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Shadows Of Games - Evaluating Some Circumstances, While Awaiting Football . . ....By Nelson Lardner


. . . to then-#87 Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina. An upset . . . happens all the time, in all sports . . . but surrounding circumstances had a gamy "feel" to them in this instance.

Even though the Russian, Davydenko, has been wholly unimpressive since being ousted in the fourth round at Wimbledon, mainstream early odds projections tend to reflect relative world rankings and general public perceptions. Thus, Arguello was a pronounced dog, and was available (however briefly) at better than +300 with at least one major international outlet. But the British-based betting exchange, Betfair, was awash with Arguello money which eventually drove the Argentinian to clearcut favoritism. The match attracted some ten times (close to $7 million, in all) the normal action generated by such a pairing - and the waves of Arguello money kept coming. Even after Davydenko aggressively registered a 6-2 first-set win, Arguello was driven to even more-pronounced favoritism.

Arguello captured the second set, 6-3, and when Davydenko was down 2-1 in the third, he withdrew, claiming (after being checked out by a tournament trainer prior to pulling out) he'd aggravated a left-foot injury (specifically, his left big toe) during the second set. Operating at a severe disadvantage in the agility/range department, Davy's withdrawl sealed what may have been inenvitable - but those chasing the move at Betfair were dealt a rude shock Friday when all action on the match at the exchange was voided - after the fact.

A kind critic might observe that there seemed to be a good deal of creditable Davydenko injury information buzzing about. But like the 1919 World Series, there was an awfully high volume of unnatural money in play, willing to embrace a rank morning-line underdog at adjusted - and VERY short -- prices.

So, with the respected firm faced with a most-awkward situation, with a full refund of all bets placed being unprecedented under the broad circumstances, one understands the reluctance to pull the trigger hastily, given the certain reactions of many who had backed the winner.

Unlike the securities markets (wink, nudge), inside-information trading has been a staple of sharp sports speculation since David and Goliath. The cat-mouse game between player and layer, looking to employ the best information first, has been going on only forever. But we can readily envision the possibility that in the future, when a parallel situation comes up, those in charge may call a halt and refund all bets involved, before the first pitch, kickoff, tip or serve, thus minimizing bad public relations. Not everything is clean, simple and easy. The resulting mess can clear the way for precedents we may eventually wish had never been set.

I'm certain we haven't heard the last, regarding this dustup.


A feature story posted at a few days back made note that the odds on Rep. Ron Paul to capture the GOP nomination had been reduced from 15-1 to 8-1 at (see: http:/

A Texas congressman for two decades, Rep. Paul remains among the most-disappointed that the UIGEA passed last fall, and is strongly in favor of an internet unfettered by federal-government interference.

Many of Rep. Paul's views appeal strongly to those with a gambling bent. Many players of my acquaintance assert a strong preference for the libertarian line - wholly understandable, given the realities of the existence and the last-cowboy lifestyle choices it demands of many devotees.

Still . . . given the shape of the modern political game as played in the U. S., and the identities of the GOP frontrunners -- Fred ("But . . . he was on TV!")Thompson, Rudy ("9/11! Did I mention . . . 9/11?") Giuliani and Mitt ("Whatever the base wants . . . that's my line.") Romney . . . it's difficult to calculate just how a libertarian maverick such as Rep. Paul could wrest the nomination away from the top bracket of those competing.

It takes money to move a line, and it no doubt took more than a few dollars to drive such a rank outsider as Rep. Paul from "15"s to "8"s. But true-believing shoppers seeking to chase the move should know that in the prevailing WSEX interactives, you can grab a nice chunk of Rep. Paul at equivalent odds of better than 32-1. Some dollars can still buy an option on a dream . . . And, finally . . .

BARRY BONDS/756: A acknowledged spectacular talent, Bonds was a dead-nuts cinch Hall of Famer years prior to his bizarre recent physical "development" . . . which became especially apparent in the years after he left Pittsburgh for Frisco, during which the Steroid Era wreaked its maximum havoc on hardball stats.

Yes, we know . . . even though he's acknowledged use of the "cream" and the "clear" (while not acknowledging any understanding of their precise composition), he's never tested "positive" for anything deemed illegal by the Lords of Baseball at the time of said test. Point taken. But are you willing to sweep aside ALL the circumstantial convergences, without even a second glance? Including . . .

(1) In the 2000 season, during which Bonds turned 36, he hit a career-high 49 home runs. The following season, he cranked out the single-season record of 73 round-trippers, and sustained with seasons of 46, 45, and 45 (the latter in '04, during which he turned 40). No other player who exists anywhere in the vicinity of Bonds' power stature has managed to crank out >34% of his career HR production in his career years spanning ages 36 to 40.

(2) Given Bonds' cartoon-like, near-grotesque physical distortion in conjunction with the advent of his late-thirties power explosion, it's all more than a little difficult to swallow whole. The increase in the size of Bonds' head, coupled with the maintenance of such sustained, overwhelming power for a man his age, is unparalleled in our memory - and difficult for me to credit solely to a fine-tuned diet and a focused workout regimen.

I've read comments from people aggressively dismissing the typical effects of certain body chemicals upon the sharpening of eyesight, in addition to the apparent accompanying muscle-mass increases, when referring to Bonds' feat. There's elbow room for debate, but it's irrational to dismiss such speculation out of hand as having absolutely no value. Let's keep it real, kids.

Nelson Lardner

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