The gambling paranoids at the NCAA have taken their delusions -- which they routinely defend with apparent logic - to new heights this year. I've
said before that the NCAA folks have done the right thing in sending some of their folks to Las Vegas to work alongside the sports book managers
trying to spot unusual betting patters that might indicate a tournament game that is not 'completely pure'. That's good; they should do that kind of
thing during the college football and college basketball seasons on a regular basis. Kudos to the NCAA for that. But as Stephen A. Smith might say,
These same NCAA gambling paranoids went off the deep end about a week ago. According to reports in several papers around the country and on the CBS
Evening News, the NCAA has sent a representative, along with someone from the FBI, to speak to each of the teams in the Sweet 16 about the
consequences of gambling and participating in gambling, aiding and abetting gamblers, and of course, point shaving. That's good; they only used to do
this at the Final Four, but they expanded the coverage this year. That's fine; I have no problem yet.
Here's the paranoia pinnacle... The NCAA also sent a representative along with FBI presence to the Sweet 16 for the women's basketball tournament to
give the same admonitions. Either the gambling paranoids there have really gone round the bend or the gambling paranoids had to pay homage to the
'gender equality mavens' at the NCAA. When you assess the potential 'gambling problem' posed by men's basketball and women's basketball, there is no
comparison; the only way you treat these two issues in the same way is if you are looking to manufacture ways to treat it in the same way. Doctors
will treat cancer patients with aggressive new techniques that are fresh out of the research phase; they don't do that for athlete's foot.
I didn't know that you could bet on women's games in Las Vegas; I did know that the estimated handle for the men's tournament this year is in the $80M
range. Even if you could, I thought that the handle for women's games would be only about 1% of that for the men's games. To try to clear this up in
my mind, I asked a journalist in Las Vegas if you could actually bet on women's basketball (including the WNBA). He asked one of the sports book
managers out there and here was the reply from the sports book manager:
'Some of us in town actually do book the women's college games. The handle is quite small and saying that it may be 1% of the men's is generous (more
like 1/4 to 1/2%). We also book the WNBA which is also a small write.'
So, I think this event demonstrates the pecking order within NCAA HQs. The gambling paranoids have to behave the way the ever-so-politically-correct
gender equality folks say they have to. If there's an $80M handle on the men's games and a $200K handle on women's games, the two 'problems' need to
be addressed differently from a prevention standpoint. But you can't do things differently between the men's sports and the women's sports according
to PC crowd. So now we know who's in charge...
Having said all that, the tournament games over the weekend were really good. In fact, the games that gave us UCLA and LSU as Final Four combatants
demonstrated why the college game is superior to the NBA game. In both contests, there was tenacious defense played for the entire game and by
everyone. If an offensive player beat his man off the dribble, there was always help there or about to arrive in short order. No one in either game
stood around with a hand on a hip watching the action on the other side of the court. Even before Saturday's games, defense showed its value in
college basketball; how do you think BC got into the tournament in the first place?
Watching Memphis struggle with UCLA's defense, I concluded that if Memphis entered its team in the Rucker League - or whatever its equivalent might be
in Tennessee - this summer, they'd be the favorites to win because they play that style of basketball and they've had a full season to 'perfect' the
fly-up-and-down the-court-out-of-control-game. But against a team trying to lock them down on defense, they couldn't manage a point a minute. That
is a major feather in UCLA's cap.
At halftime, I thought that Memphis might be choking the game away, but came to realize that UCLA was preventing them from scoring. That got me to
thinking, what was - in fact - the biggest gagging in the tournament. I narrowed it down to two events; you make the call:
1. Iowa spitting the bit against Northwestern State.
2. Gonzaga butchering the final five minutes against UCLA.
I lean toward Iowa here but could be convinced otherwise...
I need to switch gears here because I want to comment on Barry Bonds' lawyers trying to sue the authors of Game of Shadows. They didn't sue for
libel; they tried to sue to prevent the authors from making money as a result of what Bonds' lawyers called 'illegal activities'. Since some of the
book is apparently based on grand jury testimony, the lawyers alleged that publication violated the confidentiality of those deliberations and
therefore the authors would profit from that illegal activity. The irony here is delicious; follow this logic:
Game of Shadows would make money and thereby benefit its authors on the basis of an illegal activity; that cannot be allowed.
If Barry Bonds used steroids as alleged in the book that is purportedly based on an 'illegal activity', then Barry Bonds has already derived a benefit
from an illegal activity. It was and is against Federal law to take steroids without a prescription.
Since the suit did not challenge the veracity of the claim that Bonds took steroids, it would seem that his lawyers are saying that only Barry Bonds
should be allowed to benefit and make money from illegal activities here.
Recall Mark Twain's comment that the only difference between a cynic and a realist is whether or not you agree with him. Now consider the fact that
Bonds' lawyers chose not sue on the basis of libel. In a libel suit against a public figure, they would need to show two things - first, that the
accusations in the book are false and second, that there was a malicious intent on the part of the authors against Barry Bonds. It is hard to win a
libel suit if you are a celebrity or a top-shelf athlete because of that 'malicious intent' dimension. However, in a libel suit, one could
demonstrate the falsity of the accusations - if indeed they are false - even if one cannot demonstrate the malice. So, a libel suit could 'clear
Bonds' name' even if he didn't win the suit. But all that assumes that he could demonstrate that the allegations are false, that he never took
performance-enhancing drugs. And that is not the avenue he and his counsel took. So, which of these two conclusions is more likely:
1. Bonds can't risk testifying under oath in such a suit where the focal point of the questioning would be his use of steroids as performance
2. Bonds doesn't care about his reputation just so long as these authors don't make any money off their book?
I lean strongly to the first one here and probably can't be convinced to come off that point until he actually does sue for libel.
Finally, a comment by Greg Cote in the Miami Herald regarding Bryan Cox joining the Jets' coaching staff:
'Former Dolphins linebacker Bryan Cox has been hired onto the Jets' coaching staff. He'll be a special assistant in charge of giving opposing teams
But don't get me wrong, I love sports... ... ...