Every once in a while you read a news story that makes you wonder how certain people can be so inconsiderate to the world around them. These people have absolutely no grasp on reality and don’t understand just how many people they are affecting as a result of their bad choices. What brings me to this point is a recent story that was featured on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” involving the problem of gambling in the South Florida Youth Football League. That’s right, I said the YOUTH football league. Apparently, people have been gambling on games in this particular league for several years now, but it has never been addressed publicly until OTL decided to conduct an investigation into the situation.

During the investigation, OTL found that on several occasions men were openly betting and exchanging large wads of cash during football games. But after further scrutiny, OTL found that the money being exchanged in the stands was minimal compared to the tens of thousands of dollars changing hands behind closed doors. They even found out that kids were being paid large amounts of money for making big plays. But it didn’t stop there. These men, most of which are drug dealers, found out which kids were the best and recruit them to play for a certain team before the season began by paying off their parents before the start of the season. They would then bet on the team they essentially built and profit off it.

There is so much wrong with the previous couple paragraphs that I almost don’t even know where to start. First of all, the men gambling on these games are the absolute scum of the earth. There’s no other way to put it. They have no consideration for anyone but themselves and are ruining people’s lives in the process. They are taking advantage of parents who don’t make a lot of money and bribing them with cash in order to profit from it. They are tainting a game that kids love to play. They are putting innocent people’s lives at risk due to their ignorant and insensitive way of life, and something needs to be done about it.

After reading the article on ESPN and watching some clips from the OTL special, I noticed that in some instances when money was being openly exchanged at the games, there was a police officer in plain view of the illegal activity and he did absolutely nothing about it. This is totally uncalled for and shouldn’t be tolerated. Isn’t your job as a police officer to serve and protect the community? So, how can you just sit there and let this go on right in front of you without doing anything? The whole situation absolutely baffles me.

Part of the problem is how minor a penalty someone would receive if they were caught gambling. Sgt. William Cunneen, who is in charge of the organized crime unit with the Broward County Sheriff’s Department, said “it would almost be a joke to arrest somebody for it because they would be out before the paperwork was completed on the arrest.” Cunneen also said it would take a concerted effort from everyone in the community, from the police force to the coaches and parents, to bring down the guys responsible for the gambling.

I think the first thing that needs to be done is for the crime of gambling in Broward County needs to be changed from a second-degree misdemeanor to a felony. That way the men who are caught in the act are punished more than they would be if they were driving around with a suspended license, which is currently about as serious a crime as gambling.  Something else that may prevent a lot of the gambling from happening would be if the president of the league, Michael Spivey, held the parents accountable for their actions.  He needs to set up a meeting with all the coaches and parents and make it clear that if he or any of the coaches catches or hears about the parents accepting money from the men who are gambling, their children will be barred from playing in the league.  This may not be fair to the kids, but neither is letting their parents sell them out to drug addicts and gamblers.

The parents that are allowing themselves to get sucked into this trap are doing nothing but depriving their children of something they love, which in this case is playing football.  And I don’t care how uneducated some of these parents may be, they have to realize what kind of lesson they are teaching their children.  If these kids see their parents engaging in this type of behavior, they are going to think it’s alright and they will start to do the same thing.  They will think nothing of accepting a couple hundred bucks for running a kickoff back for a touchdown.  But what these children won’t realize until it’s too late is that they are ruining their future.  Just take a look at what happened to a former player in the South Florida youth football league.

Drugs and gambling are a way of life for some people, and most of the time the people who lead these kinds of lives start when they’re young because they don’t know any other way to live.  They would rather sell drugs and make a few thousand dollars a week then go to school and get an education and make something of their lives.  And I’m a firm believer that it all starts with their upbringing.  So if the people of this community want to prevent their children’s future from being ruined, they need to take action and stop letting these drug dealers and gamblers control their lives.  I think this is a very big deal and I’m glad to see that OTL brought this to my attention as well as all who saw or read about the special because it’s something that needs to be addressed before the problem creates any further damage.

Submitted by Steve Giles