Not long after I met (the woman who would become) my wife in college, she and I went to a carnival at the Cochise County Fairgrounds. It was a cheesy little gathering as such things go, but in that corner of the world at that time (before cable TV), it was enough of a novelty to draw people all the way from Dragoon and Elfrida.
As we meandered our way through the crowd, we came upon a booth at which contestants could win a stuffed animal simply by making three free throws. The booth was being operated by a sad-looking young man (carnie folk—small hands, smell like cabbage). Even today, I wonder about his teeth because that was decades before meth. To his credit, he sized me up in a heartbeat—young guy, great-looking female companion, the want/need to impress. He goaded/chided/sweet-talked me over to the booth.
I was from the big city and this wasn't my first rodeo. (Actually, remind me to tell you about my real first rodeo. It came a few months after this story and I ended up riding a bull to win a $5 bet. It wasn't one of the crazy bulls, but it was still a bit impolite.)
I asked the guy to at least demonstrate that the ball would fit in the rim. He was happy to oblige, tossing it in a couple times. I don't know if you know this, but the rims at places like that are actually elliptical. They look right from straight on, but if you can find a way to look at it from the side (something that they strongly discourage), you can see the odd shape. Still, I was playing basketball in college at the time, so I stepped up.
Ana, with a look of disdain on her face, said something to the effect of "There is no need for this display of masculinity. I neither need nor want you to spend money in an attempt to win a stuffed animal." Actually, I think those were her exact words; she actually talks like that and it's sexy as all hell. (And, she can do it in other languages, as well.) Anyway, I explained to her that while I wasn't
the greatest college basketball player, I could shoot free throws with the best of them. I think I told her what I have told many others over the years. "It's a set shot, I'm white, nobody's guarding me. How hard can it be?"
I made six in a row and won two prizes. A few minutes later, Ana looked at me and asked, "Do you have a gambling problem?"
I said, "First of all, that wasn't gambling. That was stealing. And if you're talking about Las Vegas-style gambling, I don't do that because I understand mathematics. I'll bet on myself in a tennis match or to see who can finish a crossword puzzle first, but playing blackjack or roulette...that's for suckers."
Over the years, I've occasionally wondered about sports betting. This is something that isn't ruled by the laws of probability. Humans are involved and humans make mistakes. Fortunately, I have examples in front of me that should keep me in my place. I remember in the old days (before responsibilities set in), our beloved editor would regale me with stories of how he would go down to Rocky Point and play these three-way teaser parlay bets where you were allowed to move the betting line one way or another. He'd get a big smile on his face and when I'd ask him if he had won, he'd say, "Almost."
I have a good friend; we'll call him John. He and I had both read this article in Sports Illustrated about a guy
who became a millionaire betting strictly on the NBA. The guy would, over an entire season, win about 53 percent of his bets and that was enough to make him rich. But he admitted that he would go days or even a week or two without winning. John found that exciting; I thought it was nausea-inducing. Let's just say that John tried it and it didn't work out well.
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a law that severely limited sports betting in the country, these next few months are going to be very interesting. The Court made clear that Congress still has the right to limit or even ban such betting, but it will have to be different than the old (unconstitutional) law. The dysfunctional Congress may try to do so, but it's an election year, so it will lack focus. Many members of Congress might not even want to ban sports betting since it's rampant anyway.
What is certain is that states are going to rush in on this. Somebody like Doug Ducey will think, "Ooh, here's another way to give my rich friends more money and still be able to brag that I didn't raise taxes." Other old, white legislators will see it as a way to stick it to the Natives who, after enduring centuries of mistreatment and near-genocide, found a way to use the law to stick it to the wasi'chu.
I'm still not a betting man, but if I were, I'd bet that this will turn out badly for most and only OK for some.