Los Angeles, CA
It started with a PocketFives.com post... Syracuse allegedly were shaving points.
Rumors. Of course. You rarely find truth on the internet, unless Truth is the name of your favorite porn star sporting a sloppy back tattoo and oblong boobs.
The Syracuse point-shaving rumors blew up overnight and what would have just been whispers among paranoid bettors, until it became a national scandal. I blame the gossipy nature of social media and the rapid means that information spreads on the interwebs....unless you live in Egypt, where they block internet access during a revolution.
Syracuse didn't pull the plug on the web. Coach Jim Boeheim denied allegations. The players involved sent out tweets admonishing their skeptics. The Cuse fan blogs rushed to the Orangemen's defense. The major sports blogs sifted over the evidence. Even sports book managers in Vegas were all of sudden being quoted in articles.
But everyone came to the same conclusion... it was just a rumor.
If Syracuse players did shave points -- holy shit -- talk about a pair a fucking big ass balls. The parties involved (the players on the take and the fixers) were incredibly brazen or incredibly stupid in this digital age.
It's difficult to shave points in the modern era, especially with 24/7 surveillance, if you play in a top notch program like Syracuse. Maybe you can get away with it 60 years ago when you didn't have video cameras and only had a minimalist box score and local sports reporter's hundred word recap to go by.
You can run the point-shaving scam today, but only if you play on North Dakota State and miss a few lay ups to blow a spread against Northern Montana Tech. But good luck getting a bookie to accept a five figure wager on an added game.
Alas, a Goliath like Syracuse is under intense scrutiny, especially after they started the season 18-0. It's much harder to blow a game than you think. Every shot...every lay up...every miss...shit, every time they failed to cover the spread...all of that is logged, booked, and categorized on the web in both statistical format and on video.
Which makes the task of shaving points in today's world even more daunting.
"Any you fellas wanna make a quick buck?"
But even within those obvious constraints and deterrents, the rumors still swirled around gambling circles. Paranoia struck deep in Orange Nation. I got wind of the scandal from a buddy of mine, a poker pro, who graduated from Syracuse. He watched almost every game this season. In fact, we both bet on the same game -- one of the few losses that came under fire -- but at the time I didn't view the game as anything more than "just another fucking shitty pick."
In case you were wondering, I lost exactly $111 betting on two Syracuse games -- I dropped $110 in one game against a tough Pittsburgh squad (when they started a suspicious 0-19 but stormed back with a 17-0 run themselves), and last weekend, I added Syracuse to a $1 multi-team parlay (which was a long shot to win anyway even with many losing sides, including Syracuse's six point loss against Marquette).
I didn't think anything was amiss in either losses at the time. Sometimes the teams your pick get stomped. Sometimes they lose because of last second heroics. But no one likes to lose a bet on a game that's not straight. I know that I've made plenty of accusations from time-to-time, and most of those were either really bad jokes in an attempt to use humor to deflect the pain of losing a big bet, or most of the time, it was nothing more than a curt remark from an agitated gambler. Sort of like getting sucked out by a 2 outer on the river and exclaiming... "Online poker is fucking rigged."
Players have shaved points since the inception of the point spread. College basketball has always been fertile ground for angle-shooting gamblers and mafia-type enterprises because the players are still young men...we're talking 19,20,21 year old kids. Because they are not yet professionals, those athletes can't earn any money with jobs as a scholarship player. They're close to cashing in -- sort of like their noses are pressed up against the window -- but they aren't quite there yet. They play hoops in a tempestuous environment, blurring the lines between sports/entertainment/big business/media.
College athletes have become pawns for corporate entities. All of those annoying redundant commercials during March Madness made you nauseous, but it's a clear indication at the significant money that is thrown around by major advertisers. Someone is making a buck on college athletes, everyone except the athletes themselves.
The toxic environment of collegiate sports fostered ill will among many disenfranchised players. Once a player decided (or realized) that he's just a piece of cattle who is not getting his piece of the pie, then his future becomes murky as he embarked on a dark, dangerous, and slipper slope. Once a player or team allowed the dregs of the gambling industry inside their micro-world, then it's doomed to explode.
When greed penetrated the inner circle, a cancerous effect ensued. It's never just one time, or one game. Once you do something shady once, it's easy to do it again...and again...and again. That's how you get caught.
Toldeo. Boston College. LIU. CCNY. NYU.
The list went on and on. I've written in detail about Scandals of 51, a book that I read that detailed the massive point shaving scandals from New York City colleges in the early 1950s that nearly destroyed the game completely. Back then, the games were legitimately fixed. Most bookies were smart enough not to bet action on a hot game.
In the modern era of ESPN, NESN, and Dead Spin, it's nearly impossible to text a picture of your penis to someone, let alone tank a game on national TV. Who knows what really happened. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't.
One thing is for sure -- Syracuse would be pretty stupid to try to do anything because now everyone is watching.