Saturday, January 25, 2003

Gambling Addict?

Memo to Selig: Get help for Pete


Now that it appears Pete Rose is finally stepping up to the plate to face his gambling problem, Major League Baseball needs to do the same.

Get this guy some help.

Don't just make him confess that he bet on baseball and send him on his way. That's letting him off easy.

Set up a treatment program. For Pete's sake. And others. He can't be the sport's only problem gambler.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig owes this to the hit king and to the game both men so dearly love.

Pete's sick. He's a gambling addict. He needs professional care.

Try therapy. Or Gamblers Anonymous.

So far, the national pastime just wants Pete's path for reinstatement to follow the path of the three A's.

Admit he bet on baseball while managing the Reds.

Apologize for 14 years of denial, i.e., lying about betting since he was banned from baseball in 1989.

Accept a few months probation.

That doesn't get at the root of Pete's problem.

Baseball needs another A.

Acknowledge a gambling problem. Enter a lifetime treatment program monitored by the commissioner's office.

Pete shows no sign that he has ever been successfully treated for his addiction.

Friday's Enquirer reported that he owes the Internal Revenue Service $151,690 in back taxes.

The last time he went up against the IRS, he landed in prison for five months for tax evasion stemming, in part, from his gambling.

This new debt is not related to Pete's previous problems. So claims his accountant.

But it doesn't look good. And appearances count when you are trying to get back into baseball.

Based on Pete's past, Major League Baseball must be very specific in outlining the terms of his treatment. Don't ask him to "reconfigure his life" - which happened in 1989. As if Pete knew the meaning of "reconfigure," much less had a clue about how to apply it to his life.

Since baseball has no expertise in treating addicts, it should consult some experts.

"Treatment should be a combination of therapy and support-group sessions," said Cincinnati-based psychologist Dr. Gail H. Friedman.

He should see a therapist, she said, so he can understand "why you are doing this, how it affects your life and what you can do to avoid a relapse."

Weekly Gamblers Anonymous meetings - held around the world - with his peers will show him he's not alone.

Pete has plenty of company. The American Psychiatric Association estimates compulsive gambling affects 2 to 3 percent of the country's adults. That's 6 million people.

Gamblers Anonymous has 25,000 members, using just their first names.

Karen H., executive secretary for the Los Angeles-based international group, told me any average Joe or Pete can join.

"But he's gotta want to quit gambling."

Dr. Friedman believes Pete, "after being out of baseball so long, may be at that point."

At least he may be willing to follow baseball's orders.

"We have court-ordered people in our groups," said Fred, an official in Greater Cincinnati's Gamblers Anonymous chapter.

Baseball could give the same order to Pete. Make it a requirement for his reinstatement.

If he gets help, Pete could become baseball's roving ambassador. He could give clinics on the fine points of hitting. And the evils of gambling.

But first, baseball needs to step up. Get this guy some help.

Only then will he be seen for what he truly is. A champ. Not a chump.

Call Cliff Radel at 768-8379; or e-mail

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