THE STRIKE ZONE
Sometimes Sports, Sometimes Sportsmanship
By Sean Comerford
Member, Board of Directors
I have been following a lot of football (soccer) in the last few years and have very much enjoyed it. The international nature of the game along with the excitement of the recent World Cup, etc., make it a nice complement to watching purely domestic or regional sports. However, one thing that is a bit odd, at least to this American sports fan, is the tolerance of sponsorships on the uniforms of the players. The sponsorships are invariably more prominent and flashier than the actual club crests. This can be annoying but uneventful if a sponsor is something like a well-known consumer brand, such as a carmaker. However, the sponsorships for European sports teams are increasingly for gambling.
In a Pete Rose-esque situation, Ivan Toney, an English Premier League striker for the club Brentford, was recently banned from football for the better part of the next year because he was found to have bet on the sport numerous times against regulations. This included betting on his own team to lose when he was not scheduled to play. Unlike Pete Rose, however, Toney’s bookie was essentially emblazoned on his shirt -- Brentford is one team among many that is currently sponsored by a betting company in the Premiership.
This may not be shocking even to Americans now in our "everything is sponsored by DraftKings" existence. However, as people not of gambling age watch these sports, do gambling advertisements send a message that is harmful to consumers? In England, at least, there is some “consciousness of guilt” as shirts sold for youngsters are forbidden to display betting platform logos, instead featuring blank space.
There have been reports that the Premier League teams agreed to dial back betting sponsorships, at least on the front of shirts, in the coming years. It appears to be a tardy attempt to quiet some of the uncomfortable feelings that arose in the wave of this seemingly overnight takeover by the gambling industry.
Were professional sports not profitable enough even without betting sponsors? Was it not foreseeable that there would be repercussions to ceding “typical” sponsorship space to gambling companies?
Even if most who choose to gamble can do so responsibly, is sponsorship money worth ensnaring the small percentage of people that might become addicted? It seems that for now, on both sides of the Atlantic, the answer is yes, whether we like it or not.
I hope you enjoyed this look at self-esteem over the past few weeks. Before we wrap it up, I want to credit Alfie Cohn's book "No Contest" as the inspiration and source for much of this information. I'm sure I will continue to quote the book in future posts!
Winning has the potential to be an addiction. If we look to an alcoholic drink as something we need for a way to relax, or if we look to a snort of cocaine for a quick high, we can do the same thing when we look to winning as a way to feel good about ourselves.
The addiction to winning is probably most similar to the addiction to gambling. When we gamble, we never want to quit while we are ahead, nor do we ever think we can't win our money back when we lose. As our winnings increase, we keep rolling the dice. When we are down a significant amount, we think we are going to get on a role with the next hand of cards.
The same thing goes with winning. After we win, we want to win more. If we win a championship, we want to repeat, and we never want to walk away. If we lose, we get back out there to prove ourselves because we never give up. The cycle doesn't end.
Further, the more we reward being "number one," the more we contribute to the addiction of competition.
The problem continues when the pleasure from winning wears off faster and faster. We compete again and again searching for that thrill, only to be disappointed when we don't get it from another victory. We compare each championship to other championships and wonder why we are not as enthralled after gold medal.
The funny thing is that this phenomenon can happen in so many other places in life. I can remember walking out of a movie that absolutely blew me away to the point of obsession that the sequel was a disappointment because it didn't do the same thing to me that the first movie did. Is it fair to compare them that way? How can one movie compete with its own sequel?
Competition is a funny thing. Self-esteem should just be happy.
Baseball player, umpire, coach, fan; professional musician; founder, President & CEO of The OSIP Foundation, Inc.