- - Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Advances move at light speed, making it harder for old-timers to explain certain things to youngsters. Millennials struggle to grasp once-familiar concepts like rotary phones, handwritten driving directions, and TVs that required you to get up to change the channel.

I suppose young adults who grew up from 1920-1933 had similar difficulty getting future generations to believe the Eighteenth Amendment existed, notwithstanding stories about Eliot Ness and “The Untouchables.”

“No, for real!” grandparents might say. “Alcoholic beverages were illegal!”

Nearly 100 years after the Volstead Act ushered in Prohibition, we stand at another societal crossroads.

This time our major sports leagues are looking both ways and contemplating their next move. And we’re imagining a time when our children sit down our great-grandchildren.



“No, for real!” they might tell the tykes. “The leagues opposed sports gambling and marijuana use!”

The Supreme Court is weighing a decision that could change the future of sports betting. If New Jersey wins its case and gains the right to offer betting on sports, a slew of states is ready to follow suit. That’s no surprise, considering Nevada sportsbooks reported a record $4.8 billion in wagers last year, and illegal bookies rake an estimated $100 billion in bets annually.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and his MLB counterpart, Rob Manfred, have shared their vision with more than a dozen states considering sports betting legislation. The commissioners’ blessing is dependent on their leagues receiving an “integrity fee.” Or, in other words, a piece of the action.

We hadn’t heard anything from the labor force until two weeks ago. They want in, too.

A joint statement from the major player associations — the NFLPA, NBPA, MLBPA and NHLPA  read: “The time has come to address not just who profits from sports gambling, but also the costs. Our unions have been discussing the potential impact of legalized gambling on players’ privacy and publicity rights, the integrity of our games and the volatility on our businesses.

“Betting on sports may become widely legal, but we cannot allow those who have lobbied the hardest for sports gambling to be the only ones controlling how it would be ushered into our businesses. The athletes must also have a seat at the table to ensure that players’ rights and the integrity of our games are protected.”

Momentum is growing for sports betting, but it remains illegal in most states.

Advocates of marijuana use in sports don’t have that problem.

The substance is now legalized for recreational use in nine states and another 29 states for medicinal purposes. Weed remains a banned substance in the NFL, NBA and MLB, but society’s growing acceptance is leading more athletes to speak out.

Bleacher Report published a project last week that featured a dozen former NFL and NBA players offering their support of cannabis in pro sports. Some admitted to smoking before games. “All of my best games, I was medicated,” 15-year NBA veteran Matt Barnes said.

Estimates of weed use among NFL and NBA players range above 75 percent. Some use it for recreational purposes, medicinal purposes, or both. Sort of like alcohol.

Silver told Bleacher Report that the NBA is “interested in better understanding the safety and efficacy” of medical marijuana. That puts him on the same page with scientists and medical researchers who are intrigued by suspected benefits.

Maybe they can drag NFL commissioner Roger Goodell out of the past.

As the steward of a league that pushes opioid painkillers as a lucrative side hustle, Goodell couldn’t be more tone-deaf. Here’s what he told reporters last year in commenting on marijuana’s “addictive nature.

“There are a lot of compounds in marijuana that may not be healthy for the players long term. All of those things have to be considered. And it’s not as simple as someone just wants to feel better after a game.”

Considering the pain and punishment that’s part and parcel of football, “feeling better” doesn’t seem like much to ask. Especially if it doesn’t include the damaging effects of opioids.

Look, the ills of compulsive gambling and drug abuse are clear and numerous. In many cases, lives have been ruined and families have been destroyed. People have lost their jobs, their homes and their freedom.

But attempts to legislate morality usually fail. And we can’t agree that responsible wagering and use of weed crosses the line. That’s why so much money is bet on sports illegally, and so much marijuana is consumed against league policies (if not illegally).

We never imagined a day when someone in any state could place a government- and league-sanctioned wager on that night’s games.

We also never dreamed of a point when smoking a joint could be as acceptable as swigging a beer.

Yet here we are, on the verge of bold frontiers in sports. I know this wouldn’t be Jackie Robinson breaking the color line, but …

“No, for real! African Americans used to be banned!”

• Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on [email protected]

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