Big Freddy was folding his morning newspaper when I joined him for our weekly head-to-head over whatever when I asked him what he made of former House Speaker Sal DiMasi's conviction.

"Terrible timing," Freddy said.

"What's terrible about it?" I asked.

"Here's the hockey world all over the Bruins waving the Stanley Cup in the face of the Canucks." Freddy said. "But here's our third Speaker of the House getting hit with a guilty verdict on a hat full of counts, and it gets all but buried in the news cycle."

"No it wasn't," I said. "It was covered. "What in the world has celebration of the Bruins' win have to do with the outcome of DiMasi's trial?"

"Not enough beholders," Freddy said. "The only real news of the day was the Bruins clobbering the Canucks.

"They're going to be singing "Hallelujah" until their throats run dry when the Sox win this year's World Series," I said.

"We should hope, but hope didn't get the job done for Sal," Freddy said. "He tried. Stiff upper lip. Didn't see why what he did would end up with him facing too much time for a guy his age after all the good things he had done as speaker. It makes no sense."

"What sense?" I asked.

"Why things like that happen," Freddy said.

"Things like that happen because absolute power can lead to absolute corruption," I said. "He was living a life beyond his means big-time, and he wasn't getting any younger. Power becomes a false armor, and then, something like this happens. Opportunity beckons, and it becomes, 'Why not?'"

"Not always," Freddy said.

"Three times with three House speakers," I said. "They spent most of their working life up on the Hill. They get to be speaker, and the world's their oyster. Absolute power can be a slippery slope."

"But with nothing coming in except what a speaker's paid," Freddy said. "Sal had 30 years in the public service. Did a lot of good things — not the least being he stiffed casinos — but his salary falls short of what's needed down the road, so he takes a flier in personal ways and means."

"Well, a lot of people face that, but they don't cut corners that lead to something like this to turn things around," I said.

"I give you that," Freddy said. "I'm not supporting what he did. I'm making the case that he really didn't see what he did was so far out of line he would face what he's going to face if his appeal goes nowhere."

"Hubris, blindsiding pride," I said.

"Whatever — skating on thin ice," Freddy said.

"Which is what a lot of people thought the Bruins' chances were for winning the Stanley Cup," I said.

"Nothing ventured, nothing gained for Sal, and he needed gain big-time," Freddy said."

"But sometimes the game's not worth the gamble," I said, "and it looks like Sal's going to have a long time on ice to think about that."

• • •

Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and a staff columnist. He can be reached at

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