Is it that we see sport as life, or is it that sport is life?
The biggest gambling event in the United States is the Super Bowl, with an estimated $3 billion dollars being placed into play for one game, with annual sports bets reaching as high as $380 billion dollars annually.
Ever stop and wonder why?
Getting Carried Away
It is the big game. Out of dozens of teams and hundreds of match-ups that season, things have ultimately come down to this event and history is in the making.
Some of the ruckus comes from the die-hards, the devoted who have followed their team the whole year. It is not uncommon for these fans to be aligned with a team because of a geographic connection or because following that particular unit has been a family tradition.
The die-hards wear the team jersey all-year round, and have the team bumper sticker on their car. They may even have a tattoo of the team logo (like my cousin) or display the organization’s curtains in their house. When a player is injured they are injured, too. When a trade is made they agonize, and thousands within a great city may be able to relate more to those players and coaches than they can with their own families.
It is a vicarious relationship, but in a larger sense these followers exist as the team-community that monetizes all operations, that endures the whips-and-scorns of defeat and feels the debt of supplication paid-in-full after a defining win. In return for all the sponsorship, adoration, loyalty and long-suffering, they demand only one thing back-hope.
To the worshiper, if their team wins then they win, and their own faith is justified. The defining game is their passage into the glimpse of their infinite, the moment of judgement where they stand before the gods of sport and beg entry into the pearly gates.
Mixed among the converts are the followers of the game itself. They may not share the opiate-like devotion of either of the team-sects, but they have watched the weeding-out process and practice of elimination as fans, and are poised to bear witness to a final victor. They are the masses that both shape the throng and bask in the spectacle.
Next are the privileged, who view their presence at an event as priority and homage to themselves and each other.
Of these categories, all shapes and sizes step up to the ticket and wager window, and therefore each must bow to lady luck on one side and curtsy to Murphy’s law on the other. As the man said, “you pays your money and you takes your chances.”
The Power Behind the Throne
To a few, this event is the culmination of power-brokering, image refinement, and the grand finale for the stage play housed in flesh and blood and money. It is the payoff.
If you look past the deal-makers, one can see the parties that facilitate fans who choose to make investments on sports they finance and follow. These are business people, and there is yet to be any evidence presented that this lot is less ethical, reputable or reliable than the good folks plying their wares on Wall Street.
The gaming investment community knows that people are going to make trades on these events. When it comes to sports gambling, casinos remind me of the movie “Field of Dreams.” Truly, if you build it they will come. When they do arrive, the faithful must understand that they will be paying tithing for the privilege of worshiping a game (and the compulsive will be making a more complete donation by and by).
Smile for the Simile
As a sharpie, an informed investor, we pay the price for knowing too much. We suffer the loss of innocence that is the tax on the informed. By our knowledge and steadied hand we become a piece of the establishment by proxy.
It seems we are like the servers at a feast. We profiteers get our tips because the wine flows, but the process of having other people’s euphoric fit become our trade converts us to tedium and worry. Alas, it is the price of our job. 슈어맨
We lose the comparisons and symbolisms, we are disqualified as devotees because our dogmatic ideas seem incompatible with accounting sensibilities, and rarely do we get to jump for joy no matter whose banner is raised at the end of the day. We seem to have misplaced idealism. We are professionals, and though few in number, we must be endured for we are too-skilled not to claim our take.
To others our picking skills seem like a winged-instrument. We take a wager and perform statistical alchemy upon it, extracting gold from ore as if it were elemental routine. The casual fan views these decisions as aesthetic or inspired art, the province of a sports-medium, and they pay to benefit from the apparent wisdom we seem to pull from the ethers.
We know better. All truths become inconvenient when weighted in application. There is no divinity in making a correct pick. We long-ago learned that in the realm of prognostication, all perceptions of being kissed-by-fortune are either the result of non-stop work or sleight-of-hand. Indeed, much of our dharma is centered upon recognition of how the trick is to be turned.
In the end, we all do what we do for our own reasons. For the professional tout, is it not important to try and smell the flowers, to endeavor to feel what the crowd feels, to step out-of our own heads and becomes like those around us who hold onto the very element we have lost, that being the childish-wonder of watching the best just… play. Is there a way we could smell the grass on the field the way we once did, to experience the sacramental devouring of a hot-dog smothered in-goo, to hold dear that memory of victory and agony of defeat while we wait our turn to trickle out of the clogged-artery that is the post-game parking lot?
I will find a way. I will again feel the chill up my spine when bat and ball collide mightily, when the giant catches the pigskin, or when the referee reaches the count of “10” over the fallen gladiator. I will come full-circle and sit in my stadium-seat waving an overpriced banner on a stick, lost in the wonder of it all. I would see you with me, and share the air with you as you breath in stunted-gasps of anticipation for the moment when the game is determined by that one crucial play that becomes part of our personal fabric. We can, I believe, sit here sweating in the sun, and find our way back home to ourselves.