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NFL's stance on gambling is absurd


You can now bet on NFL games in Delaware -- just don't expect to win.

The state passed a law earlier this year allowing sports betting. The professional sports leagues and the NCAA sued, and a federal appeals court ruled against single-game wagering and said the state could only offer parlay wagering, in which a bettor must correctly pick at least three games against the point spread to win.

So, with a little help from the feds, Delaware swiftly went from being "The First State" to "A Fools' Paradise."

What, you think anyone out there's making a living betting six-team parlays?

Picking any NFL game against the spread is a 50-50 proposition. To pick three of them right, that's like guessing a coin flip correctly three straight times. Your chances of doing that are 1 in 8, and a three-team parlay pays only 6½-1. On a four-team parlay, the odds are 16-1 against you and it pays 11-1; on a five-teamer, it's 32-1 against you and it pays 20-1, and so on.

I think the discriminating reader can quickly ascertain here why bookies drive BMWs and bettors ride the bus.

(Incidentally, using faulty coin-flip logic is how I ended up getting wedded to Toni two years ago. You see, I figured my chances of having three straight bad marriages were 1 in 8, so this one's got to work. As it turns out -- like most NFL games -- the outcome will depend on avoiding the big turnover.)

Anyway, it's goofy. Single-game wagering -- where the gambler has at least an illusion of getting his money back -- is not allowed in Delaware but three- to-12-team parlay wagering -- which steals away suckers' money even faster -- is allowed.

Then again, it proves once again that, in America, you can be a little bit pregnant.

In America, cigarettes can be legally sold but cannot be advertised on radio or TV.

(To get around this, tobacco companies place billboards along prominent camera lines in ballparks and drape cars and drivers with their logo in NASCAR races.)

In America, alcohol can be legally sold and can be advertised on radio and TV, but no one can be seen consuming the beverage during commercials.

(I always think of this when tuning in to Mad Men on AMC. For an entire hour we watch ad executives smoking and drinking but nowhere during that hour can a commercial appear showing anybody smoking or drinking.)

In America -- and this one always steams me the most, for some reason -- you or I would go to jail for running a numbers game, but my state government does it daily with its pervasive lotto and lousy payouts.

Which brings us back to the very-pregnant NFL, the godfather of wealth, power and hypocrisy in America.

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The NFL fought against Delaware's sports-betting law because the NFL opposes gambling.

Uh, right.

The NFL's longtime success is largely fueled by multiple forms of gambling: the point spread, weekly office pools and, now, fantasy football. The betting line meant that viewers would keep watching even after the game's outcome was determined because the point spread was still in doubt. Fantasy football, brilliantly and insidiously, now ensures that many fans always watch until the final gun.

The NFL, though, distances itself from most of this activity. The league, for instance, doesn't allow its broadcast partners to discuss the point spread.

Yet last week, the NFL assessed $125,000 in fines to the New York Jets and former coach Eric Mangini for lying on injury reports that exist ALMOST ENTIRELY FOR GAMBLERS.

So excuse me if I cast a jaundiced eye at the NFL's public stance on gambling while it privately fills its coffers with the public's gambling money.

Meanwhile, Delaware gamblers will monitor Donovan McNabb's fractured rib, ignore the odds and make a bunch of eight-team parlay wagers.

You can bet on it.

Q. I see that Tim McCarver just released a musical CD. Do you think he'll use one of the tracks to overanalyze all the other songs? (David Littell; Avon, Ohio)

A. No, but I understand he sings an updated version of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" called "Take Me Out on a Double Switch."

Q. If poker and fishing are on ESPN, they must both be a sport, right? (Erik Swanson; White Salmon, Wash.)

A. The first letter of ESPN, you may recall, stands for 'Entertainment.' Speaking for my fellow poker players and fishermen, I believe we are entertaining.

Q. Once you finally win your Pulitzer and put all this behind you, what will be next? (Don Gallovic; Lakewood, Ohio)

A. If time and circumstances allow it, I would like to be the first non-British subject to be king of England.

Q. Do you think the original patriots chest-bumped after their upset victory in the Revolutionary War? (Ron DePetris; Houston)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

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