Gambling has been a third rail activity for athletes since the Black Sox scandal, and yet it has shaped sports more than almost anything other than television. Fantasy Football has boosted the NFL, and just about everyone fills out a bracket when March Madness rolls around each year. For those with short attention spans, there are one-day fantasy sports gambling sites which promise the thrill of the wager without a season-long commitment.
Yet the players who become involved with gambling – Rose, the Black Sox, Paul Hornung and “George” from TV show Webster, the 1978-79 Boston College basketball players – meet with more disgrace than if they had committed any other sin against the integrity of the game. Gamblers Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson are banned by rule from Baseball’s Hall of Fame; PED users Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro weren’t elected but at least appeared on the ballot.
The fact that gambling is so interwoven into watching and enjoying sports is exactly why we don’t put up with it from athletes themselves. After all, if the players’ motivations aren’t purely focused on winning, how hard would it be to put down money on their chances?
We can’t have some schmuck messing up our Fantasy Teams just because the mob is threatening to break his thumbs.