Sports Betting Has Become So Easy That the Sports Seem Secondary

The studio setup looks familiar, but the operation itself is spiritless, bearing more resemblance to CNBC’s coverage of the stock market than to the typical sports show, whose belligerent repartee is familiar to anyone who has ever watched a game with friends. The FanDuel experience is less communal, more customized. I’ve enjoyed watching my roommate earn the spoils of his wagers, but they more often reflect the failures of my own.

In the film “Uncut Gems,” set in the gray-market days of 2012, the gambling-addicted jeweler Howard Ratner charters his mistress a helicopter from New York City to the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut, carrying a duffel bag of $ 155,000 to place a three- way parlay in Game 7 of the Celtics-Sixers playoff series. More recently, I had to lift exactly one finger, my thumb, in order to lose $ 10 on a five-way parlay. Sports gambling once evoked casinos and currency counters and smoky back rooms with college football playing on cathode-ray TVs. Now the experience is brought to us directly, casually and conveniently, as with so many other things we once had to seek out or wait for: phone calls, pornography, political arguments.

When I was young, my father would sometimes ask if I thought the Baltimore Ravens would win their next game. I never wanted to answer: The very act of predicting seeds to me to have karmic consequences, as if I might rankle the football gods. Like organized religion or dieting, this kind of passive but sustained commitment to the franchise of your choice can feel ennobling, and we expect to reap its rewards accordingly – to win a championship, or gain entry to heaven, or look somewhat like a catalog model before summer. This, to me, was the point of the whole covenant, of faith and fandom itself.

But it turns out that with a few clicks and a bit of cash, we can render that whole bargain meaningless. Why stake your mental health on your team’s winning or losing when we can contrive for ourselves a cluster of smaller games within the larger one? Games in which we control the terms of engagement, adjusting our loyalties from night to night? Never in human history have there been more ways to win, FanDuel tells us – so many, in fact, that you might forget the cardinal one altogether. And what a strange relief that is when you’re stuck with the Knicks.


Source photographs: Shutterstock

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