Athletes’ superior drive and obsessiveness to succeed can attach itself to other types of obsessions, said addiction expert Tom Farrenkopf. Those consumed with competing, especially with winning, are addicts, he said. Their obsessive-compulsive behavior can be seen as just another term for addictive, he said. It’s a type of emotional drive. Just as the drug addict is driven by pleasure and the sex addict is driven by lust, the elite athlete is driven by achievement and that could mean performance, excelling over competitors or boosting ego . seeing one’s name in print. This compulsion can spill over from an athlete’s professional life to his hobbies and lifestyle, Farrenkopf said. The achiever probably runs on that driven-ness all day long, no matter what he does, even cutting the lawn on weekends. This behavior can adapt to common addictions such as gambling and alcohol and drug abuse and even tobacco chewing, which was banned in minor professional baseball, he added.
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Many athletes turn to gambling because it’s competitive and risktaking just like their athletic lives, Farrenkopf said. Someone could get addicted to gambling with a sense of wanting to win, but not in strictly a game of chance. Ifs a competitive kind of thing. They want to beat the numbers and the odds. Golfer Laura Davies, the world’s top female golfer, admitted she lost $ 1 million gambling at casinos and race tracks, although she claimed it was a hobby, not an addiction. At home, she has a set up whereby she can watch up to 61 horse races on various TV screens. Baseball all-star Lenny Dykstra admitted he lost $ 78,000 playing poker. The same risk-taking attitude that made Pete Rose the winningest baseball player of all time and its career hits leader got him into trouble gambling, sport psychologist Tom Tutko said. Rose was indefinitely suspended for life for reportedly placing wagers on several major league baseball games, including some games he was involved in while acting as player/manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
Baseball should recognize that gambling is no different than other addictions that athletes fall prey to, says George Diaz, a writer for the Orlando Sentinel.
Major league baseball treats its addicts, drunks, and cokeheads with compassion and understanding. It treats one of the greatest players in the history of the game as pond scum, casting its pretentious disapproval at the sins of man consumed by a different kind of addiction. In the eyes of baseball, it is a far lesser crime to sniff, snort, and shoot the substance of choice than it is to take the Atlanta Falcons plus 14 against the 49ers.
In England in the mid- 1990s, soccer goalkeepers Bruce Grobbelaar and Hans Segers got mixed up with gamblers and were convicted of criminal match-fixing, although they later had the conviction overturned. They admitted they had been paid to forecast the results of games, a violation of Football Association rules. Michael Jordan admits he gets highs from competing in basketball, baseball, and golf. He has also admitted to being hooked on video games, especially those in his personal computer he carries around on airplanes between Bulls’ games. Chicago Bulls fans may be inclined to agree. Some of them blamed Jordan’s obsessiveness with golf for his unusual performance in a 1997 playoff loss to the Miami Heat. The day before the game, when many people stayed indoors to avoid the oppressive 95-degree heat and humidity, Jordan stayed on the golf course for 48 holes over 12 hours. His legs were spent the next day, and he missed most of his shots in the first half. In the second half, though, admittedly angered by his poor performance, he went wild and nearly brought the Bulls back to win. Psychologists might suggest that his adrenaline took over in the second half and gave him energy over the short term.
Many hockey players, including Wayne Gretzky, own racehorses. Former NHL goalie Gary Suitcase Smith claims that in the 1980s and 1990s he lost 130 straight photo finishes while betting horse races in Vancouver, British Columbia.
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