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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Book Review: ‘No Grey Areas’ – Inside the Arizona State point shaving scandal

No Grey Areas

A couple of months ago, I had a book sent out to me by a marketing group called “No Grey Areas: The Inside Story of the Largest Point Shaving Scandal in History and the Consequences Thereafter,” asking me to review it.

The book is a memoir by Joseph N. Gagliano, and it was billed as a cross between “Moneyball” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” (available for purchase here). Naturally anything billed in such a manner and about a point shaving scandal had my attention, so I requested a copy for review. It took a while, but I finally was able to crack open the book while on a plane Sunday, and less than two days later I finished it. As you can tell, it’s a grabber.

The book is about Gagliano’s personal story. The first half focuses on the infamous 1994 Arizona State point shaving scandal, while the second half focuses on Gagliano’s life after serving time for his role in the game fixing.

I was a little too young to know about much less understand what happened with the ASU scandal, so I had zero recollection of the incident. But this was told from the perspective of the guy who masterminded the whole thing and made millions off of it.

Just learning how a college athlete can get himself in the position where he is presented with an opportunity to shave points was fascinating. Reading about it from the perspective of the the guy who took millions around to different sports books in Las Vegas to bet on a game he had fixed was equally gripping.

You read about the art of the fix — how they decided which games they would fix, how many points they would shave, and how to spread the bets around to avoid suspicion. At first you get caught up in the exciting tale when they’ve made millions off the first few games being fixed, but then you find out exactly where they went wrong and how they aroused so much suspicion that they got caught by the third and fourth games.

The major takeaway is that when you get greedy — and with seedy people, limits are not something they live by — you are bound to get in trouble.

For those who enjoy the lives of someone living the fast life with all the riches and glory and money, you will like this. But the book sends a message of the sobering truth: No matter how much you justify your actions to yourself or others, you must take responsibility when you have done wrong and stop rationalizing it.

The second half of the book is more about the personal life of Gagliano and how he ended up in federal prison a second time — this time for bank fraud — which led him to write the memoir. There is less excitement and less of a hook for sports fans in this portion but the important reminder is there: Don’t mess with the federal government and commit felonies, because they will always get you in the end.

From fixing Super Bowl squares in a betting pool to creating a phony 900 number business and using other peoples’ phones to make calls there so he could pocket to the money, it’s hard to have the sympathy or empathy for Gagliano that he tries to elicit. The guy has poor character and deserves his time in prison. Even after he’s gotten into trouble many times, he continues to break laws, make shady business deals, blame his lawyers and others, and he fails to take responsibility for his actions. He is not a good guy. But he does have a good story to tell — one that is fascinating, one that I think you will enjoy, and one that reiterates the importance of doing right instead of wrong.

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