THE COUCH SLOUCH

Can the Black Sox betting scandal happen again? With legalized sports wagering growing, you bet it can

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My barber George asked me an interesting question the other day – could the Black Sox betting scandal happen again?

Since it does not take much time to cut whatever hair remains on my scaly dome, I could not fully elucidate an intelligent answer for him. So I'd like to take this occasion to provide George a more complete, nuanced reply.

Yes, it could.

In fact, as gambling seeds are increasingly planted across this foundering nation of opportunists, hustlers, grifters and, yes, gamblers, it is rather appropriate that this is the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Black Sox World Series fixing scandal.

That series is just the best and biggest example of a simple, unchanging point:

If there is money to be made, somebody out there is going to try to figure out a way to game or cheat the system.

A look back

For those of you not around in 1919 – I interned that summer on an oil rig off the coast of Montana – let me provide a quick primer on the facts (more or less) surrounding the Black Sox crookedness.

A gambling syndicate led by Arnold Rothstein (godfather of Bernie Madoff) and "Sleepy" Bill Burns (great uncle of Pete Rose) paid eight Chicago White Sox players to throw World Series games against the Cincinnati Reds; the irony here is that, 70 years later, Rose was banned from baseball for betting on games while playing and managing the Reds.

Among the White Sox taking money was outfielder Joe Jackson. Jackson accepted $5,000 in cash but then appeared to play his best, hitting .375. As punishment, the syndicate removed all his footwear, and the barefooted Jackson was known as "Shoeless Joe" for the rest of his life.

In 1920, the eight "Black Sox" were indicted on conspiracy charges, but all of them were acquitted in the trial the following year, largely because key evidence – including player confessions – had mysteriously disappeared. The court also cleared NBA referee Tim Donaghy Sr. of any involvement in the game-fixing.

But newly appointed MLB Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis – no relation to Bowie Kuhn – banned the eight players from the game for life.

Fast forward

Okay, let's now return to the 21st century, where time and again we discover, if money's involved – whether it is Wall Street or Wrigley Field, the racetrack or the poker room – someone somewhere in some fashion will try to rip somebody else off.

Gambling, from state lotteries to fantasy sports to old-fashioned point spreads, now is bigger than ever in America. The latest American gold rush is a renewed, legal commitment to taking as many dollars as possible out of people's pockets by dangling the mirage of winning lots of money in front of them.

I should inject here, in case you've forgotten – most people lose when they gamble.

At the moment, 13 states have legalized sports betting, five states plus Washington, D.C., recently passed bills to legalize it and 25 states have introduced sports-betting legislation.

Eventually, we will have in-game, in-stadium sports betting.

What could go wrong?

Worst case scenario

While we're here, let me tell you how the confluence of legalized sports betting and replay as an officiating tool will come crashing down on all of us.

First let's remember that New Orleans Saints fans, after last season's NFC championship game pass-interference catastrophe, sued the NFL – and they had no money on the line. Well, down the road, a massive "injustice" – an obvious call, not corrected by replay – will prompt an even bigger uprising in which many sports-wagering individuals will seek redress in the courts.

There are so many "players" involved here: The coaches and players themselves, the game officials, the anonymous replay officials in New York, TV producers who might bet and think twice about providing the right angle, sports-betting operators. It's all legal, and it's ripe for a fix.

Best-case scenario in this nascent betting bonanza? Your neighborhood bookie is run out of business and your local schools are enhanced by the regulated, taxed bounty pouring into public coffers.

Good luck with that.

Ask The Slouch

Q. You are being given a red card for your flagrant use of a "La Boheme" reference in a recent column. Opera has no place when discussing such important issues as professional sports. (David Blackburn; Gaithersburg, Md.)

A. No $1.25 here, but I'll accept the red card – how long does this sideline me from writing the column? I am due for another unpaid vacation.

Q. I'm watching NFL Network and Joe Namath is talking – 13-year career, 65.5 passer rating. Hmm. Why exactly is he in the hall of fame? (Scott LaBerge; Fort Collins, Colo.)

A. He was known as Broadway Joe and no NFL player ever rocked a fur coat like him.

Q. Yuengling recently teamed up with Hershey's to make a chocolate porter. Genius or beer blasphemy? (Joel Rondeau; Glendale, Wis.)

A. A. I love Yuengling and I love chocolate, but I am en route to Pottsville, Pa., as we speak to seek an annulment to this unholy marriage.

Q. How much should we expect NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to fine China for tampering? (Terry Golden; Vienna, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

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

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After a short turnaround, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to their Mecca at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the famed Coca-Cola 600. Of all the races in NASCAR, after Daytona this race may be the most important race on the schedule. The tradition started back in 1959 when former driver and hall of famer Curtis Turner teamed up with Burton Smith to build the track and upon its completion, they decided to make the first race at the new track on the same day as the Indy 500. In an effort to draw fans, they made the race 100 miles longer and from there the rest was history. This year's rendition will be somber though as no fans will be permitted to enter due to Covid-19, but even in this time of unrest it will be a relief to continue to see our heroes take on NASCAR's longest race.

For the first time, NASCAR pulled off it's first midweek race and it was a doozy. For most of the race there was a wide range of characters who were up front. Clint Bowyer set the tone early as he went on to win the first two stages but after getting caught in traffic he fell back. To make matters worse, Bowyer was involved in an accident that ended any chance of victory. While it wasn't the outcome he would have hoped for, to see how well he ran is a sign of good things to come for the Kansas native. I look forward to seeing how he rebounds.

With Bowyer out of it, the attention shifted to Chase Elliott. All night it seemed like he had the second best car and looked to be on his way to another victory but after the caution for Bowyer, Elliott lost a ton of track position after a bad pit-stop. This left the sports most popular driver stuck in traffic, but he was able to make his way back to second. In the final laps, he was easily the best car and appeared to be on his way past Denny Hamlin to take the victory but Kyle Busch had other ideas. The defending champion made a sudden right hand turn and veered into Elliott sending him head on into the wall.

It was safe to say that Elliott was not pleased as he gave Busch the one finger salute as he drove by under caution. The race was not able to resume as Mother Nature intervened giving Hamlin his second win of the season. Many fans and experts alike were critical of Busch's stunt, Jeff Gordon was quoted as saying "Not sure what that was all about." When the race was over, Busch was confronted by Elliott's Crew Chief Alan Gufston. When it was said and done security had to be called to separate the two. While it might not have been intentional, Busch has opened up a can of worms in the future for retaliation. It will be fun to watch what happens next.

Overall, the response to NASCAR's midweek race was overwhelmingly positive as it was the third highest watched event on television. As NASCAR continues to be fluid, more and more people are becoming interested. NASCAR journalist and reporter Adam Stern tweeted that more than thirty percent of the viewers of Sunday's race were new viewers. Even though we may not always agree with the way NASCAR does things, I have to say they have done an outstanding job at putting this schedule together. I hope that in the future, NASCAR continues this new tradition.

Moving on to Charlotte, The driver I have winning this weekend is Chase Elliott. In every race this season, Chase has been a force to be reckoned but has simply run into circumstances he can't control. At Vegas before the shutdown, he seemed to have the race in hand until a flat tire ended any chances of victory. Two weeks later at Phoenix, he led ninety-three laps until fading to a seventh place finish and with a new-found fire lit under him after Darlington, Elliott will be like a bull in the china shop come Sunday. While he has been great at every track he has run at, he has been especially fast at Charlotte. He currently has a 10.60 average finish there and has consistently led laps. This week, I think Elliott will get redemption and claim his sixth career victory in one of NASCAR's crown jewels. Look for him to take his #9 Napa Camaro to victory lane.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats)

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