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Parasiliti: In sports, as in life, everything's a gamble

August 19, 2012

There is a little Doyle Brunson in all of us.

Every one has a small piece of professional poker player in them … even if he or she doesn’t know it.

Brunson is one of the forefathers of his game because he calculates odds and takes well-timed risks on the turn of a card.

When the chips are down, Brunson’s hunches turn into a rather lucrative career.

For folks like us, risks come in different packages. But in reality, everyone is a gambler at heart.

You are rolling the dice the minute you hit the alarm and get out of bed. Everything from that point on can be divided into wins and losses by attempts, choices and decisions.

Should I drive or take a bus?

Should I get chicken or a burger for lunch? Shoot, I knew I should have picked the other one. Hey, what you’re eating looks really good.

Should I wear black or blue to make a good impression?

Everything is a gamble. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing the lottery, dabbling in the stock market or guessing how much farther you can drive after the low gas light illuminates.

The odds vary, but so do the victories and payouts.

In sports, there are gambles being taken every day — and it’s not just at the windows in Vegas.

Every day, someone’s decision is a wager on the future of a team. That payoff could be as immediate as calling for a stolen base, or it could have a time-released bearing on the entire season.

There are three big gambles that have become political footballs — at least on the local level — recently.

* Should the Washington Nationals take the ball from pitcher Stephen Strasburg’s hand and end his season once he reaches 160 or 180 innings?

Which is more important, the long-term career health of the prize right-hander’s surgically repaired right elbow, or life in the moment as the Nats are knocking on the door of their first playoff berth and a possible World Series appearance.

* How much of Maryland’s football future was wagered when coach Randy Edsall chanced that starting quarterback C.J. Brown would last the season without suffering a serious injury?

Brown figured to be the featured piece in the Terps’ offense, but he was on a tightrope because Maryland’s backups are a pair of true freshmen with no college game experience.

We’ll never know. Brown won’t be playing this season because of a knee injury.

* Maryland’s new heat acclamation law for fall athletic practices is a good step for immediate safety, but is it the complete answer?

In each case, someone is hoping not to crap out.

The Nationals own the best record in baseball and have reached unprecedented heights on the arms of a superior pitching rotation aced by Strasburg. Washington might not be in the position it’s in without him pitching every fifth day.

The concern to protect one of the faces of the franchise is valid, but it might be overcautious in a once-of-a-lifetime situation. Pitchers have proven they can go more than 200 innings, even after Tommy John surgery. It comes down to mechanics and not the number of pitches.

The decision comes down to if the Nationals should live for today or save for the unknown of tomorrow. Today isn’t a sure thing yet and tomorrow may never happen.

On the Terrapins’ front, Brown’s injury is a tough situation for Maryland, a program coming off a 2-10 season with a second-year coach who gets a warming sensation in his desk chair.

It might be considered foolish to put the quarterback in such a risky spot, but Brown was the most versatile option and consistent player returning from last season. Under the circumstances, the Terps had to take those chances to turn their fortunes around.

Now the offense rests in the hands of freshmen Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe. Maybe they could do a Lou Gehrig to Brown’s Wally Pipp.

And the heat is on to protect high school players from the dog days of preseason practice. Hydration is the key to it all.

But someone should reconsider that taking practice time away to make sure the players are in shape to handle steamy conditions only presents other dangers. The heat rule is a gamble that the players will know how to tackle properly once they start wearing pads on the sixth day of practice.

Improper tackling techniques cause head and spinal injuries, another prevalent danger of the game.

Gambling is voting on an uncertainty that carries high stakes. It’s taking a risk, hoping to reap benefits.

To be honest, we do that on the first Tuesday every November in a little booth.

It seems pretty ironic that we choose our political future in the same manner as we select racehorses.

Any gamble is taken knowing full well that there will be a payoff of fame and fortune or a sudden reality of busting.

But those are the chances we are willing to take in the name of success. And many will do it again if given the chance.

And you can bet on that.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at bobp@herald-mail.com.

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