Who is Watching the Kids?

As the Major League Baseball playoffs kick into high gear, gaming observer Richard Schuetz draws on some poignant memories of carefree days at the ballpark to remind adults not to take sports betting too seriously but to focus on those that are truly important—the children.

Who is Watching the Kids?

Hi everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you, wherever you may be. —Vin Scully, legendary announcer for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers

I recently saw a spreadsheet detailing gaming geolocation activity at NFL stadiums during games. The numbers seemed large. It was a further testament to the success of sports betting in the U.S., and I’m sure many will take a victory lap to celebrate this achievement. It reminded me of when I went to professional sporting events in my youth.

I grew up in a small community in Southern California that primarily existed to grow lemons and oranges. It was about a one-hour drive from Los Angeles. It was an easy place to grow up—slow-moving, non-affluent, primarily Hispanic, safe, and out of the way.

Some of my earliest memories of living in Santa Paula were sitting on the back patio during the hot months and listening to a radio whose cord was snaked through a window to an electrical outlet in the house. This was in the late 1950s and only one thing could be on that radio‑—Dodger Baseball—with shaky reception, lots of static, and a tendency to signal drift.

In my mind, I can still capture that experience with the scent of lemon and orange trees in the warm air and the amazing voice and descriptions of Vin Scully, accompanied by his broadcasting partner Jerry Doggett. This was truly an idyllic life, and I spent many nights alone on that patio listening to the games, just savoring it all. It was my escape from everything—and Vin was teaching me baseball.

I became a huge Dodger fan and from time to time my father would secure tickets and we would go to the games at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, and later to Chavez Ravine (the present location of Dodger Stadium). This was always nice, yet it was somewhat lonely, for my father was an alcoholic.

What an alcoholic does to support his habit in such situations, is pair up with another alcoholic. The two adults can drink, and the kids are to entertain one another. The adults would also give us a pretty good bankroll to blow at the concession and souvenir stands. It was a way for the adults to keep us happy. So, every few months, my dad and some buddy would head out with his son and me, to catch a game.

What the game was about to my father was a place to drink and bullshit with his buddy, and I was alone at the game with another small person who would grow up to also be an adult child of an alcoholic. And what most children of alcoholics understand at some point in their lives is that alcohol was always the most important thing in the parent’s life. Everything else, like the child, was of secondary importance.

What was interesting about this time was that I didn’t always feel alone, for at the games many people would have their transistor radios, so just like in my backyard, Vin Scully was there—his voice wafting through the crowd, amplified by many transistor radios throughout the ballpark. This was rather cool, for I was at a real game and I had this wonderful man explaining the game to me. Unfortunately, it was not my father.

Allow me to get to the point. I am worried about a whole bunch of kids being taken to games in this new era of internet sports betting, and while their fathers are physically there, they are mentally locked onto their phones looking to increase their winnings or recapture their losses. The parent will, as my father did, ply their child with a snack and souvenir bankroll, to keep them occupied so that the father can consume his new drug of choice.

This is my advice—if you are going to take your kid to a game, be there for them and tuck that phone in your back pocket. Ensure you understand that your most important relationship at that game is with your child, not your phone.

After all, Vin is no longer around to help raise your kid.

Articles by Author: Richard Schuetz

Richard Schuetz started dealing blackjack for Bill Harrah 47 years ago, and has traveled the world as a casino executive, educator and regulator. He is sincerely appreciative of the help he received from his friends and colleagues throughout the gaming world in developing this article, understanding that any and all errors are his own.