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Matthew J. Webster – Writer

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Sports Betting Is No Crime

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Licensed UK betting shop. Photograph: David Sillitoe/Guardian

Licensed UK betting shop. Photograph: David Sillitoe/Guardian

Pity The Punter
By Matthew J. Webster

Should betting on sports be a crime in America? N.B.A. commisioner Adam Silver reignited the debate, and reversed two decades of league policy, with his November 13 New York Times Op-Ed piece asserting that sports betting should be legalized in the US. In a nutshell, Silver argues that sports betting is legal in most of the world outside the US, and has become widely normalized in this country since Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, prohibiting states from allowing gambling in 1992.

In those days before the Internet brought betting into our living rooms, all the major American professional sports leagues supported PASPA. The terrain has shifted since then. Silver references estimates that Americans now illegally wager $400 billion annually on sports. If accurate, that’s an awful lot of potentially taxable revenue vanishing into the ether based on vague and outdated moral arguments.

One example was offered by Boston Globe columnist Steven Syre the week following Silver’s Op-Ed. Asserting that “gambling is the most serious threat to sports in general, to the public’s belief that the outcomes of games are legitimate,” Syre claims the “moral high ground” on the subject, with his primary supporting argument being that people who favor legalized gambling are likely to make money from it.

Notwithstanding the fact that there’s nothing morally wrong with making money, Syre’s rhetoric is weak. He names Silver as potentially biased because he could, conceivably, gain money in connection with gambling, disregarding the fact Silver is an N.B.A. official and so must necessarily recuse himself from wagering on his own league. With regards to the legitimacy of results, Syre seems to allude to the possibility of match fixing, but does not mention this term, understandably since Americans have wagered billions on their favorite sports since PASPA with negligible match fixing in evidence. Match fixing is a real danger wherever sports betting occurs, but, as Silver points out, the best way to prevent it is close scrutiny of anomalies in betting-line action by regulatory bodies.

Professional sports are businesses. Like all manners of free enterprise, everything related to sports involves calculated risk. An N.B.A. fan may gamble thousands of dollars on season tickets for a team that turns out as disappointing as last year’s Milwaukee Bucks, or the manager of Liverpool Football Club may risk tens of millions on a young player who turns out as unstable and infamously vampiric as Luis Suárez.

Sports and fixed-odds betting are kinds of games, each having its rules and objectives. Games, sports and betting are all inseparable from strategic risk. Not all games involve betting, but all sports and all betting involve risk. So to say gambling is bad for sports is rather like suggesting prostitution is bad for sex in general.

Yet while the primeval practice of exchanging sex for money is, like sports betting, legally sanctioned and taxed in the state of Nevada, the Federal Republic of Germany, and other civilized places, no one believes its decriminalization negatively effects the sex lives of all who live there.

In the book Gambling: Mapping the American Moral Landscape, theology professor Erik C. Owens describes the irony of US gambling policy with the example of state lotteries. Ninety percent of Americans live in states with lotteries, and studies indicate about half us play them. Billions in revenues from state lotteries are tethered to the cause of public education. But sadly, according to Owens, accrual of those funds actually requires exploitation of the least educated Americans, who bet incrementally more on lotteries, probably because they are less likely to calculate the long odds against winning. Where such a cynical approach to public funding is ubiquitous, can’t we also allow ordinary sports fans a fair bet?

Written by webster71

January 5, 2015 at 16:38

Posted in Gambling, Sport

Tagged with , ,

Journalism is pain.

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kickedweb


A cordial kick to the head is nothing compared to what many journalists go through. Still, it is a reminder that my vocation is and always has been one of the worst jobs, especially when done well.

The “bitch dot” below the hairline (pictured above) was kicked into me by trainer and leg sparring partner Ryan White, a pro MMA brutalist with all the tools needed to batter myself and much stronger men into the hospital. If we hadn’t been wearing shin pads, he would have certainly opened me up for a blood offering to the spirit of the ring, which dictates the destiny of all Muay Thai warriors.

Ryan White (L) at Cage Fighting Xtreme 24 in Boston

Ryan White (L) at Cage Fighting Xtreme 24 in Boston


For the ding in question, Ryan used a technique he calls the Western High Question Mark Kick. He stepped 45 degrees to his right and threw a low lead kick that I blocked with my raised right shin, then he pulled back as if he was returning to stance. Then Ryan abruptly wrenched his left hip back toward me, and my forehead sang “SPLAT!” as he drilled it with the top of his foot.

The next time Ryan tries this I will employ the proper defense for a high kick and lean back. If I succeed, maybe I’ll attempt to subsequently pummel him with a right-hand counter. Or maybe not. My strategies are secret.

My Muay Thai activities are what journalism schools call “field work.” If you’re not feeling the pain, you’re probably not training hard enough to empathize with a competitive Muay Thai warrior.

But my focus is on unarmed combat. The best foreign correspondents have to report the more political, less honorable kind. My mentor Anthony Shadid died of an allergic attack while on assignment in Syria two years ago, and he’d also been shot through the shoulder covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was fearless. My sacrifices are a joke compared with his.

Anthony Shadid 1968-2012

Anthony Shadid 1968-2012

Written by webster71

April 25, 2014 at 15:24

Muay Thai, muy doloroso!

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IMG_3632

Phanuwat “Coke” Chunhawat (L) vs. Rami Ibrahim.

Muay Thai fighting is no sport for old men. I know. I’m 42 and I’ve been training for
“the art of eight limbs” at least five days a week for the last 10 months. Competition is a nearly impossible standard for somebody my age, with my late start, to reach.

Today I am rehabbing a knee injury that occurred three days ago while I was doing chin-ups and whacked said member into a steel exercise machine. The next day was my day off training, then yesterday I did four miles of cross country running with little pain or difficulty. Today it is 15 degrees colder outside, 26 degrees Fahrenheit here in Boston, and I tried to run again but aborted the mission and decided to give the left knee another day of rest.

I feel deeply guilty about missing this one day of training. Which is stupid because I work hard and push myself to get better generally, even though I have nothing specific to train for. Oh, to be spry and 35 again, like my Kru Coke Chunhawat, pictured above in the red gloves!

Written by webster71

March 3, 2014 at 18:22

Name this fighter!

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I’ve been sick and unable to train this week, so in my free time I’ve put together a semi-scientific opinion poll (below) that will allow you, my dear readers and friends, to determine what my fighter’s nickname will be as I proceed in the great sport of Muay Thai kickboxing.

Opinion research is one of many industries I’ve toiled for in the past, long before the sad events that brought about my status as a desperately unsuccessful author. Corporate copywriting is another. Copywriters are frequently tasked with naming products and services. So I know what I’m doing. As Matthew Polly describes in his lovely book Tapped Out, there is a superstition in fight sports against giving yourself a nickname, so I’m offering this multiple choice poll as a compromise.

To give you some ideas about my character before choosing a moniker, I’m 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weigh a natural 155 pounds. I speak French well and German conversationally, started training for martial arts only nine months ago, and neither I nor anyone else will have a clue if I’m any good at it until the time comes to step over the ropes and compete, presuming that ever happens.

I need your vote to make this work! The more the merrier. Please share with friends if you feel like it.

Written by webster71

January 23, 2014 at 18:11

Nerve damage, no problem.

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Sciatica: the early days.

Sciatica: the early days.


Sciatica, from WebMD.com: “burning or tingling down the leg…numbness…constant pain on one side of the rear…”

Yep, got it. #Acupuncture, here I come!

I got the hematoma pictured from incorrectly holding a “suitcase” kick pad for a Muay Thai partner. All you young kids in school, don’t turn out like me! Unless you don’t mind a little nerve damage. Must be so much easier to be a lover than a fighter.

Written by webster71

January 8, 2014 at 16:03

Muay Thai Hygiene

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Here you see my mouthpiece. Anti-septic for unarmed combat.

Written by webster71

January 6, 2014 at 17:28

Posted in Sport, Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

Top six excuses for not practicing Muay Thai (and how I dismiss them).

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 imagine myself kicking the crap out of this guy when I'm trying to fall asleep.

Buakaw: I imagine myself kicking the crap out of this guy when I’m trying to fall asleep.

1. My butt hurts. (It always hurts. I’m 42 and I train for a notoriously savage combat sport generally practiced by adolescents and pre-pubescent children.)

2. It’s crappy outside. (I live in Boston, if weather were a deterrent I’d get nothing done outside my home.)

3. I’m still sore from the last time I trained and I need rest. (Two days rest is reasonable, three days off means my work rate suffers when I get back at it.)

4. I can still protect myself and knock out opponents if I only train four days a week. (Maybe, but how many days did my opponent train?)

5. I’m in the mood for peace and love today, not fighting. (Nobody will care about my feelings when I step over the ropes. Performance is key.)

6. I don’t need to actually fight to research a writing project about Muay Thai. (No, but competition will only improve the chances of selling the project. I must be fairly desperate to be putting myself through all this, anyway, so why not take a risk and put my balls on the line?)

Written by webster71

December 29, 2013 at 16:46

Posted in Entertainment, Sport

Tagged with ,

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