Keeping Score: Close Shave

Last modified: 4/27/2015 4:01:38 PM
Good morning!

ESPN’s “Playing for the Mob” has rekindled embarrassing memories for not only Boston College but also The Boston Globe, which broke the story about the basketball team’s point -shaving scandal during the 1978-79 season.

The 80-minute documentary tells how BC forward Rick Kuhn conspired with two of his hoodlum friends from Pittsburgh to bet against the Eagles. When New York mobster Jimmy Burke got involved, Kuhn enlisted the help of starters Ernie Cobb and Jim Sweeney. They made enough bad passes and missed enough free throws to ensure that BC wouldn’t cover the point spread.

In 1980, informant Henry Hill (of the movie Goodfellas) was being grilled by the FBI about the $5 million Lufthansa heist at JFK Airport. He unwittingly tipped off the feds that he was in Boston “fixing games” at the time of the robbery.

An investigation ensued and an anonymous source gave the scoop to Globe sportswriter Lesley Visser. Her story ran on Jan. 16, 1981, naming forward Michael Bowie as one of the players being investigated.

But Bowie wasn’t involved. The camera shows him reading Visser’s lead paragraph aloud: “The outcome of at least three Boston College basketball games during the 1978-79 season were affected by point shaving and the two players under investigation are Ernie Cobb and Michael Bowie.”

Bowie folded the newspaper, looked at the interviewer and said, “Umm, got the wrong person...”

During the documentary, neither Visser nor sports editor Vince Doria express regret about the error. Visser said she was a BC grad and was “gut-wrenchingly blindsided and horrified” by the scandal while Doria said in matter-of-fact fashion: “Soon after, we began to hear that Bowie apparently had no involvement in it.”

The allegation tarnished Bowie’s reputation and ended his pro basketball career. “I was in Europe, playing ball and getting paid. (After the article) I was done, I was blackballed. It took years of battling to even get a retraction.”

Newspapers are loathe to admit they make mistakes. The Globe’s acknowledgement didn’t appear until much later. At the bottom of the scoreboard page, below the Transactions was this small item: “Correction: In January 1981, The Globe reported that Michael Bowie was one of three players on the 1978-79 BC basketball team under investigation for point shaving. According to the Department of Justice, Mr. Bowie was never one of the players under investigation.”

Kuhn was arrested, tried and sentenced to ten years in prison. Sweeney, who cooperated with the feds, wasn’t charge nor was Cobb. Bowie graduated from BC with diploma in hand and one question in mind: “Where do I go to get my reputation back?”

Getting dressed to go for a run in Burlington, Vermont, these days is like suiting up for a space walk, but in four months the ice will be off the lake and the starter’s gun will sound for the 27th annual Vermont City Marathon.

People’s United Bank is the title sponsor, and fliers are in bank branches throughout Franklin County. Today Peoples’ United has over 400 branches, but a chapter in its evolution was in 1971 when Greenfield’s Fran Lemay became president of Conway Savings Bank. “We merged with another bank and changed the name to United,” said Lemay. “In 1993 we were purchased by Vermont National Bank which was later purchased by Chittenden which was purchased by the People’s Bank of Connecticut. It was definitely a Pac-Man game.”

Organizers expect the Vermont City Marathon to draw 8,500 participants including 3,500 marathoners and 5,000 relay runners. The course record is 2:17:07 set by Michael Khobotov of Siberia in 2001. The women’s record of 2:35:02 was set by Heidi Westover of Walpole, N.H., in 2009.

Winners get cash prizes and every finisher gets a short-sleeve Tech T and a medal. “Other schwag varies from year to year,” said Jess Cover, RunVermont’s director of marketing and communications. “It’s a relatively flat course, good for first-time marathoners and it’s spectator friendly.”

Ed Dornig emailed this week to remind me that the Daytona 500 “takes the green flag” four weeks from Sunday. The closest I ever got to being inside the massive speedway was seeing it from the parking lot of a neighboring Cracker Barrel.

“Must be loud in here,” I said to the waitress.

“I can hear it inside my house two miles away,” she answered.

Sirius XM co-hosts Ross Tucker and Anthony “Booger” McFarland took opposite sides about deflate-gate. “They obviously felt there’s an advantage or they wouldn’t have done it, but it was so not worth the price,” said Tucker, who played at Princeton and later for five NFL teams, including the Bills and Pats. “This diminishes the legacy of every player on that team.”

McFarland, who played for two Super Bowl champions, disagreed. “We always screwed around with the footballs, putting ’em in the dryer, squeezing them, jumping on them. You can believe it’s a big deal. I don’t.”

Deputy sheriffs in Hampden County have begun serving 30-day Notices to Quit on commercial tenants whose businesses are within the 14.5-acres of downtown Springfield that are to be part of the MGM resort and casino.

“You never know but we expect things to go smoothly,” said Carole Brennan, the former press secretary for Tom Menino and now a media liaison for MGM Resorts International.

“No specific groundbreaking date has been set but we’re thinking early spring.” The casino is set to be up and going in two years.

Here’s what you need to know about third-ranked Gonzaga (18-1) as they march to the Final Four: Their campus is in Spokane, the school’s mascot is Spike the Bulldog, its colors are Navy blue, red and white, and its most famous alumni is Bing Crosby. At this writing their only loss was to Arizona in OT.

Meanwhile UMass was ranked 96th prior to Wednesday night’s loss at St. Joe’s. With a 10-9 record, it looks like it’ll be the NIT or bust for the Minutemen this season.

Squibbers: Resident handicapper John Dobrydnio was glad to see California Chrome be named 3-year-old Horse of the Year. “Sired by a $2,500 stud out of a cheap mare and he beat all those sheiks and millionaires,” said Dobrydnio. ... Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper was at Jean Beliveau’s funeral last month. Pall bearers included Serge Savard, Guy Lafleur, Phil Goyette and Yvan Cournoyer, who eulogized, “Oh captain, my captain, bon voyage.” ... Fifty-nine percent of 444,620 respondents to an ESPN poll predicted the Patriots will win the Super Bowl. ... Maybe a two-headed coin is how the Patriots are 15-3 in coin flips this season.

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley.


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