Thursday, October 9, 2014

Close Shaves

TigerBlog saw the ESPN "30 For 30" documentary on the Boston College point shaving scandal the other day.

He remembers the scandal vaguely from when it happened, back in the late 1970s. He didn't realize that Jim Sweeney, one of the players at the center of the scandal, grew up in Trenton and went to Lawrenceville Prep.

And what he definitely didn't realize was that the whole enterprise came crashing down because of Henry Hill, who was the central figure in the movie "Goodfellas," which as everyone knows is as good a movie as has ever been made.

Hill, by the way, was played by Ray Liotta in the movie, and is Liotta who narrates the ESPN documentary, which includes interviews with Hill, who actually passed away in 2012.

There's only the scantest reference in the movie to the point shaving scandal, when Moorie briefly mentions it. Before he can elaborate, well, if you haven't seen the movie, let's just say that Joe Pesci, uh, interrupts him.

The reality, at least presented by the documentary, is that the scandal was the work of Liotta and Robert DeNiro, er, Hill and Jimmy Burke. And, TigerBlog didn't realize that Burke ended up sentenced to 20 years for the point shaving scandal, and that the murder conviction that gave him a life sentence came when he was already in prison for the point shaving.

The best part of the documentary, well, not the best part, but a good part of it was the footage of the "Trenton Makes ... The World Takes" bridge, bringing to two the number of days in a row TigerBlog has referenced that bridge.

TigerBlog's former colleague at the Trenton Times, David Porter, wrote a book about the BC point shaving scandal. TB had hoped to see Porter interviewed as part of the documentary.

Point shaving in sports is a nightmare that no coach or administration wants to have to deal with. First of all, it's impossible to tell if someone is just having a bad night shooting or is shaving points. In fact, it's the last thing in the world anyone would ever suspect.

TigerBlog once heard Pete Carril yell "the kid is throwing the game; they got to him; who got to him" once, but he didn't really mean that the kid was throwing the game. He was trying to make the more subtle point that he believed that in his mind nobody could be playing that badly on purpose, so there must be more to it.

It was sort of funny in the moment, but there was no way anyone was actually shaving points.

The pitcher in the playoff game in "The Natural" was trying to throw the game, and he only gave up two runs. And got the win, when Roy hit one off the lights. At least in the movie version. The book is different.

If a player came out and fell down all over himself and shot 20 airballs, something would obviously be up. A miss here or there is all it takes. That's part of the problem Who could ever tell?

Meanwhile, back at the BC documentary, the first game that is referenced was against Harvard, in December 1978. The Eagles were 12 point favorites and won by three.

That's the other problem. The point shavers can win, just not by a lot.

In fact, if Hill hadn't ratted everyone out, nobody ever would have found out, at least according to the documentary. 

Anyway, TB hopes to never have to deal with something like that here. Carril's line from all those years ago is as close as he wants to get.

There's probably a betting line on the Princeton-Colgate football game Saturday. TigerBlog hopes that nobody involved knows what it is.

TB hasn't gone to Colgate too many times in his life. He remembers the first time, when he got driving directions that said he would go on Route 12 for 62 miles or so, and he went 61.5 and didn't see a thing, and then there was Colgate.

He's been there three times, for the football games in 1995, 1997 and 2000. He remembers the 1995 game because he was wearing a Princeton lacrosse jacket and it got caught on a nail and ripped.

Colgate's stadium, Andy Kerr Stadium, is small but a great place to see a game. The weather is for it to be clear and 55, which makes it perfect football weather.

The meeting this Saturday will be the 52nd in the series, which is even at 25-25-1. Colgate has won eight of the last 10, though that hardly, since the teams haven't played since 2010.

Kickoff is at 1. You can watch the stream for free on Colgate's website,

Colgate is 3-2, having opened with losses to Ball State and Delaware and then followed with wins over Cornell, Georgetown and Holy Cross. This game could be quick, since both teams like to run and are good at it.

Whatever happens in this one, it is Princeton's last non-league game. After this, it's six Ivy games in six weeks.

It starts next Saturday at 3:30 against Brown, for the first of two straight home games. Harvard is here Oct. 25 at 1.

Princeton has only played one home game so far, and TB couldn't be there, so he has yet to see one play from the Tigers live. The heart of the schedule will be here soon enough.

For this weekend, it's a nice ride up to upstate New York for a game against a traditionally strong opponent.

TigerBlog has no idea who is favored.

And he doesn't want to know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you happened to stick around to the closing credits of the ESPN documentary, you would have seen that the production company was called "Trenton Makes Productions." The director of the film is also a local product, having attended The Hun School.