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

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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More from our Media archive: "FM 104.3/The Fan's morning and afternoon teams to go head-to-head."

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