Trials and Tribulations of the “Vegas Man” known as Jimmy the Greek (part 3)

Posted: July 4, 2015

Updated: October 6, 2017

Jimmys presence on CBS Sports Today would legitimize handicapping

In Vegas at the time, there were only three standing establishments for sports betting which went by the name of “sportsbooks.” A frequent patron of these sportsbooks was Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder. Deriving his name for the famous gambler Nick “the Greek” Dandelos, Jimmy was a small town handicapper. Even though among Vegas players, Jimmy wasn’t such a celebrity, he was seen by the rest of the country as major figure in Las Vegas.

• Jimmy predicted the 1969 Super Bowl between New York and Baltimore wrong
• Jimmy was a regular for 12 years on the top rated CBS show NFL Today
• Jimmy was fired by CBS for comments viewed as racially offensive

Most Americans, who weren’t involved in the Las Vegas scene, were only exposed to gambling through Jimmy’s national newspaper column. Jimmy was able to carry himself convincingly as a “big time” handicapper through his dress, mannerism and charisma. As Professional Football was becoming the most watched sport in the U.S., Jimmy would soon be a part of “The NFL Today” making gambling news. This weekly sports program introduced more Americans to Jimmy whiles sealing Jimmy’s celebrity.

A 17-1 bet on the Superbowl made Jimmy spawned his popularity

Super Bowl III

Even though the Greek was wrong with his predictions about the outcome, he still made a lot of money on the game

Jimmy, who already achieved some commercial handicapper, rose to more prominence when he set the point spread for the 1969 Super Bowl between Baltimore Colts and the New York Jets. Jimmy made the announcement that Baltimore would beat New York by 17 points. With quarterback Joe Namath saying his New York team would win, much action was brought to the sportsbooks.

The line Jimmy set fluctuated up and down until game time and the Jets ended up winning and the point spread wasn’t covered. Although Jimmy predicted wrong, he succeeded in drawing more betters to either side of the point spread. Jimmy would continue to be successful as a handicapper as he joined the CBS network’s sports program bringing together gambling and sports while legitimizing the bookmaker.

The NFL Today was a top rated show on CBS. The cast consisted of Phyllis George, a former Miss America, Brent Musberger, a newscaster, Ivy Cross,a former NFL Football player, and Jimmy created the textbook format for televised sports shows for years to come. Before cable and online sports betting in the US television was dominated by three networks. Having an almost monopoly, Jimmy would take sports betting from the closet and backrooms to the living room and forefront.

Although the chemistry of the cast was stellar, there were at times disputes between members. Brent Musberger was notorious for his multitude of innuendos towards Jimmy and his past, which in a way reinforced his gamblers pedigree among viewers. Jimmy would also complain about not having enough appearance time on the show and feared he wasn’t taken seriously. In one episode, Jimmy and Musberger were involved in a bar fight.

Jimmy luck would run out on him due to controversy

CBS fires Jimmy the Greek

Jimmy was fired by CBS after making racist comments at a banquet in 1988

After Jimmy said negative comments about her husband, Phyllis broke down. Jimmy often would have mixed feelings on the set. Once referring to her “just another broad”, Phyllis didn’t feel that Jimmy lacked respect for her as a female. Phyllis made the ultimatum to the network threatening to leave the show. The network would then make an arrangement in which she and Jimmy would record their moments at different times during the day.

Unfortunately, the episode with Phyllis wouldn’t be last time Jimmy’s comments caused offense. In comments made in a restaurant to television in reflection upon the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, to reporter Ed Hotaling, Jimmy gave his opinion about African Americans in sports. By stating the black would completely “take over” sports if it wasn’t for coaching, Jimmy continued to explain “black” dominance in U.S. sports.

“The black is a better athlete to begin with because he’s been bred to be that way, because of his high thighs and big thighs that goes up into his back, and they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs and he’s bred to be the better athlete because this goes back all the way to the Civil War when during the slave trade…the slave owner would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid.”

The flood of complaints by the populace made US gambling news. Jimmy, immediately knowing his comments might be taken as offensive, tried to “do damage control” but to no avail. Jimmy would then fight keep what was remaining of his good name. Expressing regret as well as public defense from civil rights leader Jessie Jackson, Jimmy tried to quell the controversy but it was to no avail. In 1988, after 12 years on NFL Today, Jimmy was dismissed by CBS.

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