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Fox: Wagering on a battle for the soul of pro sports

dfox • Updated Oct 29, 2015 at 10:18 PM

I don’t see ever myself losing interest in my family or my work. But sports? Man, I can’t say with 100 percent certainty I’ll still be passionate about the games our society plays and watches.

We are all bred in some sense to tolerate hypocrisy. But when it comes to the sports world, it’s getting a bit too much. Even for me.

The latest rage in sports is daily fantasy sports, which allows people like you and me to put together a list of players and see which list performs better during that day’s events. It’s most common with football — both pro and college — but is also done with other sports like basketball, hockey, golf and NASCAR.

And if your list performs the best, you can win lots of money.

Sounds fun, right? Of course, there’s a catch: you have to spend money to play. And if that sounds an awful like gambling, well, that’s because it is.

Full disclosure: I have three fantasy football teams, one of which I do spend some money to play. Our entry fee goes to web site administration, and the remainder goes to a pot to help the overall winner buy an NFL jersey. (And if you ever see a middle-aged guy walking around Lebanon in a Warren Moon throwback, please say hello.)

However, there’s a huge difference between what we do and what DraftKings and FanDuel do. The biggest difference in that we’re not bankrolled by NFL owners and Major League Baseball. Another big difference is that I think we acknowledge somewhat that we are gambling.

No commissioner of a major sport said he thought daily fantasy games were, in fact, gambling. To me, that’s a remarkable and laughable assertion.

Of course, the NBA holds an equity stake in FanDuel. So do Robert Kraft and Jerry Jones, who are arguably the two most high-profile owners in all of pro sports. So perhaps that makes the assertion more predictable and less remarkable. 

It’s still very laughable.

Anyway, if you have pro sports leagues with stakes in gambling entities, it’s not that far-fetched those leagues will push to legalize sports betting nationally. The NBA commissioner favors it; the NFL commissioner doesn’t, but acknowledges the vast amount of money and interest it creates.

And the commissioner of Major League Baseball? He’ll decide over the winter the fate of Pete Rose, who was kicked out of the game in the 1980s — for gambling.

Does this all bear watching?

You bet.

Dean Fox, whose three fantasy teams are a combined 6-15 this year, is news editor of The Lebanon Democrat. Harass him at dfox@lebanondemocrat.com or on Twitter @wilsoncoreports.

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