02/27/2006 12:00AM

No sports book? No problem


If a tree falls in the forest and there's no reporter around, does it still make news? I just returned from a two-week vacation, and here are a few things that happened while I was gone:

* The NFL Pro Bowl took place Feb. 12 in Honolulu with the AFC favored by 4 and an over/under of 67 points. The NFC pulled off a 23-17 upset and, for me, it was a nice way to end a dismal NFL betting season with a winning play on the under. I made my wager before leaving Las Vegas. Hawaii doesn't have any legalized gambling, but don't be naove and think the locals and tourists were there just to watch the stars compete in an exhibition. At halftime, while young girls were in the stands calling their friends on their cell phones and singing along to the Backstreet Boys' performance, the men were on the concourses calling their own version of backstreet boys - bookies - and not being shy about asking about the second-half point spread and over/under.

* The NBA All-Star Game was held Feb. 19 in Houston with the West favored by 4 1/2 and an over/under of 257. Again, the underdog pulled the outright upset with the East winning 122-120 and the game went well under the total. The NBA All-Star Game received more attention than usual in Las Vegas because next year's game - as well as all the ancillary activities and parties - is being held in Sin City and Mayor Oscar Goodman and representatives of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority were there in force.

* That same day, the Daytona 500 started Nascar's Nextel Cup season. Jimmie Johnson won the race as the fourth betting choice at 8-1. Controversy ensued with allegations of cheating, but all bets would have been official anyway. This past Sunday, Matt Kenseth won the Auto Club 500 in Fontana, Calif., as the co-third choice at 8-1. The Nextel Cup drivers take this weekend off before coming to Las Vegas for the DaimlerChrysler 400 on Sunday, March 12.

* Last Saturday, Sugar Shane Mosley, as a -180 favorite, defeated Fernando Vargas with a 10th-round TKO at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. It was billed as a chance for the winner to return to his former glory. I didn't get a chance to see the fight, and from reports I've read Vargas didn't see much either. His left eye took a shot in the first round and he was unable to see repeated right-hand punches from Mosley. The fight was stopped in the 10th round when it was clear to see (by everyone but Vargas) that Vargas's eye was swollen shut. Mosley is hoping for a bout with undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr.

* The Leroy's $50,000 Beat Boston contest concluded last weekend with handicapper Brent Crow of sportsmemo.com defeating professional gambler Alan Boston. Leroy's and Boston put up $30,000 and Crow and his sponsor, nine.com, put up $20,000, with the winner-take-all prize going to the college basketball handicapper who fared better in the eight-week contest. Crow and Boston made six plays apiece on Friday nights at the Riviera sports book on the Saturday card with a best bet worth 1 1/2 points. After the first three weeks of the contest, Boston was 12-6 for 13 1/2 points (going 3-0 on best bets) with Crow at 11-7 for 12 points (2-1 on best bets). On his way to the Riviera on the night of Jan. 28, Boston was assaulted by two men, the contest that week was canceled, and Boston was rushed to the emergency room, where he was treated for his injuries. Both contestants agreed to continue with the promotion as a seven-week contest. From that point on, Boston went 10-14, losing all four best bets, while Crow went 14-10, including 3-1 in best bets. Crow finished 25-17 (59.5 percent) and 27 points to Boston's 22-20 (52.3 percent, or exactly break even with the vig) and 23 1/2 points.

Tennis anyone?

That brings us to the present. The Tennis Channel Open at Darling Memorial Tennis Center in the Summerlin area of Las Vegas is the big event in town this week - big being a relative term since it's probably better than even-money that this is the first you're hearing about the event.

If you have heard about it, that's probably because of the news of who won't be there, as Andy Roddick - one of the few players with name recognition - withdrew last Friday because of fatigue.

Lleyton Hewitt of Australia entered the tourney, which was to begin Monday and runs through Sunday, as the 3-1 favorite. Nicolas Kiefer and James Blake are the co-second choices at 4-1 with Tommy Haas at 5-1 and Andrew Murray at 7-1.

You're excused if they don't conjure up images of Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and Jimmy Connors, or even Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.