Some people love to gamble. There's a certain rush that comes with putting your hard-won earnings in the hands of fickle fate -- with the chance it could come back multiplied several times over. Or so we've been told. Sports betting offers the chance to experience that rush, but with the possibility that gamblers can influence chance, using their knowledge of team rosters, playing styles and even the weather, to predict the outcome of games. Sports gambling is a huge business, whether it takes place in legal, government-authorized betting parlors or through, shall we say, less official channels.
The problems start when the people involved with the game -- players, managers and the like -- are also involved in some way with the wagering. Whether or not team members bet for their own team to lose, or to win by a certain point spread, the whole idea of betting within one's own sport has an awful stink about it. Bar none, the most infamous baseball example was the 1919 Chicago White Sox. Playing against the Cincinnati Reds in the 1919 World Series, several cash-strapped players for the White Sox agreed with figures in the gambling underworld to throw the series -- to lose on purpose. The tainted team was dubbed the "Black Sox," in part for the way in which a few players' actions sullied the team's -- and the game's -- reputation.
This sordid event rocked professional baseball and resulted in the installation of baseball's first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
The shadow of the "Black Sox" betting scandal continues to haunt the major leagues and fascinate fans even to this day.
More recently, in 1989, Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose was banned from baseball for life, after it was discovered he bet frequently on professional baseball games. Even though he says he never bet against his own team, the penalty stands. It appears likely to exclude former star player Rose from receiving many official career honors. However, I guess we can't feel too bad about Rose missing out on induction into baseball's Hall of Fame. Word has it that he'll be doing a reality TV show soon with his Playboy model fiancée, Kiana Kim [source: New York Daily News].