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Madden: Nothing wrong with a good fix

Saturday, May 03, 2003

LAS VEGAS -- As I lounge poolside (OK, blackjack table-side) here in fabulous Las Vegas while awaiting the limo that will transport me to tonight's Paul Spadafora fight at the Harv ... I mean, tonight's Oscar de la Hoya fight at Mandalay Bay, I can't help but think that only one thing could make things better.

A fix.

I have a good idea that de la Hoya is going to put Yory Boy Campas on the canvas early, but I don't know for sure. If the fight were fixed, I would know for sure. Then I'd make a bet. A big bet. Actually, it would be better if de la Hoya took the dive. Better odds.

Don't bother feigning moral outrage. There's nothing wrong with a fix. Vegas is full of thousands looking for an edge, legal or otherwise. You may consider yourself morally upright, but if you had a chance to profit by a fix, you would.

As someone who likes a good fix, I have a few favorites:

dot.gif "Black Sox" scandal, 1919: Great book, great movie, but there's one thing that has never been said about the Chicago White Sox throwing the 1919 World Series: They were justified in doing so.

White Sox owner Charles Comiskey had the best baseball team in the world but paid his players slave wages. There was no free agency or players' union, and Comiskey was a legendary tightwad. The Sox got meal money that was 30 percent below the American League average. Pitcher Eddie Cicotte had a big incentive bonus for 30 victories. After winning 29, Cicotte was benched for the rest of the regular season. Fixing the Series was the only chance Shoeless Joe Jackson and Co. had to really cash in.

So, united in their hate for Comiskey and armed with a healthy contempt for the fans, eight Sox players dumped the series. Contrary to what the movie version of "Eight Men Out" portrayed, most got paid for it. Some were even paid well. Maybe they betrayed the integrity of the game, but integrity doesn't pay the bills. The only thing the Black Sox did wrong was be clumsy enough to get caught.

dot.gif Game-show scandal, 1958: Contestants on television game shows were given answers in advance based on their ability to draw ratings. Today this would be called reality TV. The scandal broke when a congressional hearing was called, and the whole shebang was ultimately chronicled in the 1994 movie "Quiz Show." In that movie, a congressman delivered a moving speech which said that favored and famous "21" contestant Charles Van Doren should not be congratulated for finally telling the truth.

Thing is, that speech never really took place. So a movie about a TV show that was fixed for the purpose of entertainment was fixed for the purpose of entertainment.

dot.gif "666" Pennsylvania Daily Number fix, 1980: If any number but 666 were drawn, this might have escaped scrutiny for a bit. But the fixers chose the mark of the beast, and most of them were in prison cells before the latex paint dried on the inside of the Ping-Pong balls. Idiots.

It's widely thought that the local illegal numbers boss ratted out these nimrods because he was upset about having to pay off a bunch of bets on 666 -- which he ultimately refused to do, but boy, was he mad. Illegal bookies pay 600-1 on the number. The state pays 500-1. Which is why you should always trust a mobster over a politician.

dot.gif "Hand of God" goal, 1986: Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona couldn't get high enough to legitimately execute a header during the '86 World Cup quarterfinals, so he put his fist on top of his head and punched the ball into the net. The referee missed the infraction, the goal stood, Argentina beat England, 2-1, and ultimately won the World Cup.

When asked if he had committed handball, Maradona said, "It was the hand of God." This implies that divine intervention fixed the game, which dovetails nicely into the stance of annoying God-squad athletes who say that the Almighty determines every score. Would God fix the World Cup? Depends if he had a bet down, I suppose.

Would it be so bad, for example, if Steelers games were all fixed? The locals wouldn't care. They could tailgate for 12 hours and get plastered without a worry. The money the fans would "earn" from wagers could be used to pay their fines for public indecency and disorderly conduct. The Steelers could win most of the games, dump a few to make things look square, then pick up -- finally -- their fifth ring. By the time the scandal became public, the yinzers would already have their cheap plastic replicas.

Heck, I don't think Pittsburghers would mind if the Steelers lost all the games in predetermined fashion as long as they knew in advance. Face it, football isn't the most popular game in the country solely because of its physical nature. People love it because it's easy to gamble on in structured and semi-logical fashion.

Which is why we all like a good fix, whether we admit it or not.

Mark Madden is the host of a sports talk show from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays on WEAE-AM (1250).

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