ESPN doesn't seem concerned. Simmons was unavailable for comment, and the network's vice-president of communications, Josh Krulewitz, said that betting on sports was something Simmons shared with his readership. (This weekend, Simmons has at least two bets on the Super Bowl, including a long-odds wager, placed last summer, on the Steelers to win - "One of our best bets ever," he called it on the podcast.)

"We have employee policies with respect to gambling to protect against potential conflicts," Krulewitz said in an e-mail to the Phoenix. "We recognize, however, that for many sports fans, gambling is a part of sports discussion. Therefore, in certain circumstances, our commentators include references to gambling in ways that are appropriate for their role and relevant to our audience.

"In Bill's case, his columns and commentaries reflect the voice of the deeply engaged sports fanatic," Krulewitz continued. "He connects with millions by sharing common interests. Gambling in sports is a part of that cultural connection and appropriately part of Bill's work at times."

In a June 2006 column, Simmons defended the relationship between gambling and sports, even insisting that the actions of athletes and coaches when facing the risk of a bet were good indicators of how they'd deal with the pressure of competition.

"If I owned a team," he wrote. "I'd insist on playing poker or blackjack with any coach or manager I was thinking of hiring."

Maybe editors can try the same thing with their next hires - at the sports book.

Sean Kerrigan can be reached at skerrigan@phx.com. Follow him on Twitter @seankerrigan21.

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