Overlooking Dangers of Addiction
Maybe it’s the pandemic, but people seem to be forgetting the dangers of alcohol and gambling.
I base this on the recent approval of gambling outlets in New York State plus the avalanche of gambling advertisements on baseball broadcasts in the reign of Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Um, does the name Pete Rose strike a familiar chord? Last I looked, that sick puppy is still banned for doing what the alluring TV ads urge people to do – bet the rent or the grocery budget on the wayward bounce of a baseball with Rob Manfred's signature on it.,
And the dangers of alcoholism seem to be minimized by a new movie directed (not produced, as I originally wrote) by, of all people, George Clooney, for whom I have high respect.
Clooney has sent forward a movie, “The Tender Bar,” adapted from a fine book by J.R. Moehringer about his exposure to alcohol as a very young man, admiring his bartender uncle and missing his absentee father, leading to his eventual admission of powerlessness toward alcohol as an endangered adult.
“The Tender Bar” movie is being hawked every couple of paragraphs on my incoming Web glut. I get the point. Little kid, hanging out in a pub, gets pulled into the life. I was tempted to push the button to watch the movie on my laptop, but then I read two rather different reviews of the movie in The New York Times.
Critic A.O. Scott suggested the movie is lightweight, skipping from episode to episode: “Ít’s a generous pour and a mellow buzz.” But free-lance critic Chris Vognar takes a more critical look at the dangerous slide of a young man, made clear in the original book. Vognar writes: “…for a film with the word ‘bar’ in its title, it contains remarkably little insight about alcohol, where it’s consumed, and what it does.”
The two critics talked me out of watching.
Why, you ask, do I take gambling and drinking so seriously?
I’ve seen gambling up close and have great respect for people who seek out Gamblers Anonymous and reinforce themselves, regularly.
I have also seen alcoholism up close, having helped Bob Welch write his book, “Five O’Clock Comes Early,” about how he was having blackouts in his early 20s, jeopardizing his pitching career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, to say nothing of his life.
By the time I signed on for his book, Bob was already sober from a hard month at a rehab center, and he was an advocate of daily reminders to stay sober.
I later spent a family week at the center, and took a great deal from the process, from seeing endangered lives be turned around. Bob knew the dangers, and he verbalized them – part of the process. “I choose to be sober today.”
As far as I know, he stayed sober for the rest of his life, which ended tragically young, 57, from an accident.
Now I have a close friend who reminds himself daily how he, and Alcoholics Anonymous, saved his life.
Why do these reviews of “The Tender Bar” strike close to home? As it happens, I live close to Moehringer’s home town, and have spent too many long minutes waiting for a red light to change, staring into the silhouettes in Moehringer’s pub. Plus, I have known several relatives of Moehringer, and have been apprised that he was not exaggerating his childhood.
His book was great; I’ll skip the movie.
Now, back to gambling. We all know how much money is gambled on sports, every day, everywhere. (The first college game I ever saw in the old Madison Square Garden was a dump, Kentucky stunningly losing to Loyola of Chicago.) I consider “Eight Men Out,” about the Chicago White Sox players who dumped the 1919 World Series, to be the best sports movie I know.
Gambling did not go away when Pete Rose got busted for betting on baseball, including games in which he participated as manager (and, I am sure, as player.)
I remember how the late baseball commissioner, Bart Giamatti, adamantly criticized all gambling --- including government-run lotteries. For Major League Baseball to permit gambling ads is dangerous; for New York State to permit gambling sites is also dangerous.
(For that matter, I see that The New York Times, that great newspaper, is spending a ton of money to acquire a website, “The Athletic,” that is heavy into gambling odds. How does that impact the parent company when gamblers make or lose money via odds listed in that outlet?)
We have a social brain fog that accepts drinking as a mellow haze that can be controlled, that encourages people to bet on capricious games.
Then again, we see dopes like Novak Djokovic and Kyrie Irving and Aaron Rodgers misleading and blustering about vaccinations.
Plus, an entire political party is going along with thugs invading the Capitol.
Can we blame the pandemic for all this?
Alan D. Levine
1/9/2022 03:08:09 pm
George, I.m sorry to act like one of your old copy editors, but I believe Clooney directed that movie. Also, a friend of mine who has been sober for nearly forty-five years saw it and really disliked it.
Alan D. Levine
1/9/2022 03:58:25 pm
I should have added that the gambling ads and the segments about odds on the sports talk shows are very upsetting and annoying to me. Trouble is being asked for and trouble there will be, I am quite sure.
1/9/2022 08:38:08 pm
George, You are so right on the mark with your comments on both gambling and alcohol. It is ironic how many careers Alan and I have known in the legal profession that have been destroyed and how many marriages we have known among lawyers or judges that have been wrecked by abuses in these two areas. When we were young, what we cared about was whether our school or home team won the game; now, to all too many others, it is only the point spread. And the relationship between these two addictions has become more connected.
1/9/2022 09:13:39 pm
From one of the earliest times my father, a truly great Stanner who went on to a career in law, brought me to the Stadium (the one with the Courthouse in right center field), two signs are etched in my memory. "NO BETTING ALLOWED" and "NO PEPPER GAMES." Both had legal significance, of course, beyond my young experience. Dad explained to me that it was okay for us to bet a nickel or a quarter between us on something at the game.
1/10/2022 11:11:23 am
The March of the Lawyers -- Alan, Walter and Andy, two Jamaica High guys and a Molloy guy. Thanks to you three for your personal and professional outlook on catering to those addictions. GV
1/10/2022 07:29:38 am
1/10/2022 11:19:57 am
1/10/2022 07:44:27 am
George: There’s a good movie about the alcoholic, The Lost Weekend, 1945 (directed by Billy Wilder, written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder from the novel by Charles R. Jackson). We follow a week in the life of a writer. It’s very hard and we sense all the desperation in him.
1/10/2022 11:27:33 am
Altenir: You know your movies (it's your calling, given the two movies you .wrote in Brazil). When I was a kid, we listened to the Jack Benny radio show, and he was always joking about "The Lost Weekend," but I have never seen it...or the Paul Giamatti movie. You are my authority on films...GV
1/10/2022 12:57:13 pm
I never really understood the obsession to drink, either as a youngster in high school and college or now. Relaxing with a good wine or an interesting craft beer is always enjoyable, either at home with my wife or with friends.
1/10/2022 02:00:37 pm
Nothing dramatic to add to the fine commentary, except agreement. When I found fans more interested in the point spread, instead of their team winning, it was the start of my disinterest which has been growing, I read the headlines, follow Mats, (interesting Freudian typo slip), World Cup Women’s Soccer, and Bama football, (hey, I knew “Tuscaloosa Joe”, but just the scores, game watching, out.
1/10/2022 03:17:44 pm
Casinos and most forms of gambling bring in tons of money, but at what cost to the surrounding communities? Atlantic City and others had a negative effect.
1/10/2022 06:33:23 pm
Alan, it makes me absolutely crazy in our local chain grocery store, to try to locate a product and walk up to the Help desk and have to wait...and wait....for the Alleged Help Clerk to punch out tickets for some sad-sack liottery addict. Imagine if I had a hungry baby and needed to get a few items...or had a meal in the oven back home...and had to wait for a lottery gambler? What a confusion of values. GV
1/10/2022 11:31:39 pm
Yesterday, in Flushing on Francis Lewis Blvd., I did a brief double-take: what seemed at first to be two stores, a pharmacy and a family variety store, turns out to be one. Just like an old-fashioned one-size-fits all NY drugstore or modern-day Walmart. In trying to figure out whether it was one store or two, I looked at the canopy to see what it (or they) offered - like the old-fashioned Times sub-headlines which told more and more of the story before you started to read it. The first product listed? "Lotto."
Mike from NW Queens
1/12/2022 09:53:17 pm
Thanks GV, for many things. And to all for so much grear feedback here. GV, agreed on the waiting game on line..coffee in hand and watching the lottery process....coffee getting cold.
Comments are closed.
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.