What's more invigorating than watching someone else engage in strenuous physical activity? How else to account for the millions and millions of hours spent by America's he-men sitting in front of television sets consuming frightening amounts of fat, sugar, and salt while watching ballgames? Actually, there is one other reason for the devotion to the church of muscle. It's the money.
Quite a few among us are known to risk the odd dollar wagering on the outcomes of contests staged by colossal tv production companies called "sports". Each of these content producers, known among the cognoscenti as NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA, NHL, create their own reality series called "the season" which terminates in "the playoffs" which results in the crowning of "the champion."
Each episode is another opportunity to place a bet "just to make it interesting." In the old days this was known as gambling. It is quite similar to other forms of gambling like rolling dice in that you place some of your money on a bigger pile of money, and later someone takes all the money. Sometimes it's you, sometimes it's another other fellow, but always the winner wins through no fault of his own, having done no work. This is how we distinguish gambling from work. In work, one works and gets paid for working. In gambling, one doesn't work and sometimes gets paid for doing nothing. On the face of it, gambling looks like a much better deal. Except in gambling, one can lose. The nature of things is, if you can lose, you probably will.
This "losing" aspect of gambling presents an opportunity for those among us who like to mind other people's business. What could be more noble than refusing to allow gamblers to lose their own money?
Which brings us to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Mr. Schneiderman has determined that something called fantasy sports is actually gambling, which is illegal in New York State. He wants the activity to stop even though everyone engaged in it seems to enjoy losing their own money, as long as someone appears to win once in a while, giving the appearance that winning is actually possible, although no one wins as much as the game's operators who once were called "bookies".
"The industry" has responded to Mr. Schneiderman's cease and desist order with their customary argument that betting on sports is not gambling because it requires skill. Presumably, the skill lies in looking at lists of players, looking up what they did in odd moments in the past, and then inferring from this what they will do in the future. To which I must say, "skill, my aunt Agatha."
There is no skill in declaring who will score the most touchdowns next Sunday. It is a guess. If it was a skill, everyone would find the right answer.
Winning at fantasy sports is luck just as much as winning at the numbers racket. Numbers running was once illegal. Then the state took over the racket and made it legal by calling it a lottery, thus solving two problems at once. It ended a criminal activity by making it not a crime, and it added numbers running to its previously solitary revenue stream of extortion, known in the business as taxation.
My question to Mr. Schneiderman is, why end gambling when you can simply legalize it and take it over?
We all know that a fool and his money must always bid adieu. Why not let the fools' loss become the state's gain?