Every week, I provide terrible advice to punters across the globe regarding the upcoming AFL round. I do so knowing that where I live – the United States – such gambling is borderline illegal, depending on where I try to place my wagers.
The truth is that I’ve never bet a dime on any sport in my life, but it’s a convenient means of describing my predictions regarding upcoming games – “the oddsmakers say Team B will win by 20 points, which seems too high for me, so take Team A and the points”.
Even if you do bet on the game, I never suggest you should take my advice. First, in this season in particular, I’ve been terrible.
But for a player involved in the games themselves, betting on the sport in which you’re a participant is an absolute no-no.
In stock trading, if you have inside information and you or someone you communicate with acts on that info, there’s severe jail time hanging over your head. Why? It’s the concept of a free market economy with a fair playing field.
On the professional sports front, we demand the same flat playing field, and we hope and believe that we have even more control over the parameters than in the stock market.
In the AFL, we regulate injury reports so that punters have fair and accurate information regarding the true status of each team’s health going into a game.
We regulate the officiating of the rules – and the rules themselves – to emphasise fairness on the playing fields. Fans boo vociferously when they feel their team received fewer free kicks than the other club did.
So when Jaidyn Stephenson places wagers on the game – even small ones, even on matters that on the surface don’t affect his desire to help his own team win – it plays into the idea that there are motivations below the surface that will affect things like point spreads, over/unders, and all the same categories Stephenson bet on, such as how many disposals or goals he or a team-mate might get.
In the US major leagues of baseball, the all-time leader in hits is a man named Pete Rose. He played the majority of his career for the Cincinnati Reds, and after his retirement he was hired to manage that club.
But in 1989, he was permanently banned from taking any role in professional baseball because he had been gambling on baseball games. There was no evidence that he bet on Cincinnati games, and no accusation that he bet against his team in any manner.
However, the idea that a manager could affect other teams down the road to aid his own gambling wagers – for example, by going easy on Milwaukee’s pitching staff when they play in Cincinnati, he could set them up to an advantage in their next series in, say, Chicago – was so horrific to the baseball public that despite Rose’s constant pleas for reinstatement, no real public interest exists to provide it to him over the last 30 years.
Pete Rose can’t even enter Cincinnati’s baseball stadium, ironically located on Pete Rose Way.
To my American sensibilities, for a young man like Jaidyn Stephenson to have made such an egregious mistake and put his gambling habits above the interests of the team he plays for puts his entire body of work in question, both before and after these three games already declared.
And somehow it seems so much worse that it was only for a total of $36! It implies that money wasn’t the motivation – he was willing to gamble a tiny stake to risk what turned out to be half-a-season’s salary. It must just have been for the thrill, or the control.
Every time I watch him play from now on, I’ll be wondering what his motivations are. Is he simply trying to do what’s best for Collingwood, or is there a side bet he has in mind that’s slanting his decisions?
I loved watching him play. What I’ve heard of his interviews makes him seem very likable. But I’m astounded that he’ll ever be allowed on the field again, let alone for this year’s finals series. And if I were Collingwood, I’d be worried every time I put him in the line-up.
I’ve already forgiven him for his actions. But that doesn’t require me to trust him. Even we chain our dogs up when they’ve demonstrated a propensity to bite.