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Sad

Your Humble Blogger doesn’t have the heart to write much about this news. A fellow has been arrested in London on what seem to be pretty credible charges that he was arranging spot-fixing in the England-Pakistan Test series. Spot-fixing, for those Gentle Readers who don’t follow gambling and crime, is when the players fraudulently arrange events that can be bet on other than the final outcome of the match. In baseball, for instance, you can bet on the number of walks a pitcher will issue, how many strikeouts, how many pitches, how many times the batter will get to a full count, fly balls versus ground balls, stolen bases, caught stealing, pickoffs, passed balls—some of that stuff more directly affects the outcome of the game, but a player could easily convince himself that it doesn’t really hurt anyone to pick up some extra money, as long as he is still trying to win.

Well, and of course once you start down that road, the whole game goes to shit.

The thing is, this series had been terribly exciting, had become really exciting when Pakistan won the third Test, and then the first days of this last Test were really remarkable. And then.

It’s a surprise to me, when I think about it, how honest professional sports are, or at least how honest they seem to be. Given how much money, how very much money indeed, is gambled on the outcomes of the games. Has there been anyone thrown out of the NFL or the NBA or the NHL for spot-fixing, point-shaving, or even just tipping off the gamblers to whether a key player is fit or hurt? The NCAA has had its share of gambling scandals, but considering the vast difference between the financial rewards for the student-athletes and the resources of the bookmakers, wouldn’t we expect the whole business to be on the take? And yet, no. Almost all the players seem to be playing entirely free from anything of that sort.

And, of course, part of why I find this whole thing so depressing is that I want my sport to be an escape from the problems of the world, and it’s hard to escape connecting this incident to Pakistan’s status as a very-nearly-failed state. The floods, the disorder, the shrinking area that can be said to be governed. Yes, the prospects of a war with India seem to be receding a bit, but the prospects of nationwide chaos and catastrophe are not. And yet, it’s so easy to imagine any Pakistani finding news about spot-fixing making the day so much more difficult to bear. The teenage phenom bowler facing a lifetime ban from first-class cricket; the captain’s disgrace.

They played out the end of the Test this morning, in a somewhat perfunctory way. Nobody seemed to get much joy out of it.

And joy is such a good thing, too.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.