The world was a different place in the late 1970s. Boston was a different city.
In 1978, famed gangster Henry Hill, an operative with the Lucchese crime family in New York City, teamed up with Rocco and Tony Perla from Pittsburgh to buy Boston College basketball. With Paul Mazzei, they hatched a plan to use Perla's friend Rick Kuhn, a member of the Eagles, to institute a point shaving scheme.
Over the course of nine games, gangsters financed by Jimmy Burke placed bets on the outcome of point spread with the hopes that Kuhn and teammates would fix the final score based on the gambling. What started out as a simple scheme deteriorated into a story of high stakes gambling, something virtually straight out of a Martin Scorsese movie. Both a success in some aspects and a failure in others for the mobsters, it became public knowledge when Hill turned government informant in 1980.
One of the players involved was Jim Sweeney. Sweeney, who would win the 1980 Naismith Award as the top collegiate basketball player under six feet tall, was brought in by Kuhn in a meeting involving the gangsters. Never charged with a crime, nor offered immunity for his testimony, Sweeney became one of the central figures in the public story of the scheme when he took the stand to tell what he knew. Mentioned by Hill in his story for Sports Illustrated, Sweeney's place in the history of the scheme remains a hotly debated topic.
On Tuesday, ESPN's acclaimed 30 for 30 series will debut Playing for the Mob, a documentary about the scheme, its structure, its details, and its fallout. Despite being a made-for-TV movie, not much is known about the scheme or its players, and with Hill passing away in 2012, there remains debate as to what is truth and what is fiction.
Jim Sweeney and his wife Maura join us tonight to discuss their experiences with the scheme and the mobsters. They'll discuss the details of their story, and they'll talk to us about their experiences with Boston College. They will offer their take on the story, their perspective, and how this became, as Sweeney puts it, the "perfect storm."
Both Sweeney and his wife will be central figures in the documentary that debuts on ESPN tomorrow night. They'll give us a preview tonight at 8 PM about what they knew and they'll discuss the story that remains famous--but at the same time, unknown. Following the interviews, we'll discuss the circumstances and the topic of gambling in sports. We will take calls and open the forum for discussion, which this story promises to do on its own.
So tune in tonight at 8 PM for a special edition of BC Interruption's radio show--Pardon the BC Interruption. And be sure to weigh in with us following the interviews by calling into 646-200-0446!