We will never understand, and it’s just that simple. We will never understand what it’s like to be so competitive and have the adrenaline rush of 50,000 fans screaming your name while you are knocking in the winning run or scoring the winning basket. This is a rush sitting at home and watching television just can’t replace. So, what do athletes do? They gamble. They get involved with sports betting.
The debate is out whether it is ok for athletes to gamble after the recent comments made by John Daly and Charles Barkley. Daly recently came out and said he has lost between an estimated $50 million and $60 million in the last twelve years due to out-of-control gambling. Barkley followed up by saying Wednesday on ESPN that he has lost “probably $10 million” gambling, adding, “It is a problem for me.”
“Do I have a gambling problem? Yeah, I do have a gambling problem, but I don’t consider it a problem because I can afford to gamble. It’s just a stupid habit that I’ve got to get under control because it’s just not a good thing to be broke after all of these years,” Barkley said.
Embedded in this touchy subject are two issues of great importance. When athletes gamble, how much is too much and what is ok for them to gamble on?
I believe there is a fine line between recreational gambling and just utter craziness. In this situation, Daly is crazy, and Barkley is not. I truly believe it’s ok for a former athlete to call up their local sportsbook and place a small-to-medium wager on a ball club if that athlete feels like this bet will satisfy their need for an adrenaline fix. We, as fans, don’t know what it’s like to be in competition everyday on the greatest stage and then have it snapped away just like that. That transition can be brutal and can lead to depression–the reason most of our childhood heroes fall so far from grace. This is also why athletes stay in the game way too long after they should have retired years before they actually do. For Barkley, it is what it is–a habit that needs to be under control. Does he have to stop? Absolutely not.
On the flip side, we have John Daly. It’s one thing for an athlete to gamble a few million if they can afford it. Hey, it’s their money, and they can spend it how they please. We are not their parents or superiors, and let’s stop pretending we are. It’s another thing, however, to end up flat broke and put your family at risk. That is what a loss of $50 million will do. We all know gambling isn’t the only addiction Daly has gone through; he recently beat an addiction to alcohol. This connection leads us to believe Daly really has a problem, and Barkley does not.
Now, to the most important issue at hand. What sports are appropriate or inappropriate for athletes to gamble on? I have one steadfast rule on this. In no way shape or form should athletes now or ever gamble on their sport. Barkley has responded by saying he never bet on basketball, and I believe he is true to his word. However, if he ever did decide to take sports betting to that next level and gamble on the Kings vs. the Spurs on Friday night, for example, (Spurs -2), it would ruin his credibility as a player and, more importantly, as an analyst, and Barkley is a damn good analyst at that. This is what got Pete Rose banned from the game of baseball for life. We all know what an uphill battle that has been for Rose trying to regain his eligibility to be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Gambling on one’s own sport is a big no-no and will permanently ruin a career and reputation.
All in all, I don’t think it is a big deal when athletes gamble on sports or in casinos. I think we, the media, like to make a big case out of everything and blow everything out of proportion. I would much rather see Mr. Barkley put down a couple of thousand in a poker game than see an ESPN article covering his addiction to cocaine. I believe these athletes need a bridge between professional sports and retirement, and let’s give them this. Isn’t it every person’s right to sit back after a hard day at the office, grab a cold beer and watch the ball game that you just happen to have a little wager on? If you don’t think so, I’ll bet you a dollar it is.