Howard Garfinkel is featured in Ecks-rated tales from Vegas

Ecks-Rated Tales From Vegas: Almost Shot My Head Off In Durham!!!

LAS VEGAS — My great friend Howard Garfinkel invited me to go see Duke vs Syracuse at Cameron Indoor Stadium back in 2014, and WHAT a trip it was.

Who is Garf?

If you’re not familiar with Garfinkel, the GARF, he was the engine and owner behind the legendary Five-Star Basketball Camp. And if you’re not familiar with Five-Star, from 1966 until 2008, it was THE PREMIER camp in the country.

You mighta heard of some of the campers. Mostly unknowns like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Patrick Ewing and Dominique Wilkins, as well as 500 other players who went on to the NBA. And the roster of coaches was HALL of FAME level with Bobby Knight, Coach K, Roy Williams, Rick Pitino and John Calipari drawing up X’s and O’s.

So Howie got us two behind the bench for the North Carolina game in the afternoon from Williams at Chapel Hill, then two more for the night game at Cameron against the Orange.

Pit Stop Before The Game

Before we took off for the Dean Dome, stopped at a Sheetz store, kind of a North Carolina 7-Eleven, and dropped in for a few mints, some gum and pack of smokes for Garf.

Left the store, went right to my silver rental car and opened the door, but something was off. Looked on the floor and none of my stuff was there. Opened the glove box and saw a big bag of multi-colored pills, and they WERE NOT TUMS!

Then this rather large guy comes storming out of Sheetz and asks what the F**K am I doing in his car. Looked at the car in the spot next to us, and it was a silver Toyota, same make and model. Told the guy it was my bad, but he wasn’t having it.

He got really close to my nose and started screaming at me. Then he pushed me a few times. Noticed a bulge around his waist and when his jacket flew open, yup, it was a gun.

Obviously, my life, or at least one of my limbs, was hanging in the balance. Made up some cockamamie story about my daughter being in the hospital, and started crying like a newborn baby.

What Am I To Do?

Then I pulled the gambling card.

Told the guy I was a nationally syndicated handicapper, just spoke to my bookie, and bet the Blue Devils -5.5. Told him it was a STONE-COLD LOCK. And told him to get down early before the line goes up to -6. That seemed to calm him down, and he said that if the Dookies covered, I would never see him again.

If they failed, he would be seeing me again, REAL SOON!  

They Better Cover

Picked up the Garf and we settled into our seats just a row behind Coach K and the Duke bench. I’ll take you right to the final seconds. The score is Devils 64, Syracuse 60 with just three seconds on the clock.

Duke’s Tyler Thornton is fouled and steps to the line. I’m laying 5 and a hook, so we need him to make both. It’s literally LIFE & DEATH.

First shot swish, 65-60. Seemed like an ETERNITY till the ref gave Thornton the ball back, and I had gigantic wet spots, rivers, the Mississippi on the right and the Amazon under the left, flowing from my armpits. If he missed, I would have to face the gun guy in the lobby of the hotel, and that WAS NOT gonna be a pleasant meeting.

Tyler gave me an NBN, nothing but net, and after the Orange’s Tyler Ennis missed a long three-point attempt, we had a W in the wallet. And, a shot at a MUCH longer LIFE! So, my life was basically saved by the two Tylers. Thornton makes, Ennis misses.

Guess what we named our next dog???

Benjamin Eckstein is a nationally syndicated sportswriter/oddsmaker. His column, America’s Line, with the Ecks & Bacon appetizer, has run in the New York Daily News and over 100 other papers since 1988. You can follow him online at He is beloved by most, when he picks winners, and detested by others, when he picks the occasional loser. If you wanna piece of Eck, hit his