Abington professor's new book exposes NBA betting scandal

Sean Patrick Griffin, associate professor of criminal justice at Penn State Abington and critically acclaimed author, soon will be busy with book signings and interviews as his much-anticipated book, “Gaming the Game,” is released later this week. A nonfiction true-crime work, “Gaming the Game” tells the story of the recent NBA betting scandal and the Philadelphia-area professional gambler -- Jimmy Battista -- who made it happen. To watch Griffin in an interview about the book that aired on Fox 29 in Philadelphia, visit http://bit.ly/hvZZkW online.

Griffin exposes, for the first time, Battista’s remarkable decades-long bookmaking and betting career, including his role as architect of the widely publicized scandal.  Battista -- unlike his co-conspirators -- never spoke with federal authorities, and reveals in this book the intricate details of the scheme.

Researched with dozens of interviews, court documents, betting records, referee statistics and unique access to witness statements and confidential law enforcement files, “Gaming the Game” looks inside the FBI’s investigation and beyond to provide the definitive account of the scandal.

During a recent interview on campus, Griffin said he is critical of books in this genre because they so often rely exclusively on the words of law enforcement officials, gangsters or other criminals. Griffin pointed out that the reader often has no way of knowing if what they are reading is fiction or non-fiction -- which is why he is so adamant about the importance of primary source research.

“My interviews of Battista were great, he’s a funny guy, entertaining and smart, but just because Jimmy Battista says it doesn’t make it so…with practically every little thing he said there was follow-up,” said Griffin. “That’s why it took so long to write this book. I’m an academic by trade so even though I want to make it interesting for a reader, I also want my colleagues and students to know that I’ve taken the time to research as much of the story as possible.”

“The best you can do -- as I’ve tried to do in ‘Gaming the Game’ -- is track down as many people who were part of the conspiracy, or prosecuted or investigated the conspiracy. Are there law enforcement files? Are there informants? Court documents? The idea is always to pursue as many sources of data as possible and to tell the reader that if this was written, this is where it came from (source notes),” Griffin said.

The Penn State Abington students in Griffin’s criminal justice classes are certainly benefiting from his meticulous and extensive research methods.

“The research process is fundamental. That’s why it’s valuable to have researchers (as professors) in the classroom. It’s not simply the findings that wind-up as material for course work, it’s the process to get the findings that they need to know," he said. "One of the goals in all of my classes is that my students become discerning readers.  I hope the students never read a newspaper article the same way again after they’ve taken my classes, let alone a book.” 

Griffin, a proud Penn State alumnus himself, earned all of his degrees at Penn State including a master's degree in 1998 and his doctorate in 2000. In addition to numerous academic works, he’s written another mainstream true-crime read, “Black Brothers, Inc.,” a book about Philadelphia’s infamous and self-named Black Mafia. The story has been optioned to be made into at least one Warner Brothers’ movie and is in active development. Leonardo DiCaprio is rumored to star in the seminal film. 

“Gaming the Game” will be in area bookstores beginning Feb. 17. For more information visit Griffin’s blog.

A lecture and book signing with Griffin has been scheduled for 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 24 at the Abington campus. The event is free and open to the public. Check the Penn State Abington website for details on this upcoming special program.