Bad sports, good sports: March Madness, Vegas style

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For years, I traveled to Las Vegas with friends for the opening round of the NCAA basketball tournament. I know, some of you are wondering why you didn’t realize that they played the games in Vegas. They don’t. Our time in Vegas was spent in the sports book at Luxor, watching and betting on every game played during that opening weekend (there are 48 of them). There are 3 to 4 games on at a time for the whole weekend, aside from some minor breaks here and there. Drinks are free (tipping is necessary, of course), and food comes from the food court upstairs. The days would begin at 5 am, when someone would head down to the book to reserve some seats. I am ashamed to say that would never be me. I am non-functional without some decent sleep, so I would let my friends take the hit. Nice guy, I know. By the end of each day, you’d have some smelly, tipsy, generally broke guys heading up to their rooms to sleep, ready to go at it again the next day.

What is it about sports, and this event in particular, that leads so many to shell out their hard-earned money to bet on a bunch of 19-year-old kids? Sure, most don’t go to the extremes that we would go to, as far as the travel and the abandonment of personal hygiene, but who doesn’t find himself filling out a bracket with the names of teams about which he knows very little? Would the games be less fun to watch if there weren’t something riding on them? Some would argue that sports have been ruined by betting. Certainly, there is added risk of point shaving and game fixing when millions of dollars are at stake on the outcome of the games. However, because of betting, so many people are watching and rooting that would not otherwise be doing so. If people are betting with money that they can’t afford to lose, that’s a problem. Our Vegas bets were pretty small stakes, and rarely did any of us come out ahead or behind by much. 

So is this bad sports or good sports? Sorry, had to sneak in the name of my new column there. I am hesitant to call this either one. It’s good for me, as I get a lot of enjoyment out of it, and never put myself in a bad position with the wagering. It is bad for those that take their rent money to the counter, risking way too much cash on the foul shooting of a kid who was in high school less than a year ago. In the end, it’s an individual thing. 

Way to take a stand, Alan.

By the way, you may have noticed that I talked about the Vegas stuff in the past tense. We stopped going. We still manage to enjoy the tournament in very much the same fashion, but now it is in the basement of one of those friends with whom I used to head west. Ten televisions and our own big board of games and betting lines. Better food. And no one needs to save seats at 5 am.


Bad Sports, Good Sports appears every Monday.

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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