Invitational like NFL: Unsure

Jan 10, 2006 5:23 AM

Don’t panic yet. The prestigious Stardust Invitational football contest figures to return for a 12th year this September at the Yankee Stadium of race and sports books.

After that, nobody’s willing to say.

"It’s premature to discuss anything now," said Stardust race and sports book director Bob Scucci. "No decisions have been made."

So, we’ll speculate. It makes no sense to scrap the Invitational, which attracts big crowds each Friday night during the 17-week season. Assume there will be a 2006 competition at the Stardust. The event could be moved to the brand new South Coast, until the $4 billion Echelon Place is completed in 2010.

That’s the way Harrah’s handled the World Series of Poker when it was moved to the Rio from Binion’s Horseshoe last year. Maybe one day, sports contests like the Invitational, the $1,500 entry Hilton SuperBook or Leroy’s Head to Head matchups in college football and basketball will receive the national coverage as the WSOP does on ESPN.

There is also no definitive word on the future of the Stardust radio programs, but one would think a casino resort either on or off the Strip is fully capable of hosting what has been for years the first source of opening football lines in Las Vegas and across the nation.

John Kelly, the busy Stardust radio host and mastermind for the idea of the Invitational, has heard nothing either.

"I wish I knew," Kelly said last week after finishing one of his half-hour weekday morning shows at the Stardust. "I really enjoy doing the broadcasts and hope to do so for as long as they want me."

Hopefully, none of these great sports sources of information and entertainment will be imploded — as so much of Las Vegas past sadly has been.

Now, on to fthe NFL playoffs.

NFC

Panthers +3 at Bears: History says three of four home favorites stand to cover. This is the dog with the best shot. Bears’ Rex Grossman is another inexperienced QB that figures to choke under first-game playoff pressure. PANTHERS.

Redskins +8½ at Seahawks: We trust Joe Gibbs and his three Super Bowls to keep this one closer than the spread. Seattle getting more love than deserved. Skins seem to do whatever is necessary. SKINS.

AFC

Patriots +3 Broncos: Who said the Pats don’t get respect? This is a fair line in Denver. Jake Plummer is in his element, so he has no excuses. Shanahan is ready to make another Super Bowl run. BRONCOS.

Steelers +9 at Colts: Can Indy turn that faucet on again? Steelers are better than five weeks ago and Big Ben is much more confident than last year. Bus still has some gas in the tank. STEELERS.

Playoffs: 2-2 Season: 51-33-5