What are the odds you’ll agree or disagree with my views on a much-publicized phenomenon dealing with all kinds of sporting competition?
I’m not betting on either side. I won’t even put my money down on the over-under.
By now you might have a good idea where this is going.
Yup. It’s about gambling as it relates to sports.
It’s nothing new, really. It’s been going on in Great Britain and elsewhere, forever. It’s perfectly legal to enter a betting store and put your money down on a soccer match or a horse race, of course. Over there, by the way, they call it football. All over the world it’s called football. Our version of football has made its way to London, Mexico City and other cities outside the U.S. But make no mistake, the World Cup is about football.
Betting on football here is nothing new. Some say it’s the heart beat of the NFL. While the league has, in the past frowned on it, it goes on big-time, and little is said officially.
Now, some states have made it legal to gamble on games.
No one really knows where that is headed, but it may not be merely a flash-in-the-pan.
What grabbed my attention was the newly-formed Alliance of American Football. The AAF is a secondary pro football league which is just getting underway with eight teams broken up into two four-team divisions, called the Eastern and Western Conferences.
Alliance of American Football
They include, the Arizona Hotshots, and the Atlanta Legends. They are the only two cities located in markets with NFL teams.
The others, such as Birmingham, Memphis, Orlando, San Antonio and Salt Lake City do not have NFL franchises.
The NFL is behind the project. The league is made up of players who were not chosen to play in the NFL. There is a national TV deal, with CBS covering games.
This, of course, is not the first time an alternate league has emerged. There have been many, giving it a try in the past, to no avail.
So far, attendance at the games has been so-so. But television ratings have been stronger than expected.
But here’s what’s going on:
The Alliance of American Football has embraced gambling. At a pre-season rehearsal game in San Antonio, some of the most influential bookmakers in Las Vegas were invited to walk the sidelines freely as invited guests of the league. The AAF feels sports betting, and even in-game play betting, will increase the interest and create a
major, new cashflow for the league and its players.
To cut to the chase, there is a commitment to make betting on games easier, and in the big picture, bring out of the shadows, the impact gambling has over football.
Betting on sports in this country has been huge for some time.
There are point spreads on every college and pro football contest, not to mention, basketball, baseball and hockey.
What has come to be the most popular, and most frivolous types of gambling for fans, are the fantasy leagues in the NFL, and the NCAA Basketball Tournament brackets.
Those are played by knowledgeable sports enthusiasts, as well as casual followers, who may never even watch a game, and just want to have some fun.
On a personal note, I have never been interested in betting. But I know many who do, and I often think I’m in the minority.
Here’s a story about sports gambling from my past.
In my first job out of college, I worked as an associate producer for a talk show on WINS Radio in New York. It is now a successful all-news operation, but at that time, 1964, it was a typical music station of the time, with disk jockeys, and news on the hour, and an occasional interview program.
One of the disk jockeys, was one of the legends of all-time, Murray Kaufman. He was known as “Murray the K”.
During the time Beatlemania was the rage, Murray became close to the group and referred to himself as the fifth Beatle.
He titled his four-hour show “The Swingin’ Soiree”. He opened his program with a Frank Sinatra song, and proceeded with frenetic antics, jingles, and innovative touches.
He was called “the original hysterical disk jockey”.
As a young, 22-year old sports aficionado who had yet to enter that field of broadcasting, I developed an expertise on all sports, including college basketball.
Call me a sports geek, but it was my principal interest in life.
I knew the rosters of most of the college teams in the nation, and had a strong feel for their strengths and weaknesses.
Murray got wind of my obsession, and suggested he call me at home to get my picks for the games he was betting that night.
At the time, I was living at home with my parents on New York’s East Side.
“Murray the K” the fifth Beatle.
He would call me at 10am and in a low tone, the calls would go something like this:
Murray: “Dick, N.C. State 6 at Maryland”
Me: “N.C. State”
Murray: Iowa 8 at Wisconsin”
Me: ” Wisconsin”
Murray: “Villanova 2 1/2 at Duquesne”
And so it went……
For some reason, I was wildly close to being on-the-money with my picks and Murray cleaned up.
I knew, of course, it all evens out, to say the least.
But Murray Kaufman invited me to the Brooklyn Fox theater where he was hosting a day-long rock and roll jamboree.
He told me to go backstage, and there, besides meeting the likes of Anthony and the Imperials, Dion Warwick, the Drifters, Shirelles, Bobby Vinton,
Chubby Checker, and others, Murray handed me a crisp 100-dollar bill. My percentage for his winnings.
What a thrill ! What a gift!
But I knew things would change, And they did. My picks were, eventually, off the mark.
One night in particular, he was losing. Big-time.
Murray would check the scores of games on a ticker machine in the newsroom during the playing of a song.
I happened to be in the newsroom, and kept my distance, when he made those frequent visits to the glass-covered ticker with the scores coming
through on the tape.
Finally, he exploded, and chased me all around the room. I was dodging desks and chairs trying to elude an angry disk jockey.
I was wondering when the tune playing on the air would end so he would have to go back on microphone.
It wasn’t soon enough.
He was so enraged at losing practically every game I recommended, he smashed his hand on the glass part of the machine.
It opened only a minor cut, but Murray called his doctor to come to the studio to clean it up.
So here was “Murray the K”, an icon of the days of DJ personalities, talking up the next Beatle hit, while his doctor placed a band-aid on his finger.
Murray and I patched things up, no pun here.
But I learned a lesson. No more touting games for me.
Wrapping up, I’m not sure how far betting legally will become a reality. I have a hunch it will only increase.
My only reservation of the explosive world of Fantasy leagues is the fact those involved have an allegiance to the players they choose, not to the
team they root for. I believe it’s a sign of the times. I’m probably old-fashioned that way.
The other concern I have, is the hope that the trend in sports gambling, will have a sad effect on those who have an addiction to the practice.
This is a serious issue. One that can’t be easily dismissed.
But I believe anyone bent on destruction to the themselves, or others, will find a way.
I think I will leave it at that.
But the subject of sports betting allowed me to delve into my past.
And my experience with a famous disk jockey that leaves me smiling to this day.
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