Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now, if you're the gambling type, you may have bet on last night's game. Commentator Frank Deford wants to face up to the contradictions surrounding sports gambling.

FRANK DEFORD: To me, the United States gets more and more conflicted. People argue whether we're a center-right or center-left country. But suppose there's no center anymore, so we're just center-less?

Nothing illustrates this, our national ambiguity, more than the issue of sports gambling. Granted, in a time of economic distress and war and declining ratings for "American Idol," betting on sports is not a pressing concern upon the republic.

But it is illustrative of our contradictions and, well, our hypocrisy. In this two-fisted land, where put your money where your mouth is, and wanna bet? and put up or shut up are among the first expressions that real boys learn, we actually remain backward and tormented about gambling.

The U.S. is, for example, the veritable capital of cyberspace, but we've been found to be in violation of World Trade Organization obligations because we, almost alone amongst civilized nations, prohibit Internet gambling.

Or consider the great little state of Delaware, where new legislation would allow sports books to operate — a distinction now owned only by Nevada. The nerve of Delaware — it's caused an absolute conniption fit among sports organizations, especially the National Football League.

My gracious. Everybody knows that the NFL is the most popular game to bet, with billions wagered illegally on point spreads. Why would you be against letting folks bet legally rather than with the mob — especially in these parlous times?

Moreover, it's estimated that the U.S. will give up $52 billion in the next decade if we continue to prohibit betting on the Internet. In sensible recognition thereof, Congressman Barney Frank, one of the few grown-ups in Washington, will soon hold hearings on his bill to bring the United States up to modern speed by legalizing Internet gambling.

But then, it's no wonder the WTO still thinks we're goofy. Why should betting on four-legged creatures be allowed, but wagering on our fellow upright athletes be a sin? Why do we condone lotteries and slot machines, which are, essentially, devices regulated to tax poorer citizens, while denying sports betting, which requires at least a smidgen of intelligence?

And talk about two-faced - at the same time that the NFL is trying to influence the Delaware Supreme Court to limit sports wagering, the league has urged its franchises to make money licensing their team logos to state lotteries.

Of course, honesty compels me to acknowledge that there is a personal reason why I want bettors to have a chance to wager in Delaware: I met my wife there. Trust me. It's a place where you can make a good bet.

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INSKEEP: I'll give you ten to one odds that Commentator Frank Deford joins us each Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, host:

And I'm David Greene.

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Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford