Chris Fuselier does the piece mention him leaving the paper the previous day -- a move about which he declined to comment. That's followed by a quote from Post editor Greg Moore: "Readers have to believe and trust that all of us at The Denver Post cover events impartially and without a stake in the outcome. We take this very seriously."

But should wagering by Armstrong, who most recently was on the Colorado Rockies beat, have doomed a Post career that spanned 27 years? The first poster on the SportsJournalists.com thread related to the incident -- dubbed Evil Bastard -- doesn't think so. He writes:

Every pro game is against a spread and why should people like Swami Chris Berman and others be employed under one set of rules and others under a different set.

I am also troubled by the police using a 12-step program as a point of departure in the investigation.

This last line references a Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent's attendance at an addiction program frequented by one of the alleged bookmakers, Daniel Dinner.

Another commenter voices similar concerns about Armstrong's presumed punishment:

I understand the aspect of "illegality" in this situation with regard to the placement of the wagers.

What I do not understand is the absolute standard some have asserted here that wagering on games is disqualifying for a sportswriter.

I have seen with my own eyes folks who cover horse racing at the parimutuel windows. I have even seen tracks where they set up a special window in the press box to accommodate the credentialed reporters covering the day's races. Should all those folks really be fired from their jobs becuse they bet on games?

Should this extend to fantasy sports -- which almost always have a monetary aspect to them? Should a baseball reporter be fired for being in a baseball fantasy league? Should a baseball reporter be fired for being in a football fantasy league?

As I said, there are legal issues here and the police and the courts should handle those issues regardless of the fact that one of the persons involved is a sports reporter. However, I think firing here is a bit over the top.

Adds another:

I highly doubt Jimmy's alleged gambling ever impacted how he covered an event. But, only he knows if that's truly the case.

I know tons of sportswriters who gamble, most illegally. This is the first time I've ever heard of a sportswriter getting fired for gambling.

Such opinions don't constitute the majority of views in the cyber-conversation. Many of the takes focus on the unfortunate nature of the event and admiration for Armstrong, who's also worked side jobs at radio stations such as 104.3/The Fan. Example: "He's the guy who knows everyone, never forgets a name and always has a crowd around him in the press box because he's an unbelievable storyteller and just a great guy to hang out with."

This last comment's conclusion: "An awful, awful way to end a great career."

No argument there.

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15 comments
Uwe Mueller
Uwe Mueller

A good, honest, and knowledgable writer gone because he was caught doing something that is legal to almost everyone else in society.  Here's a guy that knew his teams, his cheese, his beer and cooks one mean Brat.  He's a family man that always put a smile on my face when I met him or read any of his stories.   He had numerous opportunities to leave town and move up to the national spotlight but he remained loyal to his Denver audience.  He may be down, but he ain't out.

Horseirishnd
Horseirishnd

Loved reading Jim on line, was shocked to see he was gone,went to school with Jim first grade to highschool was as honest a person that one could know great family he will land on his feet  lost goes to Denever sports community.

JMartin36
JMartin36

Just tip of iceberg in Denver sports media gambling.

Marilyn Lancelot
Marilyn Lancelot

Sure, everyone loves to gamble. But, the person sitting next to you in church, the man in line at the grocery store, or one of your co-workers; any one of these could be involved with a gambling problem. Imagine your grandmother committing a crime to support her gambling addiction. I am a recovering alcoholic, gambler, and have recovered from other addictive behaviors. I published a book, Gripped by Gambling, where the readers can follow the destructive path of the compulsive gambler, a prison sentence, and then on to the recovery road.  I recently published a second book, Switching Addictions, describing additional issues that confront the recovering addict. If a person who has an addictive personality, doesn’t admit to at least two addictions, he’s not being honest. These are two books you might consider adding to your library. I also publish a free online newsletter, Women Helping Women, which has been on-line for more than ten years and is read by hundreds of women (and men) from around the world.  (www.femalegamblers.info). I have been interviewed many times, and appeared on the 60 Minutes show in January 2011, which was moderated by Leslie Stahl. Sincerely, Marilyn Lancelot  

Allamony
Allamony

Just another terrible move by DenverPost. I'd be outraged if I actually read the paper anymore. Jim Armstrong is the shit though, started reading his column when I was like 7 years old !!

On Your Marks
On Your Marks

Oh come on - an awful way to end a career?  How about an awful way to live your life?  Degenerate gamblers will find every which way to lay down a mark - whether its a game, a race, a contest, whatever!  A sportswriter can absolutely influence things - primarily, using his role/networks/contacts to drive business to his bookie, but also in terms of influencing people to bet one way or another on an event.  Some can describe this as innocent betting, but the fact is that WHAT HE WAS DOING WAS ILLEGAL.  The ETHICAL questions are just as important considering his line of work.  I'd love to see if he ever wrote an article about Pete Rose's gambling habits.

Bill
Bill

On that same site, someone makes a great point: Why are Natalie Meisler (keying a car/anger management classes) and Woody Plaige (plagiarism charges) are still on staff, but Jim Armstrong is gone with no charges pending or coming. And how did Greg Moore do in the March Madness pool this year? How was his vested interest in the outcomes of those games?

Guest
Guest

Timing is everything. Armstrong handed them a gift during the month when the Post is downsizing. One less buyout to pay.

Xyz
Xyz

I would rather have honest betting by a writer than employing one who calls a female assistanct a cunt (see: Paige, Woody, foul-mouthed boorish pig).

Bill
Bill

Well, in the view of Greg Moore, looks like he shit the bed.

Guest
Guest

Oh, those degenerate gamblers, ruining things for everyone.

Guest
Guest

And yes, unlike a business writer covering stock prices, nothing Armstrong did could possibly influence the outcome of a game.

Vill Robinson
Vill Robinson

The business reporter analogy is a good one if you look at insider trading, for which a number of business writers have gone to jail or otherwise run afoul of the law. The question isn't whether Armstrong could influence the outcome of a game, it's whether he attempted to enrich himself via bets he made using insider information that he either front-ran -- that is, made bets in advance of publication of sensitive information "CarGo's going to play but his wrist is only at 60%" -- or by not publishing at all information he learned while working as a Post sportswriter. That would be not only a violation of the Post's own ethics code, but it's cheating.

As for him making bets at all, who gives a crap? Question is whether he cheated or tried to cheat by leveraging his insider access. That gets to the REAL issue: The Post won't say WHY Armstrong is gone, so all we can do is speculate.

Allamony
Allamony

or the Head of Economics at an Ivy League college writing gospel that will shape Economic policy, while sitting on the board of Major Corporations who will benefit from the shift in policy. 

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

All interesting points, Vill. Thanks for weighing in.

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