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Living without knowing the spread

The NBA has suspended the season, which is bad enough, but now Shaquille O’Neil says it shouldn’t be suspended — it should be scrapped. He’s willing to throw in the towel to the coronavirus, knowing full well the adverse effects that decision will entail — betting lines will not be set!

How can we move forward if we don’t know the spread?

What we’re left with are league officials scurrying about. They’re trying to determine the odds of playing various coronavirus avoidance scenarios without having the stats they need and with little or no regard for scouting reports. People keep cautioning them about testing, but this serves only to test their patience — they have tickets to sell.

In those cases where they have acquired stats or could easily do so, they refuse to share or obtain them. This makes it hard for the fan trying to determine a reasonable bet.

Now, too, processing complaints concerning referees has taken on special importance. The front office, not wanting to take the hit for any losses, is putting them off on the refs by requiring the use of a new rulebook. These new rules take away a ref’s ability to call fouls. No longer do they monitor illegal play — if it’s loyally executed, it’s OK.

Players who were suspended for bad conduct are being brought back or released from jail. In a recent game, the ref was booed by the audience for calling a time out but, after showing their guns, they walked off with the loyalty award.

This same ref was criticized for calling a violation for play that was out-of-bounds. Promoting inbounds play — previously the minimal requirement of any ref — no longer scores — endearment does.

This falderal has placed otherwise reticent epidemiologists in the position of acting as bookies. They’re setting lines based on facts acquired through observation — they’ve been watching old game films.

Watching old film and reviewing current scouting reports has allowed the epidemiologists/bookies to gain an understanding of our opponents. They have been able to pick out strengths and weaknesses and determine ways to counter some of the plays the virus squads are running.

Normally undemonstrative epidemiologists/bookies have been observing how these teams score and have been demonstrating how best to defend against them — social distancing and the wearing of masks — actions not required by the new rules but calculated, nevertheless, to help us win.

It’s not the knee-jerk reaction some would prefer, but this steady approach of observation-based progress seems to be working. Our zone defense has performed well.

All these epidemiologists/bookies are from major universities. At least one is from the University of Michigan, providing a Big Ten connection for those who follow such things. They have also provided us valuable insights on how we can avoid getting caught flat-footed and slack-jawed again.

This additional information will allow us to minimize losses and stay out of the gutter. A gutter like the one our technical fouls have put us in — at the bottom of the win/loss column in comparison to all other leagues in the world.

In the meantime, we have to play as a team and stay in bounds. It’s the same old story: Play smart by playing the odds and knowing the risk/reward ratio.

Doug Pugh’s “Vignettes” runs weekly on Saturdays. He can be reached at pughda@gmail.com.

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