Saturday, October 3, 2015

The End of Sports?

Watergate whistle-blower, Deep Throat, famously advised, "Follow the money."  Investigators of great business, political or personal failings will agree that Deep Throat was right. Money might not be the root of all evil, but it's certainly in the top three. The Bible refers to the corrupting power of money as the "deceitfulness of riches." The deception part comes with the knowledge that nobody gives the stuff away and if they did, all of us would be standing in line with our hands out.

I have a famous aversion to big things, big business, big government, big box stores, primarily because  I'm suspicious of how they got that way. Generally speaking, the more money any organization swims in, the greater the probability of corruption. Of course, I normally make an exception in my case, since the amount of money I have is always just a few bucks less than what I need. But, hypocrisy aside, as a general rule, huge amounts of cash can and often leads to problems...big problems.

Witness the meteoric rise of the DFS industry in America. In less than five years companies like Fan Duel and Draftkings have gone from meager start-ups to the single biggest spenders on television advertising in the United States. In 45 states, these two daily fantasy sports leaders, are raking in hundreds of millions of dollars from online players. How is this possible when online gambling is mostly illegal in this country? As usual, it comes courtesy of a loophole in the law which carves out an exception for fantasy sports as a game of skill, not luck. By the time our glacially slow government gets around to closing this loophole, it will be too late because the five year old industry is already too powerful and too rich to be outlawed. So, what's the problem? Well, nothing if you subscribe to the belief that billions of dollars of new wagers and tens of millions of new wagerers won't have any negative impact of sports in America. However, if you line up more in the deceitfulness of riches camp, you might worry that eventually with all this new money on the line, somewhere, someday, somehow somebody is going to start fixing games. Some may suspect that games may already have been fixed, we just haven't discovered it yet.

Maybe I worry too much. Maybe all of this betting on games and players is a perfectly harmless form of entertainment with virtually no social downside. Maybe Gamblers Anonymous will experience a decline in the need for their services in the coming years. Maybe lower paid professional athletes won't be tempted to accept duffle bags of cash to fix games. Maybe the introduction of online fantasy gambling will help Major League Baseball attract more and younger fans. I mean what are the odds that a brand new 6 billion dollar sports book business will have any negative impact on sports if America?

I got 20 bucks that says that within two years the New England Patriots will be accused of changing play calls to manipulate the point spread. Wanna bet??