Clicking on banner ads keeps JWR alive
Jewish World Review June 15, 1999 /1 Tamuz 5759

Sam Schulman

Sam Schulman
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Tony Snow
Michael Barone
Dave Barry
Kathleen Parker
Dr. Laura
Michael Kelly
Bob Greene
Michelle Malkin
Paul Greenberg
David Limbaugh
David Corn
Marianne Jennings
Sam Schulman
Philip Weiss
Mort Zuckerman
Richard Chesnoff
Larry Elder
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Don Feder
Linda Chavez
Mona Charen
Thomas Sowell
Walter Williams
Ben Wattenberg


A bet on our kids' future --
AFTER I REACHED ADULTHOOD, my father abruptly moved the rest of my family from Chicago's south side to Newton, just outside of Boston, for the school year. My little brother, then 15, told me that living in Massachusetts was bearable. He only minded that the kids in his school and his neighborhood were not human beings but "Bostoids." What's a Bostoid, I asked? "It's a white kid who has never been in the minority, surrounded by blacks who are hostile to him, in his entire life. They're not real-they think they're invulnerable,but they're just white and weak."

We have become a nation of Bostoids. Without any pressure, except the anguish, as New York magazine tells us, of being merely slightly rich in a city full of the very rich, we show as a society the baleful effect of a total belief in the amiability of the universe. To us it is inconceivable that the stock market or real estate market could go decline, that we could sicken and die from anything other than the effects of cigarette smoking, environmentally-caused cancers and inadequate gun control.

Children suffer most from our complacency. The rich, as a letter-writer to the New York Times pointed out, used to pay good money so that their boys and girls could be taught to live in the wild, to toughen them and teach them to survive adversity. Now summer camps boast of the quality of their chefs and the softness of their beds.

Physically weak and unable to take care of themselves, our children inherit the self-satisfaction of their elders without being able to sign checks or have credit ratings or lease SUVs. They lack the opportunity to sacrifice themselves, to feel the kind of fear that used to define childhood-the realization that because you are weak you must develop the desire to become strong, the cunning to evade the bullies, the courage occasionally to stand up for your rights, the judgment to decide when it is wise to fight, and when, more frequently, it is wiser to flee.

Of all the disciplines of nature and nurture our children lack, only Little League remains. As if to compensate for everything else, kids now have to submit to adult-organized sport, with parents standing around anxiously, peering at their kids' efforts to hit or kick a ball, and, in Manhattan, either cheering or yakking into cell phones. And parents are made to feel that being a good parent requires nothing less-and nothing more-than constant, self-punishing attendance at these events.

But here, in childrens' athletics, is precisely where our remedy lies. Kids' sports takes place in public, follow recognized rules, and are intricately scheduled. Here's my thought: Bet. We open little league to legalized gambling. We develop book on t-ball and soccer. We offer odds on girls' lacrosse and boy's wrestling.

Wagering on Little League is a big idea. Opening children's games to the general sporting public would have innumerable positive effects. First of all, the individual performance of your child would not only matter to you and your child's team-mates' parents, but to a roaring crowd. The attention of a large audience would be focused on our children. What they do as individuals will begin to matter. They can become heroes, or goats-they will cease to live in a private world defined by doting parents, but in the larger world of commerce.

Betting on kids' sports would develop in our children higher moral standards, even nobility. We expect our kids to be innocent, but now they would have to be seen to be innocent. The entire community-not just we parents-would have a stake in our kids living drug- and cigarette-free lives, lives untainted by bribery and corruption. To stand up against these temptations will seem to them heroic-not just stupid.

Finally, there is the equalizing magic of odds-making. Because our children would not be playing merely to beat the other team. No, that would be childish indeed, and unfairly favors the talented over the untalented. No, they will be handicapped. Their individual strengths and weaknesses would be assessed by a knowledgeable market. And they would be playing not, ignobly, to win, to "smash" the other guys, but to beat the spread. It's not whether you win or lose or how you play the game.

By allowing betting on little league, we can make life matter again for our kids. Their actions will have consequences. Their fortunes-in the form of the published odds-will rise and fall according to their pluck, or resignation. And parents, seeing their happy children applauded by cheerful, slightly boozy, working-class crowds, might sneak off to do more useful work, like after-hours stock market trading or conducting cinq-a-septs with one another--both activities likely to reduce the general sense of complacency that so besets us as a people.

JWR contributor Sam Schulman is deputy editor of Taki's Top Drawer, appearing in New York Press, and was formerly publisher of Wigwag and a professor of English at Boston University. You may contact him by clicking here.


06/08/99: Suddenly Samuel Berger
06/02/99: If Hitchens is not for Podhoretz, than whom shall he be for?
05/25/99: Kosovo's History Lessons
05/18/99: Faintheart
05/11/99: Is Literary Success Overrated?
05/04/99: A Better War
04/27/99: A Sahibs' War
04/21/99: The Two Bills
04/13/99: The Imp and the Ingenue
04/05/99: Col. Blimp is Alive ... and in Washington

©1999, Sam Schulman