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Beware the fix: Increase in sports betting brings with it a familiar threat

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

Couch Slouch is thinking of recasting this column as Gambling Gus because America — a rambling, gambling nation-in-progress since 1776 or thereabouts — is on the inexorable Manifest Destiny road to a coast-to-coast, around-the-clock, bet-until-you-drop-it-all Monte Carlo-like sovereignty.

It’s not that everyone will be betting soon, but more people will, and most will be relieved of a good deal of their cash.

As always, I remain a bit conflicted on this topic: Like the juggler who somehow manages to juggle a cantaloupe, a bowling ball, a tomato and a steak knife without dropping any of them, I somehow manage to remain pro-gambling and anti-gambling at the same time.

Don’t try this at home.

Besides the fact that most people are going to lose, here is the other certainty of gambling: If there is money to be made, somebody always will try to make it more easily, by reducing the risk factor; somebody always will try to beat or game the system.

Hey, I’ve been playing poker my entire adult life. And while I know that the game is usually on the up-and-up, I also know that, whether it was in Deadwood in the 19th century or online in the 21st century, someone is cheating somewhere.

If they cheat on Wall Street, why wouldn’t they cheat on Main Street?

I thought about this a lot the past few months, watching the Super Bowl, the Masters and “Jeopardy!”

Gladys Knight sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” before Super Bowl LIII; the length of the national anthem is now a popular prop bet. What would stop an entrepreneurial plunger from approaching her, saying, “Gladys, if you can make sure to finish the song in under 1 minute 45 seconds, we can make you X dollars richer”?

If it were me — and this is probably the only time I’d be crooning the national anthem, because I sing worse than I write — I might consider compromising my artistic integrity for a big payday.

(Column Intermission: Stepson of Destiny Isaiah Eisendorf, averaging 10.0 points and 6.1 rebounds in his first professional year in Israel’s second division, suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee at season’s end. Just before surgery — and I couldn’t make this up because I am cannabis-free 24-7 — he tweaked his knee while sitting on the couch, aggravating the injury. I have never been prouder; he is a chip off the old beanbag chair.)

A Wisconsin day trader, James Adduci, bet $85,000 at 14-to-1 odds on Tiger Woods winning the Masters, making him nearly $1.2 million.

Let’s say Brandt Snedeker and Bubba Watson head into the final round of a PGA Tour event eight strokes ahead of the field, with Snedeker a pre-tournament 100-1 wager to win it all. Might not a bettor with a huge financial interest approach Watson about taking a dive?

Note: I am not saying that Gladys Knight or Bubba Watson — or James Holzhauer of “Jeopardy!,” whom I am about to discuss — would do anything improper. I am just putting out the plausibility that there are some out there who would direct these questions towards those who can affect these outcomes.

On “Jeopardy!,” Holzhauer, a sports bettor from Las Vegas, has won 22 straight matches for nearly $1.7 million. He gets almost every question right, and even when his opponents also might know the answer, he almost always buzzes in first.

Would it be in the show’s interest for Holzhauer to keep winning in record fashion? Uh, do pigs attract flies? In the 1950s, quiz shows were rigged to boost ratings, most notably NBC’s “Twenty-One,” in which the producers had Herb Stempel purposely lose to telegenic Charles Van Doren, who then was often provided the correct answers.

The easiest form of match fixing remains in individual sports, in which you just need a boxer, a tennis player or a golfer. In team sports, though, you can target a pitcher in baseball, a quarterback in football or a top scorer in basketball or soccer; absent all of that, maybe, say, an NBA ref.

It’s hard to do, but it can be done.

Heck, I remember my great-Uncle Nathan telling me about a losing bet he made on the Chicago White Sox in the 1919 World Series.

Ask The Slouch

Q. Is James Holzhauer the smartest man in America? (Eric Isaac; Atlanta)

A. So I’m watching “Jeopardy!,” the category is “A Fork In The Road” and the clue is, “At Barstow, Nev., take I-40 east to get to Needles or I-15 north to this more glamorous Nevada city of more than 600,000.” What’s he going to guess, Reno? Carson City? Pahrump? HE LIVES IN LAS VEGAS, for crying out loud.

Q. What is better, having Country House put up from second to first in the Kentucky Derby at 65-to-1 odds, or Toni moving from third wife to first and best-ever Slouch spouse? (Ned Corrigan; Vienna, Va.)

A. This sounds like a trick question.

Q. Reggie Bush stated he would try to recruit Urban Meyer to coach USC. Would this be comparable to Clyde Barrow recruiting Willie Sutton to be the head teller at his local bank? (Mike Soper; Washington, D.C.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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