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Friday, February 10, 2006

Are Accusations Against Tocchet a Big Deal to Fans?

We’ve all heard by now that Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach and former Philadelphia Flyer Rick Tocchet is under investigation in connection with a multimillion dollar gambling ring that allegedly took bets from NHL players and others, including Wayne Gretzky’s wife. It seems clear that bets were not placed on hockey.

I’m just curious: do we really care? Sure it’s going to be reported, and it’s not what you want to see pro athletes doing. I’ll even grant that it suggests plenty about the credibility of pro sports. In fact, I think that’s the reason this should be investigated.

I’ve heard Howard Eskin on WIP dismiss the idea many times that gamblers or bookies could tempt pro athletes with bribes to fix games. He suggests that league security is way too tight and players are paid too much to allow bribes to be tempting. Is it just me or did that idea just fly out the window? Granted, Eskin’s usually talking about football, but hockey players aren’t exactly making chump change.

So, maybe “do we really care” is a bit too flip. But the only reason this is under investigation is because the government didn’t get its cut. Didn’t Al Capone go away for tax evasion? Does anyone think that’s why he was a wanted man?

My point is, the perception seems to be that gambling itself is criminal. That somehow the act of risking money on the outcome of a game is wrong. This, of course, is absurd, so the argument becomes that gambling leads to corruption. So, are we making things illegal now because they might lead to corruption? If so, politicians are in some serious trouble.

Tocchet’s an idiot if the allegations are true. Risking his career over this is just stupid because he knew it was illegal. But I genuinely question why, exactly, betting is illegal. It’s not like he would be in good legal standing if he had simply paid taxes.

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