In my college crowd, the quickest way to cheeseburger money was to stay near Bud. He was brighter than most of us in many ways, the irksome sort who would never attend class regularly, borrow notes from someone who did the night before an exam and then get a higher grade. But some tiny part of his otherwise fine mind was wired wrong for gambling.
Bud once bet he could throw a pencil through an extra-thick window. On rainy nights, as rows of droplets slid down a glass as steadily as heats at the Penn Relays, Bud would pick one and bet several dollars on it reaching the bottom first. Vivid after 20 years is the time he bet he could do 300 pushups in an hour, and how we all hooted when his rather frail frame went limp after 125 or so.
We kept laughing at him.
We should have been crying for him.
I last saw Bud several years ago at Charles Town. He casually mentioned that his wife had given birth to their first child--that afternoon. I was horrified, but silent. Now and then comes a guilt pang, not that I failed to push Bud toward help but that I didn't even bother to try. Embarrassed, possibly afraid, I slunk away muttering that we should get together again without asking how.
Maybe Art Schlichter has done us a favor. Maybe the more we think about that sad man--and understand him--the more we'll be inclined to deal with others closer to us in much worse straits.
"He's not bad," said Dr. Jule Moravec, "he's just sick."
It was to the National Foundation for the Study and Treatment of Pathological Gambling here, among others, that Schlichter, his advisers and the National Football League turned for guidance. Being vice chairman, Dr. Moravec is familiar with the case.
"In terms of mental health," he said, "it's my opinion that he could be on the football field next fall. I'm talking only about that. There are so many other factors, legal and from the (NFL) commissioner's viewpoint. But he can pull this thing out, as long as he continues treatment and invests himself in getting well. Usually, at this level, they're ready to try."
This level, of course, is the bottom.
The lingering public reaction to Schlichter has been scorn. He's seen as stupid or a stoolie. Or both. How could an athlete gifted in the sports he was betting be dumb enough to lose $389,000 so quickly?
As he got deeper into gambling, Schlichter did not get less smart. Only more ill.
"Almost every compulsive gambler does well in school," Dr. Moravec said. "And it's not like they're antisocial or anything. Usually, they have a pretty good early record of gambling. Some good big wins. As (the sickness) progresses, the more intense it becomes. He'll bet recklessly--see a number and bet on that instead of using his skills as a handicapper.
"Toward the end, he's out of control. If you watch him, he won't look wild and irrational. But he is impulsive. In the mind of the compulsive gambler, he simply assumes that his next bet will enable him to pay everything off and that everybody will be happy.
"It's detatched reality.
"You're seeing the classic example in Art."
Almost certainly, his growing obsession with gambling caused rookie Schlichter to be such a disappointment with the Colts last season. The fourth player chosen in the NFL draft, he was passed quickly by a less-heralded first-year passer, Mike Pagel, and scarcely played.
"There's not much question that when the urge to gamble intensifies," Dr. Moravec said, "the person doesn't pay attention to taking care of what is important. Everything takes a back seat to gambling."
He has seen and treated worse than Schlichter.
There is a Miami financier who lost millions of his and his father's money before dipping into his bank's; there is an Iowan who allegedly lost $28 million in casinos; there is an area dentist, seemingly recovered, working to pay off $300,000 to benign bookies.
"A strange environment," Dr. Moravec admitted. Also fascinating, he said, adding: "It blows your mind how much money compulsive gamblers can get their hands on." It takes patience. I've seen near-hopeless situations salvaged, people in a whole lot worse shape than Art end up doing very well.
"But what a hill to climb."
Without being specific, Dr. Moravec said Schlichter's treatment likely would include six weeks of hospitalization. Sessions there would be individual and in groups. Then he would undergo 18 months to two years of therapy on an outpatient basis. After that would come frequent contact with Gamblers Anonymous, and professional contact every few months.
"It's also important to educate those around him," Dr. Moravec said, "because the compulsive gambler is seen as a degenerate and a bum, but not as a sick person. By parents; by employers; sometimes some of the people involved in the treatment."
He pleads: "Art Schlichter deserves a chance."
He cautions: "I just assume there are more than one like him (in the NFL)."
He advises: "Teammates, anyone close, should report unusual telephone patterns, or if the person seems preoccupied with television. Compulsive gamblers go bananas watching the games they bet on TV."
He praises: "The NFL has been very open and interested. He (commissioner Pete Rozelle) has seen Schlichter as a human being and seems to care. The NFL is concerned about itself, naturally. But it's not turning on Schlichter like he's a leper. That isn't how it always works."