Thank heavens that's over. "As far as the subject of Michael Jordan," NBA commissioner David Stern said last week, "that subject is closed." Hallelujah. And pass the Mo�t-Chandon.
So why is Chuck Freiburger so worried? "Because it reminds me so much of what we went through in the early stages." Freiburger says. "Exactly. The checks written for debts. The escalating amounts. The denial that there's any problem." What does Freiburger know? Not much, except that for years he was the lawyer for a confessed gambling addict—former Baltimore Colt quarterback Art Schlichter.
Accchhhh. Let's forget it. Jordan does not have a gambling problem. He says so. His father says so. Besides, the commissioner says that what Jordan did is as harmless as playing any state lottery.
So why is Arnold Wexler so worried? "I don't like the signs," says Wexler. "The guy is sending up some serious red flags." What does Wexler know? Not much, except that his Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey annually fields 22,000 calls for help from problem gamblers.
No, no, no. Why make yourself crazy? Whether Jordan lost only $500,000 in golf bets to San Diego businessman Richard Esquinas, as Jordan told his press secretary, NBC's Ahmad Rashad, last Friday, or $1.25 million (negotiated down to $300,000), as Esquinas says in his recently self-published book, it was only beer money to an eight-figure human teller machine like Jordan. The only downside for Jordan is that the next time he wins, people will probably pay him off according to the Jordan Rules: 25 cents on the dollar.
So why is Chet Forte so worried? "My old gambling-addict friends and I just laugh at some of the things he says," Forte says. "That gambling is a 'hobby.' That he went to Atlantic City that night 'to relax.' Nobody gambles to relax. You gamble for the thrill of it." What does Forte know? Not much, except the Emmy-winning director of Monday Night Football and numerous other sports shows is recovering from a gambling addiction that cost him $1.5 million and his career.
And you're right. Jordan broke no laws, no league rules, not so much as a city statute. But when a man has written $108,000 worth of checks of which photocopies were found in the car of a dead bail bondsman: when a man first lies about—but then admits in court—to paying $57,000 in golf gambling debts to a convicted felon and money launderer; when a man is so bored with the city of New York that he takes a four-hour round-trip to Atlantic City between two huge playoff games, don't you squirm for him a little?
According to Wexler, here are some of the "soft" signs that, taken together, point to a problem gambler.
?An IQ over 120. Jordan certainly is intelligent.
?An unreasonably high level of optimism. To chase and chase and chase and get down hundreds of thousands of dollars to Esquinas, Jordan had to feel as if his slice would disappear at any moment.