LAS VEGAS — A year ago today, under a heavy anesthetic fog, veteran Vegas bookmaker Dave Sharapan marveled over a glorious reunion with his late father, Elliott, amidst the greenest of grasses and the bluest of skies.
It was pleasantly warm, light brilliant. They sat on a bench.
You look great, the eldest of Elliott’s five children repeated maybe 100 times. Known as “Big E” all over Green Tree, in suburban Pittsburgh, he was fit and trim, beard typically well-manicured.
“Big E” in mid-1970s glory, nothing like those final unfair days of early 2013.
Meanwhile, three hours after Sharapan had first struggled to talk or manipulate his phone that Friday, neurosurgeon Dr. Garet Zaugg delicately went about trying to save Sharapan’s life at Centennial Hills Hospital Medical Center.
Zaugg had begun the embolectomy by inserting a micro-catheter through a tiny incision in Sharapan’s groin, easing it along the femoral artery and, ultimately, through the carotid to snag, with a stent, the perilous blood clot in his brain.
In his deep subconscious, Dave was conveying to “Big E” his disappointment about getting laid off, his concerns about this pandemic, his three daughters …
“Big E” calmed Dave, saying, You ready to go?
“Well, no. Jess and the kids need me. Come with me. They miss you, too.”
“I can’t. But I gotta tell you, stop grizzling!”
“Big E” was Jewish. In Yiddish, “grizzling” means bitching, complaining, moaning or whining, or any such combination.
“Stop. [Bleeping]. Worrying. Everything will be OK. Tell everybody to stop worrying and go for it. Love ya. See ya later.”
“Big E” vanished. Sharapan shook his head violently. He awoke. He lay on a gurney, tentacles of wires and tubes everywhere. The dark room felt like a meat freezer. He shivered, touching his cold forehead with his cold right hand.
“I thought, ‘Wow, I’m dead.’ ”
NOBODY KNOWS …
Today, the 51-year-old Sharapan is very much alive, omnipresent in the sports-betting industry. He feeds more than 16,000 Twitter followers (@SportsbkConsig) with pithy and prescient gambling insights.
He’s part of a hit podcast, “Cash Considerations,” and MLB Network is among several outlets that tap him, on its “Bettors Eye” show, for his expertise and easy nature.
His larger-than-life persona pops when Circa displays those segments on its mammoth Stadium Swim display. That grin and one of his hundreds of baseball caps recently filled that 41-by-135-foot, 14 million-pixel LED screen. More than 5,400 square feet of her husband’s mug.
“I teased him the same way I’m sure his dad would have, but it was a very proud moment,” Jessica said. “He’s finally doing what he loves, talking about sports, and he loves being on the camera.
“And literally, since the stroke, he hasn’t shut up!”
“Big E” would steer Dave onto his eventual career path. He had left Penn State with a broadcasting degree and ESPN dreams, but the spreads and odds beckoned as he worked in his dad’s discount store.
He’d make bets and sometimes run the -local bookie’s shop. In 1997, he was offered a gig in Curacao, the Dutch island off the coast of Venezuela that’s part of a Caribbean bookmaking haven. Sharapan was 26 and full of doubt. Friends and relatives dissented, except “Big E.” As usual, he simplified an ordeal. Go. If you don’t like it, come home. If you do, we’ll visit.
For 18 months, Sharapan served customers, concocted odds and learned the lingo — “Wisky” for Wisconsin, “Bobby Mo” for Robert Morris — that would form his vocational foundation.
In Vegas, he’d work at the Golden Nugget, M Resort, Cosmopolitan, Venetian and William Hill. He developed a mantra.
“Nobody knows [bleep],” Sharapan said. “You have to listen to what people are saying and root through the bull …”
He dabbles in futures action and certain in-game situations.
“It must be done, ideally, for entertainment. For 96% of the people, that’s what it is and should be. But, yes, there are definitely aspects that have the potential to lead to very bad things.”
A nurse rushed to Sharapan as he awoke yelling, arms flapping, that fateful Friday. She said, “We weren’t sure you were going to make it.”
Dr. Zaugg couldn’t believe he was talking. “What I saw usually takes people out,” he told Dave. “You are a walking, talking miracle. Where the blood clot was … it was bad.”
Four days later, on Sept. 15, Sharapan walked out of the hospital and into the grateful tentacles of Jessica and daughters Kylie, Kelsey and Kendyl. Jessica said he’s happier, living much more in the moment than worrying about what might happen in 15 years.
He hesitates relating the profound events of one year ago to anything divine. With a Catholic matriarch, Sharapan grew up celebrating Chrismukkah. At 24, he quit attending Jewish services with “Big E” when he sensed the rabbi yelling at, not talking to, the congregation.
On Curacao, he revered the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, the sand-floored, bright-yellow building that was consecrated in 1732 and is the oldest surviving synagogue in the Americas.
The oddsman believes he simply defied very long odds.
“When I need a reminder, it’s always there. Little stuff that used to really upset me, none of it matters. If I can help one person, anyone, to kind of not worry, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing right now”