Let's Look in the Mirror for Answers in Gambling Crisis

Article excerpt

Byline: Bob Frisk

As the shocking story of the Northwestern basketball gambling scandal swept through our office last week, I started to feel guilty.

I felt like a small part of a very big mess.

Only a week before, I had engaged in my annual exercise of picking winners in this column for the Class AA state boys basketball tournament.

However, I didn't stop with just picking the winner in each game, basically a harmless practice for a state tournament.

No, I also decided to pick point spreads.

What was I thinking?

I don't gamble on anything. I've never been to Las Vegas.

And here I was sinking to the Vegas level by giving spreads on games involving teen-agers.

I obviously didn't learn my lesson years ago.

For a long time, the Daily Herald sports staff predicted scores of all the high school football games each weekend - the infamous "Paddock Pigskin Picks," as we called them.

The full-time reporters were asked to predict scores, and then we came up with a consensus for each prep game.

These weren't power ratings. They were actual predictions of the final score for each team.

Unfortunately, some of the reporters occasionally made ridiculous predictions, and we had to throw those out.

We could have a powerhouse playing one of the weakest teams in the area, and a few guys thought it would be cute to pick one-sided scores.

I remember an 80-3 prediction, and I didn't think that was funny.

As I recall, it was Fred Lussow, then the head football coach at Forest View, who really opened our eyes to the problems of assigning scores to high school games.

Lussow had company among several area coaches, but he was the person who first voiced a major concern.

Fred had grown up in this area as an outstanding athlete at Prospect, and he understood what the Herald was trying to do with its high school sports coverage.

He thought these predictions went against everything this newspaper was preaching.

As Lussow pointed out, it was too negative to pick local teams to lose by big scores when that same newspaper tries to emphasize the positive in high school sports.

It was too negative to pick a school to lose, period.

There also was no need to put any more pressure on our schools by picking them as easy winners - or just winners.

Let the kids decide the game on the field.

Lussow convinced us the whole process of "Paddock Pigskin Picks" was flawed and totally unnecessary in a paper like the Herald.

What really concerns me now is that a gambling crisis could some day creep into our beautiful high school games, particularly basketball. …