You Bracket…You Bought It

Oh, I bet…you bet I do

degenerate /adj. dɪˈdʒɛnərɪt adjective – having fallen below a normal or desirable level, esp. in physical or moral qualities.

Well, it is time to spend the whole weekend sitting in front of the TV, watching a bunch of guys run around, bouncing a 9-inch diameter ball, and trying to throw it into a 18-inch hoop, placed 10 feet above their heads. Only a Canadian could have come up with this.

Yes, March Madness is finally here. Nerves will be frayed, brackets broken, ulcers formed, and credit lines stretched. If you look at the statistics over the past few years, nearly a billion dollars are wagered, and thousands of hours of labour are lost at work each year, simply because of the NCAA tournament. $3.8 billion or more is in lost in worker productivity as employees slip away to check NCAA Tournament scores, participate in office pools, or watch streaming webcasts of the games on their office computers.

A portion of society believes people who gamble are the degenerates of society. What these same folks don’t keep in mind, is that there are people actually have do the will-power to stop the betting when necessary, or they have the financial ability to keep up with their losses. I am one of those from that first column. Please keep in mind: I’m not dropping a couple grand per day on this stuff. I spend the equivalent of coffee money, or whatever change may be in my pocket in the hopes of a big payout. I do however, spend a ridiculous amount of my free time researching all my picks, and yet, still have very little results. I consider it a hobby and I find it adds another source of entertainment to the game. I do it because for some foolish reason, I still think that I am smarter than Vegas. I check the sports odds websites daily, for “advice”. I take the time to read the online posts by the regular visitors, who are obviously spending much, much more than me. They trash talk each other relentlessly. I worry about them. 

But very soon, and on a nightly basis, I will find myself yelling at some 19 year old kid I’ve never heard of.  I’m sure he’s very nice, and his parents raised him correctly. However, I’m ready to throw my TV out the window because he missed a free throw at the end of the game and his team didn’t cover the spread. The people that live in my neighbourhood will have questions.

Now, I am the furthest thing from a conspiracy theorist. Well OK, except for the ridiculously slow development of the electric car, Magic Johnson’s “AIDS” and the “sport of soccer” I’m not a conspiracy theorist. but I have to look objectively at the dynamics of todays’ sports gambling. We have been in a financial  rut for a while now, and there are way too many opportunities for some random college kid to fix a game. There is a “student-athlete” on any one of these teams, that knows he is not NBA material. He knows that his basketball career at the school went nowhere near as well as he thought it would .  Maybe he busted up his knee early on, or was just a product of poor scouting decisions. The kid may want to help his family out. He probably has bills of his own that need to get paid. The lure exists for him to throw a game, or shave some points for a quick buck. To think it doesn’t is just naive, and borders on stupid.

We live in a technologically advanced society where people can be in contact with each other, with just the punch of a few buttons located in their pocket. It seems everyone has an IPhone, Blackberry, and is on Facebook, or Twitter. Offshore/online sports websites are all over the internet. Due to the mismanagement of sports gambling legislation in Canada and the United States, these are the few ‘legal’ options that the sports gambler has. Of course, down the street, “Johnny Knuckles” has a line ready for you, but making that phone call is always a mistake.

We also know that professional athletes are prone to using their “tech-outlets”. Twitter and Facebook have replaced press conferences as the means by which athletes release news about themselves. So unless the coaches have their players locked in an empty basement like a bad Austrian father, with CIA-level signal blockers, and armed guards, they know the point spread of their game. Trust me, they know.

The best example of what can happen is to look at the professional basketball ranks, and the corrupt officiating in the NBA. Already, it has been proven that referees (Tim Donaghy) are fixing games. Remember a few years ago, when one NCAA crew came under severe scrutiny after walking off the court with 1.7 seconds left in the game, after having missed two blatant turnover calls.  The score total for that game ended EXACTLY on the number set by Vegas oddsmakers.  The crew then voluntarily removed itself from the remainder of the tournament. Things that make you go: Hmmmmm.

One can only imagine the pressure being placed upon the referees of the biggest 68 team tournament in America. The same situation exists as far as being segregated from information. Just the appearance of a situation, where the official may have done something unscrupulous to alter the outcome of the game, is placed under higher scrutiny since the Donaghy issue. These are adults who can’t have all day, league appointed babysitters. But, they are human, and may not be able to resist the opportunity for some ‘easy money’.

Indeed, wagering on sports has somewhat become a sport upon itself. I understand that buyer beware may be the best option here. Nonetheless, I will still stop buying coffee for the next few weeks. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to check the updated lines for this weekend’s games….and pray some kid doesn’t owe the cable company any money.

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About Darin A. Ramsay

Devoted & doting husband, and loving, stay at home Dad for my super 5-year old daughter. I'm passionate about who I love, and what I write. I am an independent sports analyst/writer, as well I opine prophetic on different topics as I see fit. I am forever a proud Patriots, Avalanche, Tigers, Spurs, Miami Hurricanes football, and Arizona Wildcat basketball fan.
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