Monday, December 07, 2009

The Tiffany Network is tarnished

By John McMullen

We all need to make a living, and disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy is doing his best to do exactly that.

The ex-con scored a plum spot on CBS' 60 Minutes Sunday night to hawk his new book, "Personal Foul: A First-Person Account of the Scandal That Rocked the NBA."

The book was dropped in late October by Random House over liability issues, but that didn't stop a Florida-based company called VTi Group, Inc., from running with the sensationalistic garbage.

It also didn't stop the Tiffany Network, which evidently now feels ratings trump journalistic integrity, from giving Donaghy a virtually unfiltered forum.

Of course, unlike FOX News or MSNBC, CBS still has designs on keeping some of its credibility, so the network didn't let Donaghy do a Billy Mays impression. The result was the same, however, nothing more than an infomercial for a book described as an "in-depth look at the betting scandal that rocked professional basketball."

Evidently it's also a story of redemption, as the gritty Donaghy claimed he refused to make calls to affect games even if it meant he lost money and it angered the mob.

What a guy.

"I just told them that I wasn't making calls in games to influence the outcome," Donaghy told 60 Minutes. "And I'm not going to be able to obviously predict the winner every night, and they have to accept that's what's going to happen."

In his deluded world, Donaghy was just using his insider knowledge of other officials' biases, not his own. He claims he was winning 75 percent of his wagers, drawing the attention of the mob, which then threatened his family if he didn't provide his insider picks to them.

"They basically told me that I needed to give them the picks and if I didn't, that it's a possibility that somebody would go down and visit my wife and kids in Florida," Donaghy said.

Sure, those two statements contradict each other but you can never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Eventually, Donaghy's connection with the underworld caught the attention of the FBI and he ratted on Tony Soprano and Company, believing that was the best course of action to protect his family.

"It's in the back of my mind, but I'm not going to live my life in fear," Donaghy said of possible retribution from his unsavory past. "I was informed by the FBI agents that they certainly had an eye on what they called these wiseguys and that if anything would come up they would inform me immediately."

By this point, I was wondering where to look for the book at my local Barnes and Noble.

I naturally gravitated to the fiction section.

Instead of ignoring this latest round of drivel by Donaghy, NBA commissioner David Stern took the bait and released a statement after the interview aired, pumping up Lawrence Pedowitz, a former investigator in the U.S. attorney's office, who led a review of the league's officiating.

"Mr. Pedowitz' review revealed that the NBA's core values of neutrality and accountability were not compromised by anyone other than Mr. Donaghy," Stern said.

So where are we?

As far as I can surmise, Donaghy was just a was a simple country boy, some might say a cockeyed optimist, looking for a little Christmas money by taking advantage of Joey Crawford's disdain of Tim Duncan when he got caught up in the dirty game of gambling and the Mafioso.

Scorsese is scouting locations for the film-shoot right now.

As for me, I'm about to ring CBS and ask for 20 minutes of time to peddle my own book on the 50 greatest Minnesota Vikings that currently sits on the shelf of a now-defunct publishing company based in the Midwest.

Hey, it's worth a shot.

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