New Year’s brings back finer time in Vegas, Steubenville

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As we head into the New Year this writer will take a little look back at what some people will never know and how lucky I was to experience those days.

I feel very fortunate to have grown up in the small steel mill/gambling town of Steubenville, Ohio, in the 50’s and 60’s. It was a safe and happy little city, very much alive. There were places to be on almost every corner and the downtown was great.

But when the mills went belly up and the big malls came to the outskirts of town it died, and the young people did not stay. Still, it was good and prosperous times.

The first time I came to Vegas was for New Year’s back in 1976 and we stayed at the original MGM Grand built by Kirk Kerkorian. It was beautiful with a sunken pit and the huge chandeliers. After moving here in 1977, I would go there and bet on live jai alai and take in an old MGM flick in their theater. What a cool spot!

You could watch the movie on the cheap and actually have an affordable cocktail. I spent many good times at both spots. Sadly, it was like yesterday when a tragic fire took its toll on the Grand.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s the real Caesars Palace was the spot for high rollers. The pit was made up of Steubenville dealers like Ray Carter, John Turelli, big John Brewer and many more. Pit bosses also from Steubenville like Al Faccinto were the best and those were the “can I do anything for you days,” – a show or something to eat for there were no players cards.

I spent many days hitting golf balls at the Desert Inn practice range. The old DI was a great spot and also had its Steubenville connection. “Cans” Jones had points in the DI.

It was said back in Steubenville that when Jones needed money he would go in his yard and dig up a few cans, thus the moniker. Also at the DI was the host of hosts in Vegas, Mike Bonfiglio, another Steubenville transplant who would always see someone from his home town and greet them with the “anything I can do just let me know.”

Those were the days.

The main reason I came to Vegas was the Stardust racebook. If you never had the pleasure of betting the ponies there you really missed out.

It was tragic that they were in such a hurry to take the wrecking ball to it. The Stardust would have been one of the best tourist attractions on the Strip and now it’s just an eye sore hole in the ground.

A night on the town back in those days cost little and the lounge shows were as good as those in the main rooms. If you got lucky some of the main room stars would drop by and do a number. Almost everyone had suits and ties on and the ladies were all dressed for dinner – no tats or cell phones ringing.

It is all gone. The person who said it best was Don McLean when he sang, “So bye, bye Miss American Pie…” At least I was lucky enough to have seen those days.

Now we will try and be lucky enough and get some winners.

College Bowls
Tuesday

Armed Forces

Air Force +7 vs. Cal (68): Bowl teams from the PAC 12 that are favored have gone 1-12 ATS vs. ones coming off back-to-back losses. The fly boys fit the bill. AIR FORCE.

Russell Athletic

Baylor +3 vs. N. Carolina: Baylor opened as a 3-point chalk in Orlando with QB problems. Both teams had high hopes of making the final four. Baylor lost three of their last four games while the Tar Heels dropped the ACC title game, 45-37, to Clemson. They were life and death to beat Virginia Tech. ACC bowl teams are 3-6 SU and ATS vs. the Big 12. Let’s gamble that the rest did the Bears some good. BAYLOR.

(Note: Check “2 for Tuesday” for the other bowl games this day).

Wednesday

Birmingham Bowl

Memphis +3 vs. Auburn: The Memphis Tigers had a great season despite tanking after that first loss. We think they can play with Auburn and just may be overlooked here. MEMPHIS.

Belk, Charlotte

NC State +5 vs. Mississippi State: In a game that looks like a pick, we will be in a must-take situation. This appears to be one of those games that the team that gets the ball last wins. NC STATE.

Music City, Nashville

Louisville -4.5 vs. Texas A&M (50.5): The Cardinals lost to Clemson by a field goal, a game they should have won; they beat NC State. A&M at times just can’t score and Louisville is that way also. UNDER.

Holiday, San Diego

Wisconsin +3.5 vs. USC: The Badgers beat Nebraska, 23-21, and lost to Iowa, 10-6. USC crushed UCLA, a team Nebraska beat the other day. The Trojans may have too many guns and enjoy a site advantage. USC.

Thursday

Peach, Atlanta

Houston +7 vs. Florida St.: At times the Seminoles are a no show. They lost to Georgia Tech, 22-16. Houston is stepping up in class but may have the talent to take care of business. Their only loss was without the starting QB. The Cougars have the fire power to stick this one out. HOUSTON.

Playoffs

Cotton, Arlington

Michigan St. +9.5 vs. Alabama: This is very simple for me. The Spartans went into Columbus and beat Ohio State with a great defensive effort. They beat Iowa the same way. Look for that huge defense to come up big again in Texas. It could well be a low scoring game and those points look very juicy. MICHIGAN ST.

Orange, Miami

Oklahoma -3.5 vs. Clemson: This game goes before the Michigan State matchup but was kept in the betting order the books have. So we get the undefeated Tigers, the top team in the country, as a dog. What’s wrong with this picture? Clemson owns wins over Notre Dame, Miami Florida, NC State, Florida State and North Carolina. I rest my case! CLEMSON.

Friday

Outback, Tampa

Northwestern +8.5 vs. Tennessee: Have that coffee and make sure you get down on this game on Thursday. No brainer here for this bettor. The Wildcats beat Stanford and won their last five games, beating Nebraska, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin and Illinois. Defense will get them the cover. NORTHWESTERN.

Citrus, Orlando

Florida +4 vs. Michigan: When it comes to putting points on the scoreboard the Gators don’t ring any bells, Harbaugh will have his Wolverines at a fever pitch for this game. MICHIGAN.

Fiesta, Glendale

Notre Dame +6.5 vs. Ohio St. (56.5): The remote will be back and forth with these two games going off at the same time. Urban Meyer is a lot like Joe Paterno – give him extra weeks to get ready for a big game and it’s lights out. Look for the Buckeyes to come to Phoenix and make a statement. OHIO ST.

Rose, Pasadena

Iowa +6.5 vs. Stanford: The Cardinal played one team this year from the Big Ten and lost to Northwestern, 16-6. Iowa would be in the final four but fell in the Big Ten championship game to Michigan State, 16-13. IOWA.

Sugar, New Orleans

Ole Miss -7 vs. Oklahoma St.: Ole Miss won its last two games beating LSU and Miss State while the Cowboys lost their last two of the season. The Rebels, under super coach Hugh Freeze, look for some Big 12 bowl revenge after falling to TCU last year in the Peach, 42-3. MISSISSIPPI.

Saturday

Taxpayer, Jacksonville

Penn St. +6.5 vs. Georgia: No Joe Pa and the Lions lost their last three. The Bulldogs won their last four playing great defense. GEORGIA.

Liberty, Memphis

Kansas St. +12 vs. Arkansas: The Wildcats went bad after taking a bad beat vs. Okie State in game four of the season and lost five straight after that. They came on strong winning their last three. Since we could never lay double digits here we must take the dog. KANSAS ST.

Alamo, San Antonio

TCU pk vs. Oregon: It’s enough for us that the Ducks won their last six with victories over Washington, Arizona State, California, Stanford and Southern Cal. OREGON.

Cactus, Phoenix

W. Virginia pk vs. Arizona St. (67): The Sun Devils from Tempe will have home field advantage, but we see this game as a wide open wild west shoot out. Crack a brew and sit back. OVER.

CFB Last Week: 6-4-0

CFB Season: 80-56-3

Wishing all a very happy, safe, prosperous and most of all healthy 2016. Never forget to get off that couch, get out and make a bet. You could be walking around lucky and not even know it.

Richard Saber, a former director of race and sports at the famed Stardust book, is GT’s horse racing and sports handicapper. Twitter: @SabesBet. Email: [email protected].

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