James”Jimmy””Bah-Bah””The Sheep” Battista was a stressed-out, overweight, Oxy-addicted 41-year-old, in the pit to some underground gamblers for sums he had sort of lost track of, even when he settled in to watch an NBA game for which he thought he would simply put in the fix. It was January 2007. A month or so back, not long before Christmas, he’d done something adventuresome: He’d sat down and cut a deal with an NBA referee. He feared that the scheme had become too obvious.
“You want get compensated?” Battista had said to the ref. “Then you have ta cover the f–ing spread.” The bribe was only two dimes, $2,000 per game — an outrageous deal. In case the pick won, the ref got his two dimes. In case the choice missed, then the ref owed nothing; Battista would eat the reduction. A”free roster,” as they call it. But this referee didn’t lose much. His picks were winning at an 88 percent clip, entirely unheard of sports gambling for any sustained time period. They’re now entering the sixth week of the plot — what you could call a sustained time period.
Battista had known the ref, Timmy Donaghy, for 25 years. They’d gone to the exact same parochial high school at the suburban areas of Delaware County, just outside Philadelphia — Delco, as it’s sometimes called — in which the sports pubs are plentiful, where a particular easy familiarity with forms of betting prevails, where guys have bookies like they’ve got dentists.
Battista was a creature of that world. He was what’s called a mover. Strictly speaking, movers are neither gamblers nor bookmakers. They are a species of broker that provides services to sports bettors, laying down wagers on their clients’ behalf with bookmakers of various sorts around the Earth, legal and not. Battista was positioned well enough in that world which, without Donaghy’s understanding but based on Donaghy’s selections, he’d helped put up a sort of loose, disorderly hedge fund. Several individuals from the sports-betting underworld had, in consequence, staked Battista a bankroll — a finance that he was now using to bet games officiated with this one NBA referee. One member of the team called it”the ticket” and”the corporation.”
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