Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Will Congress Interfere With the NBA?

21 07 2007

by mr. travis

It’s no secret that gambling is everywhere. Besides the obvious locations of Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the gambling culture has seen a boom with the rise of Native American owned casinos. ESPN has even gotten in on the act by parading poker around as if it were some sort of athletic achievement to sit on one’s ass and play cards. Sports books are everywhere; Betting on sports even reaches into such simple things as the local fantasy league. Thus, yesterday’s revelation of NBA referee Tim Donaghy and his alleged mafia driven point shaving scheme should come as really no surprise to anyone paying attention to the world of sports. While there has never been a gambling issue with a member of the officiating corner of the game, the specter of betting has been hanging over the heads of those running the four major sports leagues. From the infamous Chicago “Black Sox” scandal of 1919 to boxer Jake LaMotta taking a fall to the Pete Rose scandal of the late 80’s, gambling has either affected the outcomes of the games, or at least been rumored to have an effect on the games. So, what is Commissioner David Stern and the NBA to do? This scandal is even more dangerous to the sport than the NFL and their band of misfits and criminals, even more damaging than baseball and steroids. If one ref is tainted, who’s to say that there aren’t others? With organized crime possibly involved, who knows how deep their claws have sunk into the sport?

For the next few days as the story develops and the implications of this bombshell are discussed ad nauseam, there will be a sizable outcry from conspiracy theorists who will see this as a sign that the bad call made on their favorite team was, in fact, a clever gambling scheme. The NBA will have to deal with this now and for at least the next few years, similar to the random outcries and accusations of steroids running rampant in baseball. Looking beyond the chat room nonsense and fan boy outcry there is a specific group that needs to take a stand on the possibility of betting within the NBA as well as gambling as a whole. And this would be the Congress of the United States.

The steroid investigation by Congress has been, at best, impotent, at worst, absolutely an embarrassment and a waste of the taxpayer dollar. The committee led by former Senator George Mitchell has run around in circles, trying desperately to find someone to speak on the record, having to settle for Jason Giambi, who was railroaded by Commissioner Bud Selig to testify, despite having testified in front of a grand jury. This is nothing more than political theater, an attempt by Congress to run a moral crusade against something that really means little in the long scheme of things. If this were anything more than theatre, football (pro and college), wrestling, boxing, even track and field would be brought under investigation. Instead, Congress continues on with baseball, giving into the puritanical manipulation of whatever constituents they are trying to impress.

Arguably, the gambling problem is far more devastating than the steroids issue, and if the members of Congress were actually serious about cleaning up the country’s sports (for the children, right?) then this would already be on the docket for Monday morning. There are major economic ties to the major sports in this country, while the national economy may not flounder if specific teams or sports were to go under, the local economy could be greatly harmed if not devastated. Certain cities, such as Portland, rely on the revenue and jobs created by their specific teams. And when those specific teams lie within the jurisdiction of the NBA, then a potential problem is created.

The fans of professional sports come to the games in hopes of not just being entertained, but to also see competition at its peak. While many complain about the steroid issue is creating unfair competition, the fact remains that a pitcher can still strike out a hitter on ‘roids, while professional players cannot defeat a member of the officiating crew who is on the take. Fans will leave in droves if they believe their favorite sport is tainted, if the game they are seeing is faked or inauthentic. The players themselves will begin to leave, there are other leagues overseas where they can play without fear of playing against a referee who is trying to make good on old gambling debts. The fact that the NBA hadn’t an inkling this was occurring is shocking. David Stern created a new set of rules giving refs even more power. With that extra power there needs to be that extra layer of protection, not just for the players but the fans themselves. To not have that is a serious oversight by Stern, who only recently was discussing moving a franchise to Las Vegas. One would hope that is no longer in the cards.

The world of professional sports in the U.S. is too important economically to allow for it to be brought down into the seedy side of gambling. Congress, if it wants its other investigation into professional sports to be seen as legitimate and not just another puritanical investigation brought on by this administration, needs to act and act fast. Meanwhile, Commissioner David Stern needs to come down hard on all gambling practices within the NBA, even if that means severing ties with NBA legends Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, both of who, are known for their high spending gambling sprees. To allow this to continue will mean bringing down a sport with such high athletic potential in its young stars. Basketball is on the cusp of another golden age, to see it wasted because of gambling would be a disservice not only to its players, but to the fans as well.



One response

22 07 2007

This is a joke right?

Congress is OWNED by ESPN/Disney (George Mitchell, Chairmen) and by proxy NFL, MLB, NBA.

Doping is allowed (steroids, cortisone, speed)
Corked bats are allowed
fixed game outcomes are allowed
lobby efforts are allowed
gambling is allowed
cheating is allowed
TV revenues must be maximized!

Never take TV sport seriously. It is an Opera Theater show.

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