Professional wrestling is fake. Well, not fake but scripted. The industry portrays staged matches and corresponding storylines as an alternate reality. It’s called “kayfabe,” and it’s not unlike buying into what you’re seeing in a VR headset or getting lost in a good book.
When done right, it’s difficult to distinguish what’s real and what isn’t. How many times have you heard about a real sports story and thought: “that’s too incredible to be true?”
What if it was? How would we know the difference?
On Monday, the Supreme Court struck down the “professional and amateur sports protection act,” opening the door for states to decide the legality of sports betting.
For 25 years, Nevada was the only place you could legally put money on your team, key word is “legally.”
Recent estimates suggest illegal sports betting is a $150 billion annual business. Already, about 20 states are lining up for a slice of that pie, eager to regulate, and more importantly, tax you, to legally gamble on athletics.
Historically, the NCAA and the core four major sports leagues have been against legally betting on games, but dollar signs have a funny way of softening one’s stance. In fact, the MLB and a number of NBA franchises actually own equity in fantasy sports operators DraftKings and FanDuel. Although, they say they are in the process of unloading stock now that the Supreme Court has made its decision.
The NBA has been the largest proponent of getting in on the action, which is funny to me, considering the league is hardly a decade removed from the most-egregious gambling scandal since Pete Rose. Remember Tim Donaghy? The referee who was sentenced to 15 months in prison for betting on games.
How do we know that won’t happen again?
The league’s VP has suggested a 1 percent integrity fee on all money wagered on the NBA. The NFL wants to help construct a regulatory framework for legalized sports betting.
That seems like lip service in the NFL’s case, and a money grab by the NBA.
I think we live in an era when pro athletes can’t really be bought. The influential players make millions, a far cry from the 1919 Chicago Black Sox, who threw the World Series for cash. Those guys ate cheese sandwiches and rode railcars on road trips.
I don’t think the players’ integrity is what we have to worry about, it’s the leagues’. Remember, there are billions of dollars at stake here. Legal betting brings more attention to every single game. Viewership increases and networks can charge more for ad revenue. The leagues have an opportunity to make more money in lucrative TV and streaming contracts. The money trail is much easier to follow than when you place a bet with your seedy bookie.
Doesn’t it seem fair to assume that a league might want compelling storylines to keep fans interested, when daily fantasy wagers don’t do the trick? Better question: How would we ever know the difference? Kayfabe can look and feel just like the real deal.
Maybe I need to throw away my tinfoil hat, everything will probably be above board and totally fine! I’m just not going to bet on it.