Crassly planted on a wobbly bar stool, blowing out dreary clouds of cigarette smoke and with a folded sports section beside him, he is the degenerate NFL gambler polluting your neighborhood with seeds of unholy sin. With every field goal, his already-strained heart skips a beat, while his mood ranges from pure euphoria to hollow despair.
All in the span of four quarters.
From inside their Park Ave. headquarters, this is the image of the bettor the NFL relays to the frightened public, making us think that any individual that would disgrace the sanctity of our sports is a friendless loser that contributes nothing to positive to society.
In some ways, they are right. These people exist in gin mills all over the country. Half in the bag, cursing rookie quarterbacks and waiting on that elusive parlay that never comes, they spend their Sundays chasing his infinite losses. But the majority of NFL gamblers don’t wear this makeup.
People like to make the game more interesting. They could be your boss, your father or your liquor store owner. They all make a group of average Joes who want to enjoy good old-fashioned football with possibly a little extra jingle.
However, the NFL—along with the NCAA, MLB, NBA and NHL—feels that everyone’s extra interest in the game is simply not tolerable for their product. That’s why, on Monday, they all filed a joint lawsuit against the state of New Jersey for proposing to move forward and legalize sports gambling (h/t New York Times).
The lawsuit lectures to Gov. Chris Christie and his Garden State constituents that they had a chance to be one of the exceptions of the 1992 Federal Law restricting gambling to a handful of states. The New Jerseyans sat on their hands during their 1993-1994 decision period.
Maybe they were too busy focusing on the opening of Clerks.
Even after putting that morsel of legal truth to the side, one has to look at the hypocrisy of the National Football League. While virtually all sports are gambled on illegally, the NFL is the crème de la crème of a sports gambler's paradise, and the sport as a whole (including college football) owes much of its popularity and success to the betting culture around it.
Behind a veiled statement of betting doing damage to the "character and integrity of the game," commissioner Roger Goodell and his high-priced lawyers attempt to paint a picture of harmonious choreography always displaying universal goodwill.
Not even taking into consideration the barbaric and violent game itself or the daily police blotter that swallows up dozens of players a month, the league is far from the Disney World that some want us to believe it is.
And when it comes to placing a wager, the NFL makes it feel so nice and easy. What other league constantly updates the grades of likelihood that a player will play? What other league has weekly pick’ems on TV, radio and newspapers with point spreads? What other league sets up their main dish in the same format every week in block sets ripe for the gamblers pickins?
The answer is none.
Apparently, “the reputation and goodwill” between the fans and teams aren't ruined when the NFL brain trust sees fit. They, along with the rest of the public, know gambling in excess can be devastating and ruin the lives of some individuals. However, we take a gamble every morning when we wake up, see a Will Ferrell movie or buy expiring lettuce. The public knows that, but the NFL doesn’t want any piece of culpability.
Billions and billions of dollars exchange hands during the course of an NFL season. The style of play combined with the scoring and short season creates a perfect scenario for any interested masses. Like a casino for the blue-collared, the everyman stretches in his recliner, now conditioning his living room to the likes of the Golden Nugget every Sunday.
None of this is lost on the NFL, which is why games will be played on almost every day of the week in the 2012 season, Tuesday being the lone day this year a game isn’t played. More betting equals more viewers, which equals more money for the fat cats having money fights in their Manhattan barracks.
But don’t bother us, the unassuming public, with any of this. We’re too busy filling out betting slips, doing office pools and filling out squares to listen anyways. Know what I mean? Just enjoying the game on our NFL Sunday Ticket.
However, let us know if that scary, potbellied, cigar-smoking social eyesore shows up. If he hangs around, he could cause some devastating problems.
We don’t want him ruining it for everyone.
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