The Scorpion, also known as Cy Simonbaum, once made a living from laying points and taking the money from young fools and middle-aged dreamers. A longtime acquaintance, Cy was known around the joints as "the Scorpion" because of the sting he brought when he took your money.
I once asked him how he had the nerve to take advantage of people who may have so little money to spare? He replied "It is natural, the great element of the universe put sheep here to be fleeced, there would be no balance in creation if there were no givers and no takers".
But this is not an article regarding the perils of commencing to odd-man with this knowledgeable old pro, rather some moments of a recent visit from a friend who spends his time doing work for the weary and the less fortunate, perhaps to simply bring balance to his own life as well.
"You still follow football, Cy?"
"Sure, I keep the set on when Miriam is not watching, you know how it is on Saturdays in the neighborhood, I just don't tell everyone my business".
"Do you have any thoughts on this college football season, such as who the best teams are?"
"Voy, you trying to get to the magic question without paying your dues?"
Without reluctance I rose and poured him a glass of red wine. Relaxed, he detailed his thoughts in the following manner.
"Living in Florida, I can tell you the best teams are in Florida. It's all the kids do, all they think about". Florida State, that's the one you better look out for in the ACC, South Florida, that's the one you better look out for in the (Big) East, goes without saying Florida in the SEC."
Asking Cy how he saw the national scene, he informed me "it's Penn State and SC with the big following, that's where the money will be made by the smart-guys, by Vegas, and elsewhere.
"If it's not those two someone will be angry, because that gives you (the) New York and L.A. media markets, and that's where all the people live who believe they know more than the wise guys." "Pouring water on a drowning man".
"How about the Big 12?"
"It's Nebraska you better look out for, Missouri has no defense and nobody has beaten the Cornhuskers yet." I asked about Oklahoma. "Lots of ghosts between the ears".
Texas? "What about Texas, look at the defensive backs' size, speed, and experience and then look at the the passers around that league."
"Who would you say is most likely to play in the national title game, Cy?" He gave me the following teams: "South Florida, if they get past UConn, Penn State, if they get past the road trips in the Big 10, Florida, if they get past Tennessee and Florida State, that's their two nemesis whenever they think they're going all the way."
"SC, they have a more difficult schedule than people think. You believe you throw your helmet out there and people will give up? That's when you will get beat."
Who do you think will win the national title? "Doesn't make any difference to me, I've got no stake in that". But, I persisted, just for the sake of argument, who would you say?
"The easiest road is Florida State and South Florida, the more likely is Florida and SC, but don't forget Penn State."
"If it is Penn St and SC, look for Penn St to win it all". How is that possible Cy?
"Because the last man to beat Joe Paterno in a national championship game has been dead for over 25 years."