Immoral to bet, or immoral to not bet?

I just got in a little email debate with a certain ESPN sportswriter who wrote an article about how Overeem and BJ Penn are overrated as hell. I emailed him asking since Overeem was so overrated, how much money he had on Werdum.

Here is a paraphrase of the email exchange that followed: (Also, my responses were admittedly snarky, however the content was present)

Him: Oh, I don't bet because I think it's unethical.

Me: I bet on fights, and I find it offensive that you think I'm engaging in unethical behaviour. Is it unethical to buy stocks too?

Him: Oh, well, it's unethical for me because I get paid to write about fights.

Me: Uhh... I get paid to write about fights too (which is by the way, true). Not only do I not find it unethical to bet on fights, I think it would be unethical to NOT bet on them. It would be akin to someone telling you to invest in a certain stock, without they themselves putting money in that stock.

Him: This is probably the silliest email anyone has ever written me. There are quite obvious reasons for sportswriters not to gamble on events they're covering.

Me: Such as...

Him: It's unethical for a reporter or columnist to gamble on sports events he's covering because it brings the credibility of his coverage into question. Do you honestly not understand this?

Me: No, apparently I don't. The way I see it, it would if anything bring your credibility into question by not betting on it.

I then thanked him for responding to my emails, as he had no obligation to.

Thoughts? Does he have a case that it is ever immoral to bet on fights (or immoral to bet on fights when you get paid to write about them), or do you think if anything is it is immoral to write about them and not bet?

Oh, and the obvious third option, that there is no immorality either way.

(For the record, he told me explicitly that he would otherwise be betting on Werdum, but only isn't because he finds it unethical. So he is advising people to bet on him. Is this not unethical?)

It's a 0 risk gamble for him. If Werdum loses, "aww shucks". If Werdum wins, "I called it!".

I get paid to write about/report on fights.

I can't think of any legitimate way that a small bet ($20?) with a friend could affect the credibility of the coverage.

I mean, if an analyst stands in front of a camera and says "Rick Story will beat Thiago Alves" (called it), isn't being confident enough in that prediction to bet your buddy $20 proving that you believe what you are saying? Doesn't it add more credibility?
Is he saying that if he bets, and is wrong, that he may be inclined to write something unfair?

I don't get it.

But I will give it some thought. Maybe he has a legit point.

It could affect your objectivity if you, yourself, stood to lose something if one fighter outperformed another.

The closest i have ever come to betting on fights is the MMA Connected pool. After an event, believe-you-me, you wouldn't to read my thoughts, especially when i've picked horribly :-)

Again, I feel pretty strongly that if you're effectively advising people to bet on a certain fighter in a column, and you yourself do not have money on that fight, that you're acting immorally. (Unless of course you have a legitimate reason: illegality, company policy, and surely others).<br /><br />Does anyone disagree with this?<br /><br />Also, there seems to be this weird argument that betting affects your objectivity. The reality couldn't be further from the truth. The only people who would be willing to bet on a fight are those who put the time in to research it and form an opinion that they truly believe reflects the objective reality.

In contrast, someone who does not bet is not bound by objective reality. He is free to make any prediction he wants, regardless of the amount of research he puts in, and regardless of whether he actually believes in what he's saying. (Further, if you wouldn't be willing to put any amount of money on a belief you claim to have, I would argue that you don't actually hold that belief).

So I'm actually confused Robin as to why you think $20 bets are okay, but maybe $2000 bets aren't? Surely the person willing to bet $2000 is going to be giving the most well researched analysis that he honestly believes reflects objective reality? Isn't that what we hope all journalists are doing?

Also, consider the fact that I have written articles in the past before the betting lines had been released (and by extension before I could even bet).

In such an article, I talk about a given fight, and say at what line I would put money on either fighter at. (ie: I'll tell you right now, I'll put money on marquardt or story if either is bigger than a +150 underdog). How is this not the most intellectually honest form of sports journalism?

I think that writer in question takes himself too seriously.

Credibility? People read predictions and reviews for fun and entertainment.

They are the thoughts/opinions/analysis of one person, and they are influenced by a million things including mood, health, weather, if your girl gave you action that day, unconscious opinion, business, hunger, deadline, comfort, back pain, your boss, etc etc etc.

And if you bet Ariel in the office $10 on Carwin that's gonna suddenly make this revered honourable professional (sarcasm) have an opinion that is not credible?

People that analyze MMA for a couple dollars should be thankful and not take themselves so seriously.

Its not rocket surgery. Its trying to look a bit deeper into fights than most people have the time or the details do to hopefully add a tiny bit to the experience when possible.

No no no. The problem is that the writer in question doesn't take himself seriously enough.

This particular writer wrote an article in January where he claimed "Alistair Overeem has a sound claim to being the best combat athlete in the world".

Then, months later, he writes an article talking about how "there is no real reason to think that Overeem is a top fighter"

This is what happens when someone doesn't have to put their money where their mouth is. They are free to say whatever they feel like (to presumably create controversy), instead of trying to give an accurate portrayal of objective reality (since they have no incentive to discover what that objective reality is).

in my humble opinion, we are seeking to find and tell the stories relevant to the fights, and offer some perspectives that fans who don't spend all day every day trying to analyze the sport might find interesting.

At its best, MMA writing and analysis could conceivably enrich a fans experience a tiny bit.

At its worst, self important MMA people talk nonsense that clutters up the experience.

Its my opinion that any analyst who thinks they know everything is missing the point. The point is to create some discussion and show some details that might make the experience of watching fights more exciting. Not to show everyone that you know everything about fighting. Nobody knows everything about fighting. That's why its so awesome.