Out of Left Field
and A Little Reality
The shake, rattle & roll
of betting is heard again
By STAN ISAACS
Gambling is a principle inherent in human nature. It belongs to us all .Edmund Burke
The word that the womens basketball league (the WNBA) is relocating a failed franchise to a casino, the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut (hence the Connecticut Suns), has agitated a few people and reinvigorated the whole subject of sports and gambling.
Will the women be tainted by association with the riff raff who schoot craps and play blackjack? I dont think so any more than boxing is any the worse as a result of its most frequent locale for televised fights these days being Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos. Though some would argue that casinos should think twice about tarnishing its image by being associated with boxing. One mans riff raff is anothers high roller.
A few of the cognoscenti have made sport at the expense of the National Football League for its refusal to allow commercials on TV for the city of Las Vegas because of the NFLs disinclination to be associated in any way. The mayor of Las Vegas got into a royal snit about that, saying that the ads didnt mention gambling. Oh.
The larger issue here is that the major leagues act as if sports and gambling are foreign to each other. One feeds the other in actuality, and this comes out into the open periodically when there are betting scandals. Those betting scandals act as justification for the big leagues' crusade to suppress any association with gambling interests.
Frank Deford scoffs in Sports Illustrated that The [leagues] straw man is the fix. To hear the leagues carry on, beady-eyed fixers are everywhere, ready to lure well-paid professionals into throwing games. Because of how well-paid pros are today, Deford adds, the odds (excuse me) of anybody pulling off a fix now in a major league game are off the board (beg your pardon). As a point of fact the books in Vegas themselves serve more to protect sport than to menace it.
Football, basketball and baseball games attract the most betting, not only in Las Vegas where it is legal, but around the rest of the country. Underworld connections handle millions of money in illegal bets. The leagues never admit this, but betting fuels interest in sports. It is no coincidence that football, the biggest betting sport, gets the highest TV ratings. The Super Bowl is every bookies pot of gold at the end of the seasons rainbow each year.
The nation is on a betting binge with state-sponsored lotteries in full swing almost everywhere, riverboat casinos on the Mississippi and video slot machines invading racetracks. The one source of gambling that doesnt contribute to government pockets is illegal sports betting.
Racetrack betting long has been legalized, putting out of business illegal bookies. On the other hand, millions of dollars that could be put to good use by municipalities (whether they do put them to good use is another matter) go into organized crime, but the leagues are a powerful lobby preventing the legalization of sports betting.
The leagues argue that legalized sports betting will encourage scandals. That was a danger in the days when an athlete might make more money from a fix than he could in salary. Now, so many athletes are millionaires or soon-to-be millionaires that only the dumbest of the dumb would be prey for fixers
Sports betting should be legalized. Next case.
Almost every newspaper this side of the New York Times prints betting odds. The National Collegiate Athletic Association tried to withhold credentials for its March Madness basketball tournament a few years ago from any paper that published odds on college games. It desisted when it figured out that only the Times might be covering the tournament.
Newsday columnist Steve Jacobson writes an annual Super Bowl day column interviewing officials of Gamblers Anonymous, revealing some of the tragic stories of degenerate bettors. He has put forth a good idea. He would include the telephone number of Gamblers Anonymous under the daily listing of the odds line. His paper wont do it.
Say the word, gambling, and up pops the name of Pete Rose, baseballs prodigal son. I have a vote for the Hall of Fame and would vote for Rose if the officials would allow his name to be placed on the ballot. I dont think Rose should be reinstated to the point of allowing him to work in any baseball capacity, but I dont think his gambling habits and lifestyle now should keep him out of the Hall. He has been punished more than some other sinners (how about George Steinbrenner trying to subvert the constitution with election bribes?) and the whole issue can be put to rest by allowing sinners like me the chance to vote for him.
* * *
The satirical newspaper Onions scalawags have it just right in the report that the Yankees, to insure they win again this year, signed up every player in professional baseball. Wed like to welcome the entire roster of Major League Baseball into the Yankees family, Onion quoted team owner George Steinbrenner as the franchises 928 newest additions held up their pinstripes at a Yankee Stadium press conference.
* * *
The fuss over high school whiz LeBron James being declared ineligible to play basketball for a few games because he took $845 jerseys from a sporting goods store reminds me of a comment I once heard from Julius (Dr. J) Erving. He said, Most of todays basketball players who suddenly come into riches are from families who have never had any dealings with big money. Middle class kids who are awarded big bonuses may have relatives or friends who are accountants or lawyers and can advise them. Poor kids are prey to people who would take advantage of them.
LeBron James' mother, Gloria, is not your Mothers Day poster gal. She took out a loan to buy him a $50,000 SUV. And, during a blowout by James St. Vincent-St. Mary team, she paraded in front of the visiting teams fans holding pictures of her son. James has never met his biological father and the man who served as a father figure is in jail for mortgage fraud.
The kid has nothing to look forward to except zillion-dollar National Basketball Association contracts.
©2003 by Stan Isaacs. The Stan Isaacs caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. The illustration is from IMSI's Master Clips Collection, 1895 Francisco Blvd. E., San Rafael, CA, 94901-5506, USA.
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