Jordan's golf betting is none of our business

MIKE ROYKO

October 28, 1992|By MIKE ROYKO

Not that anyone asked, but I'll admit it anyway. I've lost more gambling at poker and golf than Michael Jordan. There, I have bared my soul, unburdened my conscience.

I'm not the only one. Thousands of readers of this paper have lost as much. For that matter, so have some of the journalists who are moralizing and hyperventilating about Jordan's $57,000 in lost golf bets.

But let me clarify something. I didn't lose $57,000. I don't bet that kind of money on anything. The reason I don't bet that kind of money is that I don't make the kind of money Jordan does. Few people do.

A conservative estimate of Jordan's annual take in salary and endorsements would be about $15 million. The growth from his investments would make it even more, but let's stay with the $15 million figure.

So simple math tells us that 1 percent of his annual pre-tax income would be about $150,000. That means Jordan lost about one third of 1 percent.

Let's use that formula for someone making $100,000 a year. It comes to about $333.

Now, would you be horrified if you heard that some $100,000-a-year businessman or executive had lost $333 in golf bets? Only if you are his wife and he buys cheap anniversary gifts.

It's all relative. That would be like some $50,000-a-year guy losing $170. Or some $500,000-a-year fat cat dropping $1,700. Not exactly shocking numbers.

So why is there so much attention being paid to Jordan's $57,000? Because he is Michael Jordan, America's most famous and admired athlete. Everything he does is news.

Under the modern rules of journalism, which we sort of make up as we go along, a famous person has no privacy. A reporter could hide in Jordan's laundry hamper, and some editor would say that it is only fitting because the public has a right to know about Jordan's underwear.

But the fact is that $57,000 is Jordan's money, just as the $170 belongs to the $50,000-a-year office manager. And if they want to lose it in golf bets, buy a few shares of stock, give it to a panhandler or spend it on silk ties, that's their business.

If there's anything interesting in this story, it isn't that Jordan lost $57,000. It's that some shrewd golf hustler called Slim walked away with that $57,000.

Golf hustling is an art. To succeed big-time, you have to be a shrewd salesman, a psychologist, an odds-maker and a very good golfer.

How good a golfer? Nobody knows how good the best hustlers are because to be successful a hustler never shoots any better than he has to. If you shoot a 90, he shoots an 89. If you shoot an 80, he shoots a 79.

Or if you have an inflated opinion of your game, as Jordan does, he doesn't even have to beat you. You shoot an 80, but he shoots an 85 and wins. That's because the hustler has convinced you that you are so good and he is so bad, you have to give him a few strokes to even the match out.

It takes skill and cool nerves to be a hustler. Those rich young men on the golf tour can shoot a bad round or two and what is the worst that can happen? They don't win any money, but they don't lose any, either.

But if the hustler misjudges his opponent's ability, he not only doesn't win, he loses. So he has to dig into his own pocket to cover the bet.

And it's likely that $57,000 meant a lot more to Slim than it did to Jordan.

Now, would you be horrified if you heard that some $100,000-a-year businessman or executive had lost $333 in golf bets? Only if you are his wife and he buys cheap anniversary gifts.

At one time, the best golf hustler in America played out of Chicago. He was called the Fat Man because he was big and fat. He slashed at the ball like a big, fat guy.

But when the money was on the line, his unsightly fat man's swing somehow sent the ball in the right direction.

The only person the Fat Man wouldn't bet against was another Chicagoan known as Little John.

Little John, not much taller than a tee, performed what appeared to be a hula dance as he was swinging at the ball. But while you were laughing at his swing, his ball was landing near the cup and you were reaching for your wallet.

He once waded into a Florida pond and knocked a ball off a lily pad and on the green to pocket about $10,000.

Money aside, what shocks some journalists is that Jordan initially lied to the press about the lost bets. He was embarrassed and said the money was a loan to Slim. So some are expressing grave doubts about Jordan's worthiness as a role model and sports icon.

Well, lying to the press is not against the law. If it was, we wouldn't have a president. All the candidates would be behind bars.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.