TEED OFF
By Robert Bicknell
 

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May 7, 2006

Don't bet more than you can afford to loseÖ

According to the recently released book, "My Life In And Out Of The Rough", John Daly claims to have lost over $55 million dollars during 12 years of heavy casino gambling. This elevates him up to the big leagues with Michael Jordan and Pete Rose in the "athletes stupid enough to gamble" category.

Big Johnís disclosure brought another high-profile athlete, Charles Barkley, out of the gambling junkie closet, although Barkley says he never bets on basketball games, he admits being stupid enough to have a poker addiction, but claims he can afford the losses. Sure, whatís $10 million dollars to a basketball superstar?

However, Barkley sympathises with Dalyís problem and offers an insight as to why so many high-profile athletes seem to be bitten by the gambling bugÖitís the thrill of competition which hooks them, which is very understandable. These are guys who are used to tap dancing on the edge of a razor and who have almost blind faith in their own abilities.

Michael Jordan was legendary for his gambling habits, both on and off the basketball court, the golf course and the blackjack tables.

To an athlete who earns millions of dollars per year, a $10 bet isnít gonna get his juices flowing and this applies equally as well to players in any sport at any level. It also helps to illustrate why gambling by athletes can become a very dangerous addiction.

A $2 Nassau can be thrilling for some players, but eventually it will become boring and the player feels the need to up the bet. I know many golfers who cannot get "into the game" unless thereís enough money at stake to make them sweat.

While many professionals claim they only bet on "other" sports than their own to avoid any accusations for match fixing, there are the odd few who claim to only bet on themselves to win.

Neither argument is valid.

Imagine Michael Jordan getting the ball with two seconds left in a tied game and miraculously nails the three pointer. Happens all the time. But now imagine he misses the shot and everyone knows heís in deep debt to the betting syndicates. Whoís to say he didnít throw the game Ė even if he didnít.

The mere hint of a possible opportunity for impropriety by an athlete should be enough to warrant major concern by just about everybody including team owners, officials and especially the fans.

Golf officially turns a semi-blind eye to low level gambling because the governing bodies know it makes the game more interesting when the participants can make friendly wagers amongst themselves.

Besides, they know that human nature being what it is, people will do it anyway.

The USGA does not object to informal wagering among individual golfers or teams of golfers when the players in general know each other, participation in the wagering is optional and is limited to the players, the sole source of all money won by the players is advanced by the players on themselves or their own teams and the amount of money involved is such that the primary purpose is the playing of the game for enjoyment.

The R&A, naturally, has a more long-winded version which says roughly the same thing. It can be found at http://www.randa.org/flash/rules/rules_rebrand2004_v2_amateur.html.

A few months ago, Vietnamís football fans suffered a major kick in the stomach when it was discovered that one of the most popular players admitted to match-fixing. I get really irked by athletes who spit on the game that provided an opportunity for them in the first place. Imagine the heartbreaking disappointment of thousands of kids across the country who used to kick a ball on a weed-filled field discovering their "hero" had feet of clay.

The problems with gambling on golf, or any other sport for that matter, is that players can lose track of reality in the heat of the moment and make bets they cannot afford to lose.

Friendly wagering is one thing, but when the bet gets too big, even the strongest friendships are at risk of being destroyed.


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