Couch Slouch: The NFL and gambling, most awkward

October 7, 2012

This is what I love about the NFL: On weekends, it puts on the greatest show on Earth, sporting-wise; then, on weekdays, it puts on the greatest show on Earth, sanctimonious-wise.

Case in point — the NFL and gambling.

When it comes to gambling, the NFL always has been — how shall we say? — a little bit pregnant. Let me put it this way: If gambling were the preacher’s daughter, the NFL would knock her up, raise its hands plaintively as if it had never touched her — and then go to church to pray for her unborn child.

If the NFL were around in the 4th century BC, Hypocrisy would’ve been its commissioner.

(Hypocrisy was a spiritual descendant of the Greek god Hypocrates, who never practiced what he preached and purportedly was the first Raiders fan.)

The NFL’s spectacular growth over the past half-century has been dual-fueled by television and gambling. The league puts out a compelling product greatly enhanced by broadcasters and bookies, yet the league has always distanced itself from the serious and friendly money wagered on all of its games.

And, thus, we have witnessed the evolution of the NFL’s awkward position — it’s enriched by sports betting yet condemns it.

The NFL has taken various public stances against gambling interests for years, lobbying, for instance, against sports betting and online poker. Earlier this year, the NFL — along with the NBA, NHL, MLB and NCAA — filed a complaint in federal court in Trenton, seeking to stop New Jersey from implementing sports betting on pro and college games.

But Couch Slouch is tired of this storefront sermonizing. Because while the NFL’s left hand is pointing fingers, the NFL’s right hand is pocketing money.

In fact, at the moment the NFL has both hands in a couple of cookie jars full of gambling dollars.

This year, for the first time, the league is allowing teams to display local casino advertising in stadiums, as long as the casino does not have a sports book.

“We remain steadfast in our opposition to the proliferation of gambling on NFL games,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy announced. “There is a distinction between accepting advertising in a limited fashion and gambling on the outcome of our games.”

Let’s review both parts of that statement.

“We remain steadfast in our opposition to the proliferation of gambling on NFL games.”

Translation: “Where would we be WITHOUT the proliferation of gambling on our games?

“There is a distinction between accepting advertising in a limited fashion and gambling on the outcome of our games.”

Translation: “Casino millions, come on down!!!”

By the way, what exactly is “accepting advertising in a limited fashion”? Does that mean they only take small bills in unmarked envelopes. A limited fashion? Isn’t it UNLIMITED if you keep accepting it? Hah!

Speaking of the proliferation of gambling on NFL games, the league has its own Web site — nfl.com/fantasy. As in fantasy football.

If fantasy sports isn’t gambling, then Penthouse isn’t pornographic.

Fantasy football is as addicting, if not more so, then betting the point spread. It puts a more insidious hook into its practitioners: Sports bettors operate under the delusion they’re smart enough to beat the game; fantasy savants operate under the delusion they could be NFL general managers.

(For real. I’ve seen these guys wandering into sports bars on Sundays, with their printouts, clipboards, baseball caps and iPhones. They’re all Bill Polian with a Bud Light.)

The NFL’s McCarthy denounces “gambling on the outcome of our games.” Well, fantasy followers are gambling on the outcome of every play.

With apologies to Faith Hill, Americans aren’t waiting all day for Sunday night, they’re waiting all day for fantasy results.

This Fantasy Island is a gambler’s paradise; Roger Goodell looks almost as sharp as Ricardo Montalban. But it’s like a speakeasy: You’ve got to know the doorman — the NFL — to get in.

Ask The Slouch

Q. With the NHL canceling two weeks of regular season games, what will The Slouch do to fill those cold, empty autumn nights? (Patrick Long; Franklin, Ind.)

A. Actually, I think this is a brilliant marketing ploy by the NHL — it creates a buzz, like when “Mad Men” extends production time between seasons.

Q. When a catcher visits the mound, the pitcher always seems to put his glove up in front of his face. What does your wife put up in front of her face when you visit? (Brian Coffman; Gaithersburg)

A. Usually, a bounced check and a notarized “Dear John” letter.

Q. Whatever happened to common courtesy and Southern hospitality? (Matthew Pines; Monroeville, Pa.)

A. I’d have to lay the blame at the feet of the SEC.

Q. If Bud Selig were poker commissioner, would he add two wild cards to the World Series of Poker? (Mark Pattison; Washington)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash! For previous columns by Norman Chad, visit washingtonpost.com/chad.

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