Super hypocrisy

January 26, 2003

LATER TODAY - when you've sunk deep into your couch for the spectacle of Super Bowl XXXVII, the violence of the game, the titillations of the beer commercials, the pressure of that little side bet back at the office - take comfort in knowing the National Football League would never, ever, encourage you to gamble on one of its games, even legally.

As a result, among the 61 commercials in the nation's premier ad fest - for which air time runs more than $2 million a pop - TV viewers won't find one from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The NFL barred the ad, saying its image would be tarnished by such an association.

Now, we're not fans of gambling, even legal gambling, and we're pleased gambling scandals in all pro sports have been rare. But the hypocrisy here is simply stunning - even by NFL standards. It brings to mind Claude Rains, playing the police chief in the classic film Casablanca, who closes down Humphrey Bogart's bar, professing to be "shocked ... shocked ... to find that gambling is going on in here" - just before he pockets his winnings.

But that was a movie. Here's the reality:

Illegal sports betting across the country is at least 50 times greater than Las Vegas' legal action, experts estimate. Pro football betting is so pervasive that virtually every sports publication in the country runs the latest odds. NFL on-air commentators frequently refer to point spreads during games. The league itself is in business with a Web site linked to Internet sports betting.

And let's not forget that the Las Vegas ad touts pleasures other than gambling, and even then is far, far tamer than the beer ad in which women wrestle in wet concrete - shown during recent NFL broadcasts.

No, the NFL's integrity couldn't possibly tolerate such associations.

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