A Non-Chemical Romance: Gambling and the Unhealthy Infatuation With Pro Sports
I look back on a significant chunk of my childhood with a fair amount of regret. From the ages of 11-18 playing sports, watching sports and religiously following my “favorite” teams within the four major professional leagues in the United States consumed an unhealthy amount of my time.
I was among the top athletes in my very small town, and in certain instances can reminisce about a number of events involving sports quite fondly, but I have come to a realization.
Its not just about playing sports, it is more about investing an unseemly portion of my formative years in rooting for, living, breathing dying and most damagingly, gambling on professional sports, which had unknowingly become a negative obsession.
This being my first editorial as an adult, in which I’ll be discussing sports, I felt it necessary to discuss my own background on this topic to give you a introspective, personal frame of reference.
Even the most casual of sport fans are familiar with the 1919 Chicago White Sox, World Series fixing scandal. The legendary scandal was immortalized for the critically acclaimed 1988 classic film “Eight Men Out.”
In March 1964 Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) scored a knockout victory over heavyweight champion Sonny Liston. Following the famous “phantom” punch Ali became extremely animated which was apparent after a legendary photograph of the event was circulated. It was later confirmed that Liston was compromised due to his connections with notorious mobsters leading to him taking an obvious “dive” more than likely to repay those aforementioned gangsters (info courtesy of pbs.com)
Sports gambling has morphed into a billion-dollar industry, no longer is it necessary for habitual gamblers to converge onto the Las Vegas strip or resort to wagering through “bookies” who are naturally connected to organized crime. Websites like Fan Duel, Draft Kings and Bet365 to name a few, allows bettors the dangerously accessible luxury of placing bets from the confines of their living room couch.
Addiction to gambling may very well be the most consequential of all human afflictions caused by the addicted mind. In my personal experience observing someone in the throes of degenerate gambling, it was safe to say that I bore witness to some of the most incessantly compulsive behavior imaginable.
Similar to alcohol abuse, sports gambling has become widely accepted in the crux of society. Online wagering has been saturated in commercialism and consumerism, the fact you can watch an advertisement for Fan Duel, in which sports gambling is glamorized so flippantly, yet includes a microscopic warning label along the bottom of the screen is laughable in its over-the-top contradiction.
I was always of the opinion that due to the current structure of professional athletes contracts, the games would be free of being tainted by fixing scandals.One professional athlete whose annual salary comes to mind when exploring this theory. The athlete whose currently worth mentioning is international soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who signed a record shattering 214.04 million euro agreement to play for the Saudi Arabian Football Club Al-Nassar FC. No prior sports contract has ever approached such an unthinkable stratosphere. Even the most modest of people could, with a straight face anyway, blame anyone for accepting such a ridiculously lucrative deal. (info courtesy of sportstrac.com)
Saudi Arabia’s LIV Golf league has been all over the news cycles for the past year. Since its inception the burgeoning league has made headlines by hijacking some of the most successful, and popular players from the PGA Tour.
The fact that Saudi Arabia possesses an endless reserve of capital gives them the luxury of being able to lure top golfers to commit to playing for LIV simply by offering monumentally rich contracts. One example of a player selling out exclusively for a massive payday was Phil Mickelson. The winner of 6 major PGA major championships, including four Masters titles, he shockingly turned his back on the PGA Tour after earning roughly 94 million dollars during his playing career. That leads to the obvious as to why, someone whose status in the world of golf is only rivaled by the likes of Rory McIlroy and even Tiger Woods?
Well, that brings us back to gambling addiction. It’s no secret within the world of sports that Phil Mickelson is a compulsive gambler. According to longtime golf columnist Alan Shipnuck, Mickelson accrued a roughly 40-million-dollar gambling debt between the years of 2010-2014.
Although these rumors are universally believed to be fact, it has never been stated as truth. Whether or not the specific amount is embellished, in my opinion, the overall feeling is that the cash cow of legalized sports gambling, definitely comes with some negative consequences. And in Mickelson’s case, the proof is in the pudding that the defect of gambling addiction can have a destructive impact on people of all financial or societal standing. (info courtesy of sportingnews.com)
For those of you reading this editorial in Europe, you’re likely familiar with the term “soccer hooligan”. There are the occasional acts of violence incited during professional sporting events here in the U.S., but I’m sure you’d all agree that nothing quite compares to an old-fashioned soccer riot. And I won’t discriminate by singling out European soccer fans. Violence provoked by professional football is rampant all over the world especially within Central and South America. The deadliest soccer riot on record occured in May 1964 during a match between Peru and Argentina at the National Stadium in Lima. A mind boggling 300 people were killed and 500 more injured as a result of the infamous melee. Of course this monumentally unfortunate event is an extremely rare occurrence simply due to the sheer number of fatalities, but the scourge of soccer related violence is still a major stain on the world’s most popular game. (info courtesy of bbc.com)
My late uncle always described sports as the opiate of society. Until my late twenties I never really understood that statement, what I realized was that sports serves as a massive distraction from what’s really happening in our world.
If you haven’t noticed whenever there’s a horrific tragedy, whether it be terrorist attacks like 9/11, Boston Marathon bombing or Bataclan slaughter in Paris, professional sports is always credited with helping us heal, and move on. And to put that chain of events into perspective is to truly envision how absolutely full of shit anyone who buys into, or helps to spread such malarkey.
I mean take the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, for example, do you sincerely believe that any family member of one of the slain children, will actually take any solace whatsoever from the New England Patriots of the National Football League winning a game? It wouldn’t be fair or accurate of me to blame professional sports for any of the countless ills of our society, but I feel it needs to be acknowledged that a bunch of grown men playing a kids game should never under any circumstance be used as a sedative for something so awful as mass murder, and or terrorism.
It wouldn’t be proper for me to delve into the world of sports and simply focus on the many negatives attached to the overall grand scheme of things. One aspect needs to be stated that these athletes possess an otherworldly amount of talent, but it’s not just the superior physical gifts that’s been bestowed upon these very select few. In a lot of cases it appears that the ordinary spectator doesn’t appreciate the limitless hours it takes to reach the pantheon of world class athletics. Additionally, a number of contact sports: mainly American Football, Boxing, Hockey and Mixed Martial Arts comes with the eventuality of catastrophic injuries, most famously chronic traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) which has become synonymous with pro football.
Whilst penning this piece I was growing cognizant of keeping the principal theme in context and not to lose track of the purpose. There were so many angles in which I wanted to explore, for the simple fact that obviously a subject like sports is extremely broad. Since I’ve never approached this topic in my time writing editorials, it was a bit difficult to chose a particular area of discussion. Taking into account some of the current newsworthy happenings within the world of sports, while considering these topics effects on not just the realm of pro sports but also on society as a whole.
Gambling addiction is a serious problem, and in a myriad of ways which differs from drug or alcohol dependence. Mainly for the simple fact that it doesn’t change the chemistry or physical makeup in the body and brain. We already examined earlier about the reality of how gambling is so loosely regarded in mainstream society when it pertains to the addiction plague.
In closing, I still love sports for its athleticism, competition and the comradery of being on a team. Still, the older a get the more I’ve come to the conclusion that sports in this day and age has become a major tool for Ultra Capitalism.
I didn’t really touch on the dynamic between politics and sports. My intention was to focus more on the psychological aspect of sports, when it comes to, whether a fan or player, developing an unhealthy obsession with something that in actuality is nothing more than kids’ games. The gambling theme was also integral to making the connection between professional sports and a cripplingly destructive flaw such as gambling addiction. A billion dollar industry, in this case, professional sports will only grow financially and in popularity, there’s no evidence to dispute that fact. But there are several elements attached to professional athletics which are detrimental to the players, fans and gamblers. These issues are obvious, yet it’s fairly apparent that nothing will be done to improve the fabric of the game.
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