Conspiracy of Gambling in Sports

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“There is continually something more to know about an alleged conspiracy, the proof of which is subjected to an investigative machine that depends on the perpetual motion of signification”.
In North America nowadays there are currently just over 40 million Americans and Canadians collaborating in fantasy sports as well as playing on either collegiate and/or professional sporting events. This range is more than three times as high when in contrast to the stats in 2004, but the question is, why is gambling so famous within the U.S.? Is it the fact that people love the feeling of winning, or is it because it’s considered as addictive as alcohol and drugs? Or better yet with as much attention fantasy leagues and Las Vegas get, why are the exposures of professional or collegiate athlete/umpire gambling in sports received as scandalous events by the public? In my opinion, these scandals are taken so seriously because people want to see their athletic heroes succeed for the love of the game, and not just to make money. As kids, you grow up believing that you can do anything, and when you’re playing any sport, you play because you love the game, not because you receive money. But as you become older, the idea of the more money you have, the more successful you will come into the mind of young adults transitioning to the idea of having a successful life, and an unsuccessful life. And even though professional athletes make millions of dollars, some see the idea making a little more on the side as the more, the merrier.

However, in collegiate sports, the source of gambling is different. Even though athletes do not get paid, some gamble/bet on the side so that they can prosper more financially. Or another reason is that because sometimes student athletes don’t have enough money for food or travel, they resort to gambling. According to Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), there were only 13.5 million participants in fantasy sports in 2004. Ten years later, that number has tripled into over 41 million Americans and Canadians participating in fantasy sports in 2014 despite it being illegal in some states to participate in paid fantasy sports games. Among those 41 million Americans and Canadians that participate in fantasy sports, almost half (46.9 %) paid a league fee to participate. In college, 62.4% of male Division 1 athletes and 42.8% of female Division 1 athletes gambled (Ellenbogen et al., 352). As you can see here gambling is definitely not uncommon making us wonder how much one bet or one fantasy league game can affect a certain sporting event. To answer that question we then see that over the past 100 years there have been many instances when a professional or collegiate athlete/umpire has gambled causing a game or two to become “fixed”. What this means is that before the game is even played, the outcome is already set to cause a team to lose on purpose, or not to win by a certain amount of points. One example of this is the Boston College Basketball Scandal in 1978-1979 where a mob in Boston made a few players on the team score a certain number of points so the mob would win money. In return, the players helping out the mob would get a cut of the money. But other times there are instances when a player, coach, or even umpire gamble on a game that he/she is coaching because that person has the “inside scoop” on their league. The incident with Pete Rose is an example of this where he was caught gambling on MLB teams as well as his own team after a stellar career with the Cincinnati Reds. And an example of an umpire betting on games that he/she was officiating was the scandal in 2007 with an NBA referee, Tim Donaghy, who was caught betting on games he officiated as well as other games that he did not officiate. With these three scandals being the prime focus of this paper, I will come to the conclusion on why these events affected their league the way they did, and how the public viewed these betting/fixation of games then, and how they still view them today.

One of the most famous incidents of a coach betting on a professional game is probably the incident with “Charlie Hustle,” otherwise known as Pete Rose. But before he was a coach for his former team, the Cincinnati Reds, he was an All-Star switch-hitter and utility player who played second base, left the field, right field, third base, and first base. Rose was drafted by the Reds when he was 18 years of age and spent the next three years in the minor leagues. But as soon as he entered “the show” he established himself as one of the Red’s most dominant hitters and soon became Rookie of the Year in 1963. In 1968 and 1969 he led the league in batting and when 1973 rolled around, he collected 230 hits, a career high, and was named MVP for the National League. And if you thought that was enough, he also won 5 division titles, 4 NL Pennants, and two World Series Championships in 1975 and 1976, while also being named Player of the decade by The Sporting News. With quite an impressive career, Rose decided to trade in his cleats for a pair of regular shoes and retired from baseball in 1985 to which he then became the Reds head coach until his famous incident came under fire in 1989. At first, when people heard rumors of the speculation that Rose gambled on MLB games including his own, fans denied it. Rose did for that matter as well. But when more and more rumors popped up about the same incident, MLB commissioner, Bartlett Giamatti, banned Rose from Major League Baseball in 1989 for life. As a result, this devastating ruling made Rose ineligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame flushing Roses 22 years of a career down a drain. With Rose being at the lowest point of his life, he was then fined $50,000 for filing false tax returns and was then sentenced to five months in federal prison.

Major League rule 21 states that “any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.” But where did this rule come from? The starting point of this rule comes from the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal where eight players, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, on the White Sox agreed to fix the World Series against their opponent, the Cincinnati Reds. After these eight players were caught, baseball began a major crackdown on any player, coach, or umpire betting or gambling on games and as a consequence would ban anyone suspected or caught gambling or betting on games. Since 1919, Major League Baseball has had very few problems with players, coaches, or umpires gambling on games. Besides the most notable incident of Pete Rose, there have been zero bans due to gambling. This is primarily due to the increase of players salaries and the harshness of penalties for gambling. Personally, I think these brutal penalties have been a major obstacle for gambling. Unlike steroids, gambling is basically a death sentence from any future in professional baseball. The only difference between steroids and gambling is that steroids are harder to prove due to uncontrollable factors as well as they are harder to prove. Pete Rose had the same cost and benefit issues with gambling that many players post 1919 have had, but since baseball came down on him so violently, this situation has made future players and coaches who might have been thinking about betting or gambling on baseball think twice.

Even though what Rose did was rightfully wrong and should not be admitted back into baseball, he is still well liked by Cincinnati and its loyal fan base. In 2004 Rose took part in a promotional event before Game 4 of the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, and received a 70-second standing ovation at Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco. The crowd chanted, “Hall of Fame!” (Verducci Pg. 74-75). Although he should not be reinstated back into Major League Baseball, I on the other hand still believe he should be introduced into the Hall of Fame. What Rose achieved in his lifetime is something every baseball player wishes to do, but is simply unimaginable. Rose leads the MLB in hits to this day and to have a 22-year career is simply amazing. As I stated before in my essay, the reason why the public received an event like this to be so scandalous is because how important Pete Rose was to Cincinnati and baseball itself. If an event would have happened to a lesser known player, the tensions would have been scaled down a bit. But because Rose threw away his twenty-two years long career as well as a for sure Hall of Fame bid, the public reacted so strongly to such a dreadful event.

One of the next major events in Sports comes from the National Basketball Association (NBA). In 2007 an NBA ref, Tim Donaghy, was caught betting on games he officiated as well as other games that he did not officiate. Unlike Rose, Donaghy had been an official for thirteen seasons. On July 11, 2007, Donaghy resigned after accusations were made against him fixing games, and surrendered to law enforcement officials when charges were brought against him (Griffin 23).

Works Cited

Ellenbogen, Stephen, et al. “Gambling behavior among college student-athletes.” Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 20.3 (2008): 349-362. Web. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10413200802056685?src=recsys&journalCode=uasp20 [Retrieved 30/04/2017].

Fenster, Mark. Conspiracy theories: Secrecy and power in American culture. U of Minnesota Press, 1999. Print.

Griffin, Sean Patrick. Gaming the Game: The Story of the NBA Betting Scandal and the Gambler Who Made It Happen. Barricade Books, 2011. Print.

Hemmadi, Murad. Fantasy Feud is betting that fans want to play every day. Canadian Business, 2015. Web. Available at http://www.canadianbusiness.com/innovation/fantasy-feud/ [Retrieved 30/04/2017].

Verducci, Tom. “Pete Rose: I Bet On Baseball.” Sports Illustrated 100 (2004): 74-75. Web. Available at: https://www.si.com/vault/2004/01/12/358382/pete-rose-quoti-bet-on-baseballquot [Retrieved 30/04/2017].

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