By Dom Cioffi
Well, another season has come and gone.
I’m always melancholy after the conclusion of the Super Bowl, knowing that I’ll have to wait another seven months to start watching football again.
I find it ironic, but football relaxes me. I look forward to the Sunday afternoon games, especially when the weather turns cold and I can fall asleep in front of the fire while they’re on. And of course, the only thing that makes Mondays bearable are Monday night football. And we have all come to realize that Thursday night football is the perfect precursor to the weekend.
Traditionally, once the Super Bowl is over, I’ll turn my attention to college hoops in the annual build-up to March Madness. And then I’ll focus on the Masters, the NBA Finals, and pre-season Major League Baseball. (I don’t include hockey in this equation because I’ve never been a fan — likely because my deep love of basketball had me on the hardwood instead of the ice as a youngster.)
I love to watch sports on television. It’s something my father taught me to appreciate as a child and it’s carried on throughout my life. Sure, I love motion pictures, but the greatest theater in the world is undoubtedly on the playing fields of sports.
The Super Bowl is special not only because it’s the culmination of a year’s worth of battling, but also because it incorporates an epic halftime show and hours’ worth of America’s best marketing concepts. In truth, many people who don’t give a hoot about football agree to watch the Super Bowl simply to see some entertaining live music and a funny potato chip commercial or two.
However, viewers this year were inundated with three relatively new advertising subjects: cryptocurrency, electric cars and gambling. I get the cryptocurrency and electric cars — two things that look promising in the future — but the gambling gives me pause.
Full disclosure: I don’t gamble; I’ve never been attracted to it or wooed by it. I’ve been to Las Vegas once, and while I enjoyed the glitz and glam and over-the-top nightlife, I found the whole “losing all my money” angle disturbing.
I did play the slots for a short time, but after I lost a relatively small amount of money, I got bored and moved on. However, I did enjoy watching others gamble, but it was more of a morbid fascination with the dopamine triggers as their brains reacted to the intricacies of play.
But the thing that really gave me pause was when I wandered into the casino early in the morning and saw countless people looking weary and haggard, but still pumping their money into the system in hopes of a payoff. I saw some very sad looking folks during that walk-through, and it just reinforced my feelings about not jumping on that train.
In some ways, I felt like many of those people were being preyed upon, like they were merely conduits between their money and the casinos.
That’s why I became concerned this football season when I started to notice the abundant legal gambling commercials that were being aired during games. I’m all for a free-market economy, but the sight of so many gambling commercials made me anxious for the thousands of people who struggle with addictions and who would likely be fighting to overcome that temptation.
And if you don’t think it’s a big deal, consider this: The American Gaming Association estimated that 31 million American adults bet a combined $7.61 billion on this year’s Super Bowl. Bill Miller, the CEO of the AGA, stated that this year’s big game generated the largest single-event legal wager in American sports betting history. And this is all because of legal gambling and consumers’ growing preference to abandon the illegal bookies of the past.
Like it or not, it looks like legal gambling is here to stay. I just hope that the folks who battle with addictive tendencies aren’t taken advantage of.
This week’s feature, “The Power of the Dog,” focuses on several people who are being taken advantage of and how certain people who don’t look capable, can turn the tables on their oppressors.
Nominated for 12 Academy Awards, “The Power of the Dog” is a cerebral drama set in the Montana grasslands in the 1920s on the ranch of two brothers. One brother is brooding and crass, the other is mild and thoughtful. And then a woman enters the scene.
This is a very well-acted, well-crafted story that will not reveal its true intentions until the final scene. And trust me, it’s not what you think.
An understated “A-” for “The Power of the Dog,” available for streaming on Netflix.
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]