My Whiskerino tweeps on Twitter were arguing yesterday about whether it’s worse to gamble on sports [the Pete Rose offense] or to take performance-enhancing drugs [the Barry Bonds offense]. I meant to blog this last night, but I felt like dogmeat and am just now getting to it on my lunch break.
My argument for this is simple: gambling is an order of magnitude a worse sin. Sport is based around a single premise: everyone is trying to win. Gambling leaves open the possibility that someone is not trying to win. PEDs usage is simply trying to perform above what the body can do on its own—effectively, trying harder.
Let’s address the legal issue quickly: betting on sports is illegal in most locales, and taking most PEDs is a violation of Federal drug statutes. Sure, you can bet legally in Nevada, and you can get a prescription, but routinely those are both skirting the issue of what’s really going on. Both can be seen as legal or illegal acts, so I drive back to the moral underpinning.
Gambling doesn’t have to be throwing a game; it can be wanting to win any particular game more than anything else. Is that wrong? Yes, in some cases it certainly is. Baseball is an easy example: if you have money on the game as the manager, you’re going to run through the bullpen and the bench trying to win that one game, where normally you might see a 10-2 deficit in the third and just announce, “Hey, if anyone wants to pitch in the seventh, here’s your chance.” Baseball management is about maximizing the number of wins during the regular season, which does not necessarily maximize the chance of winning any single game. [Postseason management is all about winning single games, of course. You do stuff in the postseason that you'd never do in July.]
Also, gambling puts the element that someone might not be trying their hardest to win the game, because they have an incentive to lose it. That is far more injurious to the ideals of sport, to me, than someone roiding up to muscle the ball over the fence or taking greenies to stay alert during game eight of a twelve-games-in-twelve-days stretch.
YMMV, but this is the crux of my argument. Please sound off in the comments if you are so compelled. I must now go back to writing a proposal for work …