Like most parents, I'm generally supportive of everything my children do in life, from watching them take their first step to hoping they choose the right partner. It's all about rooting for the home team.
   So when my 26 and 28 year old sons went off on a business trip to Las Vegas during Super Bowl weekend to attend a trade show, I naturally hoped they'd have a fine time. I did, that is, until I talked to them after the first night.
   "We're having a ball, said the 26 year old over the phone. "We won $250 on the craps table last night. WE WERE ON FIRE!"
   "Are you staying in a nice place? I asked.
   "The Venetian," he replied. "It's pretty spectacular, with moats and gondoliers and all kinds of wild stuff."
   "Did it ever occur to you where the developers got the money to build such a lavish place?"
   He'd heard that question from me before. "Yeah, yeah, the gamblers. Don't worry. We've got it covered."
   I got off the phone and thought of all the people I knew who were addicted to gambling. Some were obviously worse than others, including Hilda, our sweet little office manager of many years ago who embezzled tens of thousands of dollars to cover her gambling debts from weekend trips to an Indian casino.
   But my sons were relatively bright boys, and pretty cheap with their finances. Nothing to really worry about.
   So when I called them during the third quarter of the Super Bowl to see what they thought about the Atlanta Falcons leading the New England Patriots, 28-3, I thought we might talk about football.
    "I CAN BARELY HEAR YOU!" the 28 year shouted when I reached him. "We're in the sports betting bar at the casino and have $300 and three points on Atlanta and it's a blowout. THIS COULD BE THE GREATEST DAY OF OUR LIVES!"
   "I'm so happy for you," I lied. "Just think, this could be the start of a career as a professional gambler. You can spend your mornings betting on the internet, days at the race track and nights watching the scores come in. you can drink all day and end up penniless, robbing liquor stores to set up your next big bet."
   "Nothing," I replied. "Go Falcons."
   I hung up and turned back to the game to watch my son's future go tumbling down an irreversible path to destruction. The Patriots had just scored to cut into the lead, and they were driving down the field again. Ever since my beloved 49ers self destructed, my interest in professional football had waned. I didn't particularly like either team, but I was tired of the Patriots winning, so I had been rooting for the underdog Falcons. But not anymore. I was suddenly a Patriots fan.
   It was then that I realized that I was rooting against my children. And I was loving it. "LET'S GO PATRIOTS!" I shouted at the television.
   "You hate the Patriots, " said my wife as she walked by. "Why are you rooting for them?"
   I explained the situation and she suddenly had an interest in football for the first time in her life. "SCORE A WHATCHAMACALLIT!" she cried as the Patriots neared the goal line.
   They did and then they scored again, miraculously tying the game and sending it into overtime, where they put away the Falcons once and for all, completing the most improbable comeback in Super Bowl history. And saving my sons from joining the 15% of Americans who gamble every week and possibly the 3% who have a gambling addiction that can ruin a life.
   "How are you boys doing?" I happily asked when I called them again after the game. "Still like gambling?"
   "We're thoroughly depressed," replied the 26 year old. "There's no way we could have lost that bet. We're never gambling again."
   "Bad luck, boys," I said, a bit too cheerily. "I was rooting for you all the way. "
   He didn't believe me, but he didn't really care at that point. He figured I'd be back on his team soon, and he was right. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

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