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Woj: Gambling will make arenas worse for players

Brooklyn Nets Vs Boston Celtics At TD Garden Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

This happened on Monday ... at Fenway Park ... at a Red Sox game.

It’s just the latest outburst in the Athens of America aimed at Kyrie Irving who has now played longer in Brooklyn than he did in Boston. No matter, there is a history between the player and the fanbase which last year included a fan throwing a bottle of water at Irving as he exited one of last year’s playoff games. And of course, Irving flipped off fans multiple times.

But Adrian Wojnarowski thinks it’s going to get worse. A lot worse because of ... gambling. He spoke extensively about the issue as part of a discussion of Irving’s antics...

“As gambling becomes prevalent in the arena,” Woj said, “people [are] gambling on almost everything that goes on in the game and they’re drinking; players, organizations, and you talk to them, they already feel it in the arena. When people are losing money in real time and they’re pointing to a player on the court and they’re saying, ‘Hey, I bet you to score more points in the second quarter than somebody else and I lost,’ you’re adding an element to that that we’re not talking as much about but is a real factor in this league.

“And I think you’re going to see more instances of fans being even more vitriolic toward players in this league, and it’s an issue they’re gonna have to deal with, but it comes with the influx of gambling money that everyone is going to profit off of, both players and the league. But it’s going to impact the relationship between fans and players in real time.”

Indeed, back in October, Joe Tsai spoke to NetsDaily about gambling, “fan engagement” ... and emotion.

“In the future, when you’re watching the game or consuming the content on digital, the digital platform enables the fan to interact in various different ways. you can bet on the digital platform,” said Tsai. “So betting itself is a huge fan engagement tool. It enables the fan to become much, much more emotionally involved,” said Tsai, adding with a laugh, “because people tend to get more emotionally involved when money is involved.”

Jimmy Traina of Sports Illustrated thinks that there are other factors as well that’s leading to worse and worse fan behavior. A sense of entitlement among fans who’ve paid a lot of money to get the arena experience.

My take is the main reason (in addition to alcohol) people act like barbarians at sporting events is money. The cost for a ticket is through the roof. The cost for concessions is criminal. And you get gouged for parking. So by the time you walk into an arena or stadium, before the game has even started, you are already angry because you’ve been fleeced and taken advantage of at every turn.

This causes a lot of sports fans to have a, “I paid so much that I’m gonna do what I want, behave how I want and say what I want” attitude when they attend a game.

Something has to give before gambling enters the building, but also even in those venues without state-approved wagering. It’s even driven Stephen A. Smith to support Irving in his battle with fans at TD Garden.

There’s also the issue of racial slurs, references to family members, personal tragedies, etc. That might have been permitted, even cool, in a different era but not now. The world has changed and, as one member of the Brooklyn Brigade noted, the media needs to understand that difference between heckling and abuse ... and call it out...

Traina writes that the media is also encouraging bad behavior by showing so much of it. “There isn’t a day that goes by when we’re not shown some vile video of fans fighting at a game.”

Fans will no doubt be fighting over gambling as well. It’s just another point of contention. But as Woj and Traina note, what’s done is done. It will now be up to the league, teams and venues to control it, to protect both players and fans. It’s a brave new world.