The matter of Christie v. NCAA came before the Court as the first order of business Monday morning.
In the off moments when they weren’t shooting the King’s soldiers, dumping crates of tea into harbors and otherwise committing treason, the Founding Fathers were quite the bunch of gambling men. They all bet the ponies. (In The Daily Beast, author and historian Philip Smucker wrote about a horse race in which an entry owned by George Washington beat one owned by Thomas Jefferson.) They bet on cards and they bet on anything that moved, including fighting cocks, an extraordinarily grubby and bloody exercise that the landed gentry did not speak of among themselves, except when divvying up the evening’s process.
It didn’t always work out well for them. James Madison’s stepson, John Payne Todd, gambled away not only his fortune, but his indulgent stepdad’s as well. Madison wound up having to mortgage the family estate to pay off his stepson’s debts. The Continental Army was kept afloat partly by a series of national lotteries. It is an essential part of the American character to make someone else’s money your money with as little physical labor as possible. So, when Washington superlawyer Ted Olson began his presentation before the Supreme Court of the United States by taking us all back to the fights over federal and state sovereignty, it was hard not to imagine the spirits of the Founders, laying odds on whether the state of New Jersey or the NCAA would win the case.
At issue was the state of New Jersey’s desire to legalize betting on sports events. In 1992, at the behest of almost every important sports organization in the country, Congress passed something called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. PASPA—Washington travels on its anagrams—left sports betting intact where it already existed but forbade it everywhere else. It did, however, leave a window of time within which New Jersey could join the other states, but New Jersey blew that deadline.
Another player with a crazy story is Michael Orris, who signed with the Agua Caliente Clippers this week after finishing a multi-stop college career at South Dakota State last year. He’d recently left Iceland and was working a shift wiping down tables at a restaurant when he got the call. He played Wednesday at the showcase without even a name on his jersey. He’s not an NBA prospect, but he’s the kind of guy you want to root for.