THE GET-OUT BET
For many of the nation's estimated three million pathological gamblers. Super Sunday represents a horrific, pressure-filled day of reckoning—the day they lay it all on the line with one big bet. "It's a fascinating thing." says Dr. Robert Custer, an expert in the treatment of compulsive gamblers. "They're a little bit down after the holidays, they've lost money on the playoffs and the bowls and they want to get even again. It's their last-ditch effort.
"And it's an ego thing. The pathological gambler wants to pick the Super Bowl winner and wants to brag about it. It's surprising how many gamblers focus on that game. They even sell their material possessions for that one bet."
Arnie Wexler, the executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, is a recovering pathological gambler and is familiar with the lure of the "get-out" bet. "Super Bowl Sunday is to the compulsive gambler what New Year's Eve is to the alcoholic," says Wexler. He tells of a phone call he received two years ago from a man who had lost $20,000 on the game and was contemplating suicide. "That's fairly common," says Custer, who directs treatment programs in Ellicott City, Md., and Las Vegas. "Twenty percent of our patients are admitted after a suicide attempt. And we see a large increase in admissions right after the Super Bowl. They lose that one and finally say, 'I've got to get help.' "
January 26, 1987
Custer points out that most pathological gamblers aren't betting a fiver with friends: "Almost all of this is illegal betting with some organized system, like a bookie." Custer remembers attending a Super Bowl party and watching a man who had bet $5.000 agonize throughout the game. "I've never seen anything quite as nerve-racking."
Last week Dr. Custer's most famous patient was arrested after having allegedly fallen off the wagon. Former NFL quarterback Art Schlichter, 26, whose gambling got him suspended for the 1983 season, was arrested in Indianapolis on charges of unlawfully wagering a total of $232,225 during a 10-week period late last year. According to the police, Schlichter and six others were betting with bookies on basketball, football and baseball games. Indianapolis police chief Paul Annee said the seven arrests were the result of an ongoing investigation into a multimillion-dollar sports betting ring; a source close to the investigation said further indictments, including those of prominent sports figures, were possible.
Schlichter, who was released without bail, declined to comment. Custer, who helped Schlichter after the quarterback had racked up $389,000 in gambling losses during his 1982 rookie season with the Baltimore Colts, said of Schlichter's latest troubles, "I sure was surprised, but with all the patients I treat I have an uneasiness. It's a serious disorder, and they're prone to relapse." Custer said backsliding is often due to "stress or grief or depression." While not speculating that Schlichter faltered because he had lost his last NFL job—the Buffalo Bills released him on Aug. 18 when they signed Jim Kelly—Custer said, "I always feel better when a gambler is working.... To have all the games going on, and to not be part of them, even if he was just on the sidelines, was very difficult for Art." Custer, who said he speaks to Schlichter regularly, added. "The Jim Kelly thing sort of whacked him out."
Schlichter faces up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine on the latest misdemeanor charge. Even before his arrest, his chances of being picked up as a free agent by another NFL team appeared dim. Now those prospects are almost certainly dead. Another dream of his has probably been dashed, too. The day before his arrest he had interviewed for the position of head football coach at Wilmington (Ohio) High.
BAG AND BAGGAGE
It was a marathoner's nightmare come true: Two weeks ago Felix Alejandro Flores, just in from his native Peru, picked up the Spanish-language edition of The Miami Herald at the Miami airport and saw that he was already almost two hours late for the start of the Orange Bowl Marathon, in which he was to compete. He had thought the race was scheduled for the next day.
Flores hopped in a cab and rushed to the four-mile mark of the race—as close as he could get to the start—then jumped into the stream of runners. Looking like a harried businessman late for a flight. Flores ran along in dress slacks and brand-new loafers. At the outset he even carried his duffel.
Flores finished in the middle of the 1,200-runner field, though his time put him 3½ hours behind winner John Boyes. "After I had come this far, I was going to complete the race anyway." said Flores, his pants soaked with sweat. Upon hearing his sad story, the organizers of last Sunday's five-mile Jungle Jog offered Flores a week's meal money if he would remain in Miami for their race. He did, and in running shoes he finished in 27:02, 15th in a field of 1,400.
CONSIDER THE RISKS
In response to our Jan. 5 cover story on the NCAA's testing of football players for anabolic steroids, we received a letter from Dr. Howard R. Nay, associate clinical professor of surgery at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. "Earlier this year, a young man was referred to my office for treatment of his massive breast enlargement," Dr. Nay wrote. "He was a recent graduate from a large, well-known midwestern university with a strong and successful athletic program. He was a weight man on the track team while at this university, and in order to enhance his muscle development, the trainer placed him on anabolic hormones. His muscle development was impressive but so was the ugly breast swelling. The hormones were stopped but the breast enlargement stayed. After a thorough endocrine workup excluding any other cause of this condition, a bilateral mastectomy was successfully performed. He has returned to his usual state of good health."
While it is rare for a male steroid user to have to undergo a mastectomy, Dr. Nay noted that "the list of complications after using [anabolic steroids] is frightening and should serve as warnings for all but the foolish or suicidal." He mentions a few of the risks: "the development of liver tumors [and] cholestatic jaundice leading to liver necrosis and death; report of increased low-density lipoprotein and decrease in high-density lipoprotein in the body which are associated with increased risk of arteriosclerosis and coronary heart disease; insomnia; depression; and not the least, an inhibition of testicular function, testicular atrophy, impotence; and baldness." Of physicians who prescribe steroids, Dr. Nay concluded, "One can only have complete contempt for them, for they are delving in malpractice of the highest order."
A LOVER OF LITERATURE
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Kenny Jackson made USA Weekend magazine's list of the NFL's most eligible bachelors. "I'm very romantic," Jackson was quoted as saying. "I'm into those romantic novels. I don't read them, but I think that way."
ROBOTS ON BOARD
Dave Kime, a ranch manager and dreamer in Sedalia, Mo., had been toying with camera-equipped, remote-controlled helicopters. He was trying to figure out a way to survey his boss's 10,000-acre spread without leaving the porch. One day when visiting a neighbor he saw a miniature horse. It clicked: What the world needed was mini horse racing with remote-controlled robot jockeys aboard.
After building a prototype jockey, Kime approached the ranch's owner, Memphis commodity trader Charles McVean, for funding. "It looked like a squeaky box on a silly-looking horse," remembers McVean. But Kime told of his vision: thousands of ersatz jockeys riding little horses in stakes races year round in indoor arenas. McVean says the mini idea sounded, paradoxically, "like something big."
Thus was Super-Jock, the robot jockey, born. Kime and McVean hired a horse trainer who determined that the perfect mounts for Jock were hackney ponies. McVean poured $2 million into training, production and promotion, and last year Super-Jock debuted at Birmingham-Jefferson Coliseum in Alabama. The feisty little hackneys broke from the gate and sped around the dirt track as their flesh-and-blood handlers stood in the center of the ring, operating the Super-Jocks' metal arms, which were attached to the ponies' reins, by remote control. It was, well,...very different.
The rest is Barnumesque history. Super-Jock has gone through six generations, and in the latest incarnation the handler can actually whisper to his pony through the control box. McVean has booked Kemper Arena in Kansas City for a six-week summer season, pending approval by the Missouri Horse Racing Commission. McVean and Kime see a bright future for their sport. After all, it can be held indoors or out, and the strong little horses can run up to 80 races a year. Best of all, the 22-pound mechanical jockeys will never have any trouble making weight.
THEY SAID IT
•Steve Largent, Seattle Seahawks All-Pro wide receiver, when asked which record he will treasure most when he retires: "Probably the Beatles' white album."
•Lawrence Taylor, New York Giants linebacker, describing the autobiography he plans to write: "It's going to be about me."