• It’s a safe bet
    July 28,2014

    On the sixth day, when God was creating man and woman, he decided to have some fun. “Just for excitement, I will include a gambling gene to my creations’ DNA,” he said to no one in particular, because he was the only one around. And ever since that Saturday so many years ago, humans have engaged in the thrill of betting against odds for enjoyment and monetary gain.

    Throughout time, we have reveled in the anticipation of guessing outcomes. From Neanderthal hunters betting on wooly mammoth races to early Americans wagering on the Patriots to be victorious over the Red Coats, humans have gambled in very informal settings.

    Once wagering for money was approved by society, casinos afforded citizens an opportunity to lose their shirts in a more organized manner.

    However, ever since Al Gore invented the Internet, you do not need the benefit of a road trip, “has been” entertainers and complimentary drinks at a casino to throw your hard earned cash away. All you have to do is go online to place a bet on virtually anything. And I do mean anything. A look back at the recent World Cup will show you exactly how far gambling has gotten out of hand.

    As we learned during last month’s premiere soccer tournament, when times are tough, the solution to the problem can be right under our noses. At least that was the case for Uruguay soccer player Luis Suarez, who during a closely contested game against a tough team from Italy, decided to snack on the shoulder of opponent Giorgio Chiellini. Suarez actually bit Chiellini, leaving teeth marks on his shoulder and earning the Uruguay player a four-month suspension from professional soccer play.

    When I first heard about this incident an important question immediately came to mind. Mainly, where the heck is Uruguay? When I learned Uruguay was near Buenos Aires, I had a second, equally important question. Where the heck is Buenos Aires? After a quick geography lesson courtesy of Google (and a minor diversion to watch a few kitten videos courtesy of YouTube), I decided to get back to my column.

    I don’t blame Suarez for his actions. I imagine playing soccer can be physically demanding, and it would seem natural players might develop a bit of a hunger by the 60-minute mark. Suarez, who is affectionately known as “the Cannibal” in the soccer playing world, probably had a hankering for some Italian food. But this story is about gambling and our willingness to place bets, not on eating the competition.

    You don’t earn a cool nickname like the Cannibal after one nibble. This was actually Suarez’s third documented incident of biting an opponent. As a result of his past exploits treating fellow humans as hors d’oeuvres, there were some soccer fans willing to bet the Cannibal would succumb to the temptation of foreign flesh at an international competition and decide to gnaw on yet another player.

    Prior to the World Cup a Norway gambling website, seeing an opportunity to relieve fans of their money, posted a bet with 175-1 odds that Mr. Suarez would bite someone during the tournament. According to Darren Rovell of ESPN, 167 people made the bet, including Thomas Syversen, who bet 32 krone (about $5.25 USD) on Suarez biting someone. He cashed in for 5600 krone (a little over $916) on the wager.

    When I discussed with a friend how appalled I was with this bet, he made a point of telling me I would not find this type of ridiculous wagering in Vermont. He went on to guess that none of the 167 people who placed bets on Suarez biting an opponent were Vermonters because people in our state rise above the boorish gambling behavior of the seven billion people taking up space in the world beyond our Green Mountains. Vermonters see gambling as a waste of money and time. Unless, of course, it involves putting money in a pool to see who will get the biggest buck each fall. That’s different. Or, if it involves paying for a chance to accurately guess when the ice will melt on Joe’s Pond. That’s different, too. Or if we spend money at the cow bingo game at the fair hoping to accurately guess what number a cow will be standing over when nature calls. Not the same. Or if we buy 50/50 tickets at a sporting event hoping to win the…you get the idea.

    He was right — we Vermonters are different. I felt so good after our little talk, yesterday, when picking up milk at the convenience store, I bought two extra lottery tickets.

    Mark S. Albury lives in Northfield Falls.

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