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Monday, February 22, 2010

What Athletes Can Learn from Tigergate

It's official: Tigergate has reached nauseating levels of overexposure.

So why dignify the latest chapter of this tireless saga with this entry? Frankly, Woods has given us little choice by how poorly he has handled the fallout. Rather than examining whether Woods is sincere in his apology (I'll leave that up to Barbara Walters and The View), we need to warn future athletes who stray off course on precisely how to avoid the next ad nauseum nightmare. The lesson here is simple: in the wake of an extramarital sex scandal, athletes need to learn from Woods' unintended tutorial on exactly how not to deal with the media.

Newsflash: Woods isn't the first athlete to cheat on his wife. Adulterous sports idols are a dime a dozen and we're rarely surprised when news leaks regarding multiple extramarital affairs with cocktail waitresses half their age. Their behavior is expected and arguably condoned in the culture of modern sports machismo.

Need examples? One Michael Jeffrey Jordan was slapped with paternity suits and extortion schemes from alleged mistresses throughout his career. His wife ultimately filed for divorce and was awarded with a record nine-figure alimony parting prize. Despite Jordan's meteoric status this news barely made a ripple in the sports world.

Alex Rodriguez's wife very publicly filed for divorce on the grounds of her husband's repeated infidelities. Yet her public smear campaign garnered little attention beyond local New York tabloids.

So why has Tigergate so transcended his high profile predecessors in infamy? Possible theories include the idea that golf is more an individual "gentlemen's game" which holds it's athletes to higher moral standards. Hogwash. If this is true how can someone such as John Daly continue to be granted sponsors exemptions? Another argument is that evolution of media and blogging enable more platforms for cross-pollination between a gossip based company such as TMZ with the once beloved ESPN. I'll concede that the line between sport and pop culture is blurry nowadays, but let's not forget that "Stray-Rod" tabloids ran less than nine months ago and didn't reach one-hundredth the decibel the Woods story has.

The real reason why Woods has reached Gosselin status is because of the way he's unintentionally baited the media. The silent treatment is an ageless method for flying under the radar but Tiger has rendered it useless because he consistently promises the media he will return and address them again. To make matters worse, he does this after vaguely admitting infidelity, leaving the door open for wild conjecture on the nature (and number) of his affairs.

Woods doesn't owe us a return ticket in front of a million flashbulbs. He doesn't need to provide us juicy details on whether he prefers blondes or brunettes. Drifting in and out of the public eye in any other capacity is hurtful for both him and the sport because he is only attracting more non-sports related media by addressing us off the greens. What he needs to do is come back to the sport when he feels he's ready and face the music back where we got to know him: on the golf course. Sports media will still feel compelled to write about how he's performed post Tigergate but the basis of these stories will center around golf rather than his former mistress landing the lead in the sequel to "Debbie Does Dallas."

It's easy to preach that monogamy is the best way for athletes to avoid future scandals such as these. The reality is many will continue to succumb to temptation and stray from their marriages. The lesson learned is that in the event that you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, do both yourself and sports fans a favor and keep the ball in play. Don't hire clueless PR firms who employ a juicy game of hide and seek with the mass media. Keep it in house in the sports world and as far from the paparazzi as possible.

It's probable that when Woods finally decides to call it quits, Tigergate won't be the first thing we remember about him. But it's important to remember moments like these because we see how vulnerable the sanctity of sport has become. We can all play our part by pretending to look the other way but the ultimate welfare of sport is in the hands of the athletes, not the peanut gallery. Keep your fingers crossed that Woods can pitch himself back onto the fairway so we can enjoy the Masters TMZ free once again.

Tigeragate is brought to you by your loyal friends of Cooper's Sports Picks. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Delaware: the true state of sports betting

It's official: the 2009 August decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that left Delaware with only parlay bets on NFL games will stand. What does this mean for American sports bettors?

1. Bettors in Delaware remain restricted to minimum three team parlay wagers in the NFL. This is similar to the 1976 sports lottery which lasted just one year in Delaware. The 2009-10 NFL season brought in a modest number of sports bettors into Delaware casinos but history suggests without the presence of single game wagers there won't be enough traffic to sustain will eventually

2. The Delaware ruling will serves as a significant precedent for other states hoping to pass future legislation allowing sports betting. Nevada remains the only legitimate state in the US which allows sports betting (Oregon recently revoked their status and the sparsely populated Montana's sports lotteries are rarely used). Rival states concerned about losing gaming revenue to Delaware kept a close eye on the results of the federal appeals court ruling. Had Delaware won it's appeal a domino effect of state lawsuits would have followed (starting with New Jersey and New York) and likely opened the doors to sports betting across the country.

3. Professional sports leagues have flexed their muscles in a hypocritical effort to stop legalized betting. The NFL, NBA, and NHL filed an injunction in Washington challenging the Delaware sports lottery. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spearheaded the opposition, claiming that "State promoted gambling not only adds the pressure on our coaches and players, but creates suspicion and cynicism toward every on-the-field mistake."

The consensus among professional sports leagues is that gambling threatens the integrity of competition. If this is true why are stadiums plastered with local Casino and gambling-related advertisements? Why are there countless online poker and indian casino commercials during their broadcasts? How can these partnerships not create the same suspicion and cynicism that commissioner Goodell claims to fear?

The reality is that leagues such as the NFL are wary of state-sponsored wagering because they have no way of regulating the money coming in. Huge corporations such as the NFL simply have nothing to gain by allowing a cash strapped Delaware the opportunity to raise funds for he higher purpose of trying to put a dent in it's ten figure deficit.

So what does this ultimately mean for sports bettors? It means they'll have to continue to navigate through a minefield of crooked locals, opportunistic middle men payment processors, and scheming overseas bookmakers. It's inevitable that Americans will continue to bet on sports regardless of legislation. The real travesty is the uncertainty that honest bettors must continue to face due to the lack of domestic regulation protecting their funds.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

George Karl Diagnosed with Canccer

With a form of cancer that is treatable none the less it is sad to say that the Denver Nuggets head coach as of Tuesday February 15th has publicly announced to the public about his diagnosis and how he will cope and deal with the cancer while still staying on as head coach of the Nuggets.

"The treatment began today, and in general it's about a six-week treatment," Karl said. "There could be a possibility throughout the six weeks that I could miss games and practices, depending on my pain and fatigue levels. My hope is that it is a curable and treatable disease. I hope to be as close to 100 percent as I can come playoff time in April."

"My family has battled cancer, but it is something that has to be treated immediately," Karl said. "I think I'm very blessed to have great family and an organization that has supported me throughout this. I will need them in different ways, but I don't think I'm a guy that needs sympathy, but I do need support. The major desire for me is to kick this cancer's butt and to stay with a team that I think can win a championship."

Karl went on to say that he will likely miss two games in the near future: at Golden State on February 25 and at Minnesota on March 10. In those instances where Karl is unable to coach, assistant coach Adrian Dantley will serve as the head coach.

Karl's 968 career wins over 18 seasons, with Cleveland, Golden State, Seattle, Milwaukee and the Nuggets, are the seventh most in NBA history.


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