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As I See It

28 March 2002

Gambling movies have been a staple of my free time ever since I can remember. Not one to have many hobbies and not too much free time, I could watch these things over and over again and still be entertained.

"Mr. Lucky", an early '40s movie with Cary Grant and Lorraine Day (she was married to Leo Durocher in real life), was one where all the crossroader tricks were used such as palming coins, kiting checks, and false bottoms. Fast forward to the '70s where James Tobak's semi-autobiographical "The Gambler" was first seen. How can you ever forget the bathtub scene when Jerry West missed all three free throws?

Tobak, for all you sports bettor historians, is the guy who had the incredible run in early '80s when he was betting a minimum of $1 million a day in Vegas and the bulk of it at the Barbary Coast. That is for another story. I rank this one in the top five of all gambling-oriented movies but good or bad I watch them all.

There is one coming up on Sunday on FX, the cable subsidiary of Fox, that reportedly will tell the story of the infamous point-shaving scandal that happened in 1994 concerning the Arizona State basketball team.

Its title is "Big Shot", confessions of a campus bookie. The main character is a kid named Benny Sillman, who masterminded this scheme, supposedly got in over his head first by playing, then turned to booking.

The focal point is an early March game in '94 where ASU opened up an 11-point favorite and closed at 3½. Now that part is very accurate, but I will be intrigued to see how they got to that point.

Truth be told, this was not the first time they had done this and could have done it more if they were not so inept. As for Las Vegas alerting the authorities, that is really not all truthful and to be quite fair some people still would not know except, as I stated earlier, the gang that "could not bet straight" had a lot of flaws in their delivery.

Some calls were made but not to the NCAA, as is so readily talked about. Of this part I am as sure that Oklahoma and Indiana will play on Saturday as I am that all regulatory outlets from local to federal agencies that began the exercise were like the "Katz n Jammer kids".

The Mirage properties, on the day of the game, had taken about $200,000 from the three kids who basically were the runners. They bet the game at various numbers. When all the other properties in the city had stopped taking wagers, local authorities had asked me what they should do. I said, "Well, the people you are after are sitting in the lounge and have basically done nothing wrong, so let us see what happens with the game and proceed from there."

This is where I will begin watching the movie.

I know it is a movie and they can take license that screenwriters are so good at doing. But it should be interesting to see their take on reality.

The next two things are sort of related.

1. Bill Freider, who was coach of the team at the time, showed up in the Mirage racebook the following day banging the horses like he frequently had done for years, and did not have a clue of what was about to happen as far as scrutiny of him and his program.

2. And oh, by the way, the gang that couldn't bet straight lost their cheese and never were heard from again.

I would like to hear from all you movie critics.

I made one play on Saturday and played Oklahoma -5½ against Indiana. I knew this would become a popular play, which is why I jumped in early. I can see this game going to 7 by post time, and at that number it becomes a little dicey.

If Coverdale plays he won't be 100%, and I just can't see Kelvin Sampson instructing this week on not jumping out and defending the 3, which was so effective against Kent State last week. No mistaking that the Hoosiers are a good college team and Jeffries is a terrific post player, but I believe the second half will belong to the Sooners.

Let's keep it going, and stay in touch. With the final days of the NBA and naturally the playoffs, there are always spots. Tuesday night was a prime example, as basically Phil Jackson said earlier in the day that he would start resting his starters against the Cavs. He might have rested them too early, but you can see that he got stubborn at the end and did not send his first team back in the game, and it almost became costly.

Stay smart,

Jimmy V.

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