(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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Friday, February 02, 2007

Would People Watch Football As Much If. . .

it weren't so easy to bet on?

You can bet once a week, and the point spreads are easy enough for a third-grader to understand. That's a whole lot different from betting on baseball, basketball or hockey.

There are all sorts of ways to bet, at a sports book, on-line, and with someone who is Tony Soprano's third cousin twice removed.

My view is that a significant (and by significant, I mean at least 10%) portion of the football fan population wouldn't watch the game if it weren't so easy to bet on. Now that doesn't mean I want to outlaw sports betting. All I'm doing is calling into question the depth of knowledge and sincerity of the average football fan.

About 40 years ago, horse racing was one of the most popular sports in the country and people bought tickets to the Irish Sweepstakes because lotteries weren't present for the most part in the U.S. and the track was the one plac where you could make a legal bet. Today, almost every state has some form of legalized gambling, you can bet off-shore, you can bet on-line, and there are lotteries everywhere. Horse racing is all but dead (yes, the big events are draws, but the attendance is very small otherwise), and who buys Irish lottery tickets in the U.S. anymore. The reasons are simple -- the evolution of gambling has been such that you don't need to play the ponies or pony up for Irish Sweepstakes tickets any more. It's that simple.

My father before he died cautioned that among the things Gibbon wrote about in "The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire" as a cause of the downfall of Rome were that lotteries had sprung up. My guess is that the Romans had not figured out how to create a one-armed bandit and there was no such game as Seven Hills Hold 'Em, but I could be wrong. My other surmise is that there are so many temptations in our country that it would be hard to argue that any single one could cause the downfall of America, and I'm not suggesting that sports betting is.

Sorry for the digression. I now return to my initial premise -- how many people watch football (solely or primarily) because they can bet on it and because they can easily understand the betting?

Probably more than you think. (I believe I read somewhere recently -- perhaps ESPN the Magazine -- that football represents a large majority of sports betting in Las Vegas, and I'm going to do more research here).

And, remember, up until Jose Canseco spoke out, there were only a handful of baseball players who took steroids.

Just remember this, how many people talked about spreads or odds when the Cardinals were beating the Tigers in the World Series last fall, or when the Heat beat the Mavericks in the NBA Finals?

But everyone knows what the spread currently is for the Super Bowl, don't they?

Except me.


Blogger CollegeBoy said...

Hi. I don't want to sound evil, coming from a person who represents an internet sports wagering page, but you have oversimplified your argument. The popularity of the NFL and the amount of wagering on the games go hand in hand. When no one was watching the NFL, how many people were wagering on the game? Or, how about advertisers for the Super Bowl? Did you ever hear how much a commercial costs to air during the World Series or the NBA championship? Of course not. But you hear it all the time when it comes to the Super Bowl. The NFL has grabbed the attention of America, and due to this exposure, the public knows the ins and outs of the game until it is almost too exhausting.

Also, wagering on baseball, hockey, tennis, basketball or any sport is far from difficult to understand. A gambling site/bookie makes no money the harder something is to understand. The more streamlined wagering is, the more money that is wagered, the more money the casinos/bookies get.

As for the fall of the Roman Empire being due to the lottery, well, that's also a tough sell. The same proliferation of temptation you see in America today existed back then as well, there was just as much '7 Deadly Sins' going should read the satires of Horace and Juvenal if you ever get a chance. Pretty interesting stuff.

I was just surfing some pages on blogger when I chanced across your page and left a comment. Enjoy the Super Bowl, have a good weekend, and...if you or anyone else reading this wishes to learn a little bit more about sports wagering, head over my way...

8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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2:19 AM  

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