Some unpopular opinions to start the year

Gun Rights

Let’s start off 2023 with a fresh edition of unpopular opinions:

• Hold off on swearing George Santos in as a member of Congress until the voters of New York’s 3rd congressional district have a do-over, ASAP, knowing what they now know about his “resume embellishment.” No campaign spending allowed, no debates; set up the polls as quickly as possible and let the people choose between the fabulist and that other guy, Robert Zimmerman.

Maybe we could expedite the voting some way, like letting people vote online. Use Mailchimp or Twitter. If Santos wins despite his would-be constituency’s embellished understanding of the kind of grifter he is, then he gets his congressional seat and his chance to suck up to Kevin McCarthy. If Zimmerman wins, well, that’s the price the GOP has to pay for offering such low-quality candidates.

It should go without saying that if Santos broke any laws by lying about professional pedigree, heritage, and education, he should be prosecuted. Maybe even extradited to Brazil.

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• The Tulane Green Wave not only had a better football season than Louisiana State University last year–Tulane finished 11-2 and was ranked 14th in the final Associated Press college football poll while LSU went 9-4 and finished 16th in the poll–it’s actually the better team. Had they met on field, Tulane may have prevailed.

(Then again, it may not have because, as everyone who follows sports knows, the better team does not always win a given game. Luck plays a part, as do all the intangible semi-supernatural things that coaches and sportswriters invoke, like “want to” and “momentum” and “effort.” All the scoreboard reveals is who won, not who is better or more deserving.)

What makes this opinion unpopular is that, despite the evidence just cited, most reasonable people who follow college football (which might not be that big a crowd) would expect the 2022 edition of the Tigers to beat the Wave on the field, if such a game could be arranged, even though they’d agree that Tulane “deserved” to be ranked higher at the end of the season. I would imagine that if the smart guys in the desert were to set a line on this mythical game, they’d favor LSU by two and a half or three points.

If this mythical line existed for this mythical game, the public would put its money on LSU. Even though, by the best metrics we have, Tulane is better. Such is the power of perceived reputation.

• I don’t mind anyone getting down a wager on a ball game, but the normalization of online sports betting–especially the routine utilization of betting apps by consumers who mistakenly believe they have an advantage because they closely follow the sports they bet on–is fomenting a mental health crisis. In-game betting and exotic parlays are designed to hold bettors’ attention and maximize profits that can be made off them. Rational people understand this, but all of us are subject to irrational desire.

Only a few years ago, sports gambling was considered a shadowy enterprise that manufactured misery and disgrace in the form of the Black Sox scandal, the point-shaving fixes of the ’50s, and the banishment of Pete Rose from baseball. It was something that sports commentators–except perhaps Jimmy the Greek–wink-winked and nudge-nudged about. You used to have to call a 1-900 number and pay by the minute to get the inside dope.

Now, gambling talk is the default for most sports-oriented television programs and podcasts, with companies like DraftKings and FanDuel not only sponsoring the programs but driving the conversation. If you’re a 16-year-old sports fan, you probably know all about three-game parlays and prop bets and the difference between a point spread and a moneyline.

If you make gambling accessible, more people will gamble, and the gambling industry will grow. And more people will become addicted to gambling and sustain heartbreak.

One of the great pleasures of being an adult is the ability to assume risk and indulge in pleasures that, if enjoyed immoderately, might destroy us. I’ve picked games against the line (though I’m too cheap to bet much on fanciful guesses) but the building of demand for instant and in-game action coupled with the insidious promulgation of bogus “inside information” will eventually lead to Big Gambling being seen as tantamount to Big Tobacco, Big Pharma or the National Rifle Association–another amoral institution indifferent to the human suffering that’s a byproduct of their profits.

• What matters more than who is inducted in any given hall of fame with a physical plant–like the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland– is the story that’s told in the adjacent museum. You can safely skip the plaque room.

• I propose a new American tradition called Jiggy Gettin’, where everyone is able to pay $5 and receive a license to slap–to get jiggy with–one able-bodied adult per year, on the condition that they agree to make themselves available should anyone want to get jiggy with them.

Certain professions and activities, like running for office, coaching basketball above the secondary school level, and mouthing off in the newspaper on a regular basis would trigger a person’s slappability (these people would still have to pay the $5 fee if they wanted to get their licks in), but most people could opt out.

While each of the participants would get only one slap, there would be no limit on how many slaps one could sustain, which means we would allow high-demand slappees to negotiate settlements with their would-be slappers (“I’ll give you $50 and a 20 percent stake in the Devolder Corporation not to slap me,” George Santos might say) or hire surrogates to receive these slaps in their place.

While the entertainment value in such a spectacle is obvious–I envision a series of television events and documentary films chronicling the grievances of the slappers and the anxieties of their targets–the ultimate purpose of the Jiggy Gettin’ program would be to monetize American obnoxiousness, which is one of most underutilized national resources.

Best of all, it seems to be infinitely renewable.

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