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As I See It, by Jimmy Vaccaro

11 February 2003

Do you ever take stock on how you root for a game after you have made your bet?

I suppose we all have our own little quirks that we go through during the duration of the game. I have seen the ridiculous to the sublime, but always hold any personal judgment because everyone has their right to root for their cash as they see fit. I have always maintained that there are different layers of emotion that unfolds as the game goes on. I will discuss one in particular that I saw first-hand yesterday at the UNLV-USC game here in LAS VEGAS.

I went to the game with a couple of friends whom I have known for a long time. They, like me, have been battle-scarred so emotions are very much subdued and kept in check as we know that one play, or more importantly one bet, can't make a career.

As we sat down I heard the "Hey Jimmy, who do you got in the game?" I turned to see a face that I had recognized from being in these joints, but had forgotten his name. He was with a young boy who looked to be around 10 years old (who I suppose was his son). There are a few signs that you can usually pick up on when it comes to seasoned veterans at this racket (from the constant whiners to the Johnny-come-lately's). Sometimes the boot fits to one or two of the above, or a combination, with a few caveats that must be accounted for. Let me peel a few layers off this guy and his bet:

Layer #1: When he asked me who I had or whom do I like, he was simply asking for validation of his bet. If I (or anyone that he would have asked) had said UNLV, which was his side, he would have gone into a dissertation on why we can't lose this bet. If anyone would have disagreed, the subject would have changed to how good he was doing lately and wasn't the Super Bowl an easy play.

Layer #2: The game started and the Rebels jumped out to an early 6-point lead and, at the first TV timeout, he could not wait to turn to me and tell me that UNLV would murder this team. "Jimmy," he said, "I was trying to tell you that the Pac-10 was overrated and traveling out of conference would make this an easy win." Then he gave his son a high-five and play resumed. My friend, who is a BM, was sitting with me and needed the dog for a fair size bet. He said to me, "20,000 seats in this joint and you got me next to this Rebel mascot."

Layer #3: The home team was still ahead by 2 with around seven minutes to go in the first half, but they were turning the ball over at an alarming rate. At next timeout he stood up and called out to "Spoon" (coach Spoonhauer - like Charlie would be listening) and extended his arms down to his side as to be telling them to settle down. This was the first time that he cracked to me that he had a ticket in his pocket it was the biggest bet he had made this week. The game resumes.

Layer #4: UNLV plays sloppy the rest of the way out and goes in, I believe, down 11. As the team was leaving the floor (we were seated right behind the Rebel bench), he started barking out instructions. The light energetic tone that was so evident some 45 minutes earlier was turning sour. Back to Layer #1. "Jimmy, we will get 'em in the second half, won't we?"

Layer #5: The Rebels score a couple of quick buckets and coach Bibby calls time and my man has just found a new lease on life and could not be happier.

Layer #6: The Rebels turn the ball over 6 out of the next 7 possessions and all of a sudden it is 71-50 Trojans and the gloves are now off. Ex-Rebel coach Jerry Tarkanian attends all the home games and sits courtside (i.e. very visible). During this time-out, and with a smattering of boo's throughout the Thomas & Mack, "Hometown Harry" is just about gone. At the top of his lungs he is screaming and pointing to ex-coach Tark to go over and take over the huddle. As his insistence is sustained, the crowd is picking up on it and some join in. He is now telling his son what should be done to break the press and how to defend the Craven brothers and Farmer for USC. You could see that his sense of loyalty, and the value of his ticket, was losing steam very rapidly.

Layer #7: As the lead stretched to 28, he finally reached for his pocket and began waving his ticket for the whole world to see. I will paraphrase, but I think I can come pretty close to his exact words: "I BET $5,000 ON THIS GAME AND THIS IS WHAT I GET. YOU MIGHT AS WELL BRING BACK ROLLIE MASSAMINO." Now I cannot be positive, but I would like to have bet $5,000 that the ticket was not for $5000; probably two less zeros were involved.

As the seconds were counting down, and he proclaimed he was never coming back, he turned to me and said that he also had Illinois so he really did not lose much for the day. This is called validating your own shortcomings.

So the journey of the bet went from making it to discussing it to feeling great a few minutes into the game to regrouping at the half to hoping for a miracle to making coaching changes to futility to reinforcing that he had other winners for the day. Rooting takes on a broad scope of emotions, but the best advice is simply to keep them in check and hope that you're around long enough to have something to root for.

A little side bar before we leave you this week: our fraternity lost another friend this past Sunday with the passing of Alvin "Abner" Weisberg. He was an absolute fixture in these joints for the past quarter century. If you did not know him, he might have run into (or through) you if you were in Vegas and were headed to the phones at the same time. His business was "the phones." He serviced BM'S all over the country with updates and injuries and sent out the most Don Best schedules (other than Don Best).

He was also a stone bone degenerate crap player who lived to wait for the big hand to show. As ironic as it was, he talked to a friend on Saturday and he said he just won $1,800 and that was the biggest win he had in years. He was feeling pretty good.

They said he died in his sleep sometime Saturday night. I was told that his schedule was on his kitchen table with the finals only posted up until the start of the 4:30 West coast start times. This means that it must have been a little earlier than later as he never would have gone to bed without posting all the late games. When you do something for one way for 50 years, I suppose it becomes a habit. Ab the Cab will be missed.

Take care,

Jimmy V

This article is courtesy of Don Best Sports, the industry leader in live lines service. Please visit our website at to get the latest odds, scores, lines, and sports information.

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