(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Thursday, July 08, 2004

Sports Prof is Back -- Topic: Gambling

SportsProf apologizes for the absence (technical difficulties), but he has amassed some issues to write about over the past several days, so here goes:

There are two things that SportsProf can't figure out. First, why ESPN televises the World Series of Poker. Poker is a game, not a sport, but, then again, ESPN initially meant the "Entertainment and Sports Programming Network." I suppose that if they televised the national spelling bee, they'll televise this. And, I suppose, people watch the stuff, although "watching" on ESPN means many fewer households than watch, say, the final round of the Masters. ESPN, you are really stretching here. And if you watch it, all I can say is I hope you're doing so while you're gutting it out on your treadmill, running, not walking. And then only because you can't tolerate any more ab roller infomercials.

Unless, of course, you're onto something. Which is, of course, people's need to gamble. Way back when (and if you still have relatives who wear suspenders to pull the waistband of their pants past their navels, they'll tell you), horse racing was one of the most popular sports in America, along with baseball and boxing. The reason: it was legalized gambling, and Vegas was basically a one-watt bulb town. After all, there are those who say that football is as popular as it is because it's so easy to bet on (unlike the other "major" sports). So perhaps you're just offering another form of gambling as entertainment, as horse racing's popularity has seriously waned, the comet-like popularity of Funny Cide and Smarty Jones notwithstanding. Still, SportsProf doesn't see it.

Televise high school summer all-star games, make more documentaries, anything else. But no table top games. What's next, the Southeastern Missouri Boggle Tournament?

And then there's more on gambling. Many states are putting slots at their horse tracks. Most recently, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania passed legislation that legalizes slot machines at about 14 tracks around the state (SportsProf didn't know there were that many on the whole East Coast), with the tax proceeds going to provide hundreds of dollars per family in real estate tax relief. And, get this, those crafty Pennsylvania legislators can legally put their hands in the till, because they passed a provision that will let them own 1% of a company with interests in the slots. SportsProf, while sympathetic to the need for real estate tax relief, shudders when he hears that one of the major ways to save a society is legalized gambling. Any time you hear that, you should run the other way.



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