Monday, June 6, 2011

Forthcoming posts and analysis on new site

From this point forward, all new posts and analyses will appear @

www.seanpatrickgriffin.net

The new site allows for all sorts of things which are simply not possible on Blogger, and we have tried to incorporate all pre-existing material (from the NBA Scandal blog and others) into the new domain.

Thanks for your interest and support!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Gaming the Game discussed on KNBR 680/1050 The Sports Leader (San Fran)

Now that the academic year is over, I am back to entertaining interviews regarding Gaming the Game.  One of the latest such appearances was with "The Razor and Mr. T" on KNBR 680/1050 The Sports Leader in San Francisco (air date 6/1/11).  The podcast is streamed here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy's comments re: Gaming the Game

I have been (and, at least for the near future, remain) consumed with my responsibilities as the academic year comes to an end, and thus haven’t been available to humor each and every media request related to Gaming the Game: The Story Behind the NBA Betting Scandal and the Gambler Who Made It Happen (Barricade, 2011).  In particular, I haven’t taken the time to explicitly examine or discuss former NBA referee Tim Donaghy’s public comments about the book (he has also contacted me privately a few times, and his statements are essentially the same as those available online).  I’ll try to address this briefly here, and will no doubt get into this in more detail later as time becomes more available. 

I need to state at the onset that according to Tim Donaghy he has not read - and does not plan to read - Gaming the Game, and thus whatever comments he has offered about the book are, themselves, not based on evidence (serious NBA betting scandal followers will note there is nothing new about this when it comes to Donaghy).

Donaghy wanted me (and others) to know that he has recently corresponded with scandal co-conspirator Tommy Martino - indeed, that they are “Facebook friends” – and especially that Martino supported Donaghy on a matter of primacy, namely about whether or not Donaghy waged successful bets with the third co-conspirator, pro gambler Jimmy Battista, on NBA games that Donaghy did not officiate.  This is significant, of course, because Donaghy claims that “inside information” (e.g., access to players, coaches, and other referees) accounted for his betting success, not Donaghy’s on-court behavior.  If true, it would make sense therefore if Donaghy’s bets were equally placed and equally successful on games he didn’t officiate.  If, instead, evidence exists illustrating that the bets from 2003 – 2006 (i.e., starting before Donaghy ever cut a deal with Battista and Martino) were exclusively on Donaghy’s games and/or what few bets placed by Donaghy in the 2006-07 season (with Martino and Battista) on NBA games he didn’t officiate were losers, Donaghy’s claims of “inside info” as the explanation for his betting success would be severely discredited.  In short, such evidence would strongly suggest that Donaghy influenced game outcomes with his on-court performance to advance his bets.   

Obviously, as someone who has been spent so much time studying the scandal (the project began in March 2008), this issue gets a lot of attention in Gaming the Game, but I’ll delve into this a little here in light of Donaghy’s recent comments. 

Tim Donaghy wants me and others to know that, although (like Donaghy) Martino says that he hasn’t read my book, Martino was recently quoted as follows: “We didn’t bet many games that Tim didn’t officiate…but when we did, Tim was very good at them also. Battista refused to take anymore of the games that weren’t Tim’s” (emphasis added).

There are so many things to write about these circumstances, but I’ll try to be as clear and concise as possible.

1. It is very interesting to see that Donaghy and Martino are apparently renewing their friendship.

For those who are unaware, Donaghy and Martino were very good friends for years (indeed, Donaghy has formerly referred to Martino as a “true friend”).  Casual NBA betting scandal observers may be confused right now, and are likely asking, “Wait a second - didn’t Tim Donaghy say that Tommy Martino was a ‘Gambino crime family member’ who extorted Donaghy by threatening to harm Donaghy’s wife and kids if Donaghy didn’t place bets with Martino and his childhood friend Jimmy Battista?!”  Uh, yes, Tim Donaghy did…when he was trying to sell a book (Note: Martino and Battista are the "members of the Gambino crime family"/"they"/"them" being referred to by Donaghy in this representative montage of his media appearances):

2. It is also noteworthy that Donaghy now wishes to treat Martino as a credible source of information. 

After all, this is the same Tommy Martino who, after admitting he perjured himself before the grand jury, visited with federal authorities on three occasions for proffer sessions in the hopes of backtracking his earlier false statements.  Such conferences are designed to offer criminal defendants opportunities to lessen the forthcoming harm facing them, and thus the prospective loss of freedom often results in remarkably candid conversations.  It was during these sessions that Martino offered authorities insights into all sorts of illicit activities, dating back to Martino’s early years as a low-level drug dealer.  It was also during these sessions that Martino explained his version of the NBA betting scandal, ranging from his involvement to win-loss records to payment amounts and locations, etc. 

In the context of Tim Donaghy now asking interested parties to believe Tommy Martino, let’s especially consider what Martino told the FBI during his proffer sessions.  You’ll easily note that Martino’s version of events on practically every matter of import contradicts Donaghy’s claims (and I predictably get much deeper into all of these matters in Gaming the Game).  Please note that quoted material is from confidential FBI memos summarizing Martino's statements:
  • "A meeting was set up between Martino, [Battista] and Donaghy at a restaurant at the Marriott Hotel in Philadelphia" on December 12, 2006 (i.e., Donaghy was aware of the Martino/Battista conference to address Donaghy's betting concerns and thus wasn't surprised or shocked - much less chilled or shaken - to meet with Martino and Battista, as Donaghy claims);
  • During the December 12, 2006 meeting, Donaghy "complained [to Martino] that [Donaghy’s golfing and gambling buddy Jack] Concannon was not giving him any money so he wanted to start giving [his NBA betting] picks to [Battista]" (i.e., the conspiracy didn’t begin as a mob extortion attempt of Donaghy, as Donaghy claims);
  • Martino paid Donaghy approximately $120,000 from December 2006 through April 2007 (i.e., Donaghy was paid roughly $100,000 more than Donaghy claims he received);
  • Martino provided Donaghy with prescription pills and the two "smoked pot together...on some occasions," and the longtime pals "used the services of prostitutes" on more than one occasion when they met for betting payments during the scandal.  Indeed, Martino detailed for the FBI the dates, cities, and the online service used to procure the women for himself and Donaghy (i.e., Donaghy was not in fear of "mobster" Martino, accounting for Donaghy's betting during the '06-07 season, as Donaghy claims);
  • When pro gambler Jimmy Battista entered drug rehab on March 18, 2007 to treat an addiction to prescription pills, the Donaghy/Martino scheme continued, but now with pro gambler Pete Ruggieri receiving the picks instead of Battista (i.e., Donaghy’s betting did not end on 3/18/07, as Donaghy claims); and
  • “After Ruggieri decided to shut the scheme down, Donaghy pushed Martino to take one more game” (i.e., Donaghy was not being forced to bet on his games by Battista and Martino throughout the '06-07 portion of the scandal, nor was Donaghy relieved the betting was over, as Donaghy claims).
3. Lastly, there is the recent Martino quote being circulated by Donaghy:

“We didn’t bet many games that Tim didn’t officiate…but when we did, Tim was very good at them also. Battista refused to take anymore of the games that weren’t Tim’s” (emphasis added).

If you simply look closely what Martino says, you’ll notice that it is counterintuitive even without my following commentary.  That is, why would Battista have stopped taking bets on NBA games not officiated by Tim Donaghy if they were winning at anywhere near the same rate as the picks on Donaghy’s games?  We are to believe that millions of dollars in sure winners were ignored by a pro gambler?  Really?  Fortunately, in addition to our common sense and intuition we can revisit what Tommy Martino told federal authorities when his freedom was in jeopardy.  An FBI memo summarizing Martino’s take on this matter succinctly states (emphasis added): “Occasionally, in the beginning, Donaghy provided picks for some games he was not refereeing.  After a few losses, though, [Battista] did not want any more of those games.

There is much more information than this offered by Martino (and by others, including fellow cooperating government witnesses) which directly contradicts many Donaghy claims.  A thorough assessment of the FBI’s probe allows readers to understand why federal authorities never mentioned organized crime in the months and months of scandal goings-on, why Battista and Martino were never charged with extortion…and why federal officials with direct knowledge of the scandal cases discredit much of what Donaghy claims following his stint in prison.  These officials, of course, have already experienced first-hand Donaghy’s repeated efforts to minimize his culpability and to exaggerate his cooperation with the government.

I should note in closing that it is quite possible that neither Tim Donaghy nor Tommy Martino has read Gaming the Game (as each man claims), because their comments to date about its contents are wildly misinformed.  Especially off the mark are their assertions that the book relies largely on the words of Jimmy Battista.  Nothing could be further from the truth, as noted by several reviewers.  For example, it has been said that Gaming the Game is not a sympathetic portrait of Battista (see, e.g., here), and the book has been praised for its “exhaustive"/"impeccable" research (see, e.g., here, here, or here).  This critical acclaim is very much appreciated and is the result of two-plus years of study which included dozens of interviews of relevant persons such as local and federal law enforcement officials (investigators and prosecutors), defense attorneys, professional gamblers (and their “employees”), journalists, and scholars.  More importantly, especially with regard to the NBA betting scandal, Gaming the Game – like the rest of my published research - relies upon a wealth of confidential law enforcement files, court documents, and news articles (betting line data and electronic betting records were also obtained and analyzed).

[As mentioned above, I'll have likely have more to say about Tim Donaghy's recent comments and activities in the near future as time becomes available.]

Why I never attempted interviewing Tim Donaghy


“Why didn’t you try to interview Tim Donaghy?”  

I have been asked this (perfectly fair) question many times in the past month or so while discussing my new book which features a detailed examination of the 2003-07 NBA betting scandal, and will humor answering it more fully here for others to reference.

As I explain in Gaming the Game, at the onset of the research in March 2008, I planned to attempt interviewing the former NBA referee.  In time, however, I discovered how many demonstrably false claims Donaghy has made, and decided against trying to contact him.    

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary offers the following definitions of “lie”:
1a. an assertion of something known or believed by the speaker to be untrue with intent to deceive;
1b. an untrue or inaccurate statement that may or may not be believed true by the speaker;
2. something that misleads or deceives
You’ll easily note that the key distinction between “1a” and the other definitions of “lie” concerns the mindset of the speaker.  Using the lesser standards (i.e., “1b” and “2”), Tim Donaghy is without doubt a pathological liar. 

The stricter standard (“1a”) requires us to determine whether Donaghy believes all of the falsehoods he has repeatedly stated and whether he intends to deceive.  When researching the scandal, I – like the federal authorities who investigated his claims – saw little value in taking the time to assess his state of mind and merely cared if his assertions were valid and supported by the evidence.  Some may recall what the lead prosecutor told the court about Donaghy’s myriad claims (that consumed the resources of the FBI at who knows what taxpayer expense, incidentally):
“…we’ve never taken the position that Mr. Donaghy has lied to us.  But, there is a difference between telling the truth and believing you’re telling the truth and finding out later that a number of allegations don’t hold any water” (emphasis added).
Of course, there are still many Donaghy whoppers made after his release from prison (when he began straying even further from the facts, most likely to sell books and/or excuse his prior behavior) that Donaghy certainly knows are not true, led perhaps by his repeated statements that his longtime “true friend” Tommy Martino was/is a member of organized crime (see below and elsewhere).  As to whether Donaghy believes the numerous other factually-untrue statements uttered and/or penned by him, here is my brief analysis of the matter.

As I explained to an online publication recently about not trying to interview Donaghy for Gaming the Game, “Importantly, by the time Donaghy was released from prison in late 2009 and ostensibly available for an interview, I was deep into the project and knew there were significant flaws in what he had told federal authorities.  Of course, I had also interviewed those persons who investigated and prosecuted him, including one federal official who, since the earliest days of dealing with Donaghy, considered the former NBA referee to be ‘deranged’ and someone who ‘believes the world is against him.’  Another federal official called Donaghy ‘a fucking loose cannon.’”  These are in addition to other interview subjects who have known Donaghy over the years who expressed similar sentiments.  As such, I suppose it is conceivable that Tim Donaghy actually believes some of the things he says which are nevertheless downright silly when measured against the evidence.  Regardless of his mindset and motivations, Tim Donaghy is a dubious source to be sure.  Here is some more related commentary for interested parties…

Gaming the Game readers will note that for the most part I do not get into the more personal aspects of the NBA betting scandal co-conspirators’ lives.  What little material that appears in the book in this regard is offered only to explain the sociology of the conspiracy and to understand how these personal matters impacted the decision-making of various parties during the conspiracy and throughout the criminal justice process.  Regarding the former concern, for instance, their backgrounds and relationships mattered in the context of addressing whether this was a mob-orchestrated extortion scheme, as Donaghy claims, or rather if it was simply a matter of longtime and mutual pals getting together to make easy money, as Martino and Battista insist.  With respect to the latter concern, personal issues impacted all sorts of things:
(a)    during the conspiracy (e.g., What accounted for Battista living temporarily in Martino’s home, which ultimately greased the wheels for the conspiracy with Donaghy?  Was Donaghy, as he claims, a mob extortion victim in fear of his life from “Gambino crime family members” Tommy Martino and Jimmy Battista or instead, as fellow cooperating witness Martino expressed to the FBI, was Donaghy partying it up – complete with drug use and prostitutes obtained from an online service - with his longtime buddy Tommy when they met for payments during the scandal - and pleading with Martino to keep the scheme going when Donaghy was informed by Martino that it was being shut down?); and
(b)    during the criminal justice proceedings (e.g., Why didn’t federal authorities buy Donaghy’s story about not fixing games and instead fight with him, insisting he admit he may have at the least subconsciously altered games before agreeing to sign off on a plea deal with him?  What off-the-court actions almost cost Donaghy his job as an NBA referee in 2005, and how might these and other related behavioral issues have impacted a jury trial with him as the lead witness - and with his testimony as the key evidence - in the scandal cases?)

Casual NBA betting scandal followers, especially those located outside the Philadelphia area, may be unaware of Tim Donaghy’s troubling reputation among those who knew him throughout his life.  For example, in July 2008 as Donaghy awaited sentencing (i.e., at a time when most criminal defendants can expect others who know them to say things like, “I can’t believe what he admitted to/has been convicted of doing; that seems so unlike him” or “He’s such a great person” or “I feel so bad for him” and the like), Donaghy’s hometown newspaper wrote:
“every teammate, classmate, or associate contacted…by the [Delco] Daily Times either chose not to comment on Donaghy or didn’t return phone calls…While there are those empathetic to Donaghy and his gambling-related plight, many others consider his a karmic downfall.”1 
National writers have heard similar assessments of Donaghy, including Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski, who wrote:
“several sources described him as fairly unpopular with his peers, past and present…From his Philly basketball roots to his peers in the NBA, Donaghy isn’t described with much affection.”
Now that my findings have been published (in the book and elsewhere; see, e.g., my blogs here and here), Donaghy has engaged in behavior patterns that have characterized much of his adult life.  For example, when a prominent and well-regarded sports journalist recently pointed his readers and viewers to my work and offered his praise for my carefully-documented research, Tim Donaghy publicly smeared the commentator as “a nasty drunk” who “had a major problem with the booze” and who was “fired” from a newspaper career (as is standard Donaghy fare by now, all of these assertions are of course without a hint of supporting evidence).  

Similarly, when two of Philadelphia’s most highly-regarded sports journalists appeared with me on a popular area television sports program to discuss Gaming the Game, Donaghy was true to form with his response.  Stan Hochman is a legendary, award-winning sportswriter who has, among other things, written for the Philadelphia Daily News since 1959, and who has been inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.  Hochman reviewed Gaming the Game for the Daily News, in part stating that the book is not a sympathetic portrait of Jimmy Battista, that it is “intriguing,” and that it “offers a fascinating look into the Donaghy scandal.”2  Dick Jerardi is also an award-winning sportswriter for the Daily News, who has been described as “one of the leading basketball reporters in the country” (in fact, he formerly served as president of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association).  Interestingly, Jerardi penned a lengthy (and I think most would say “positive”) piece on Donaghy’s father, Gerry, an admired and respected former NCAA referee, during the newspaper's comprehensive NBA betting scandal coverage.  Like Hochman, Jerardi was very familiar with my two-plus years of research, and thus he appeared on the program to discuss the book.  Despite the seriousness with which the material was treated by each panelist, Donaghy – as is his nature – publicly said, without ever seeing or hearing the program – and still without having read the book and without reviewing its considerable documentation, “They are all full of shit.”

I am also aware of Donaghy phoning others with whom he disagrees and harassing them, especially if they have publicly discussed (or have otherwise been involved with) my research.

Tim Donaghy’s recent statements and actions perfectly confirm what informed persons described to me during the project, and they validate my decision not to attempt interviewing him.  He is a source lacking credibility…and a lot more.

1. Anthony J. SanFilippo, “Donaghy’s downfall leaves many scars,” Delco Times, July 6, 2008 (not available online).
2. Other published reviews have similarly stated that Gaming the Game is not particularly kind to former pro gambler Jimmy Battista, and have praised the book for its “exhaustive"/"impeccable" research.  For reviews of Gaming the Game, please see here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Las Vegas Review-Journal review of Gaming the Game


The latest review of Gaming the Game: The Story Behind the NBA Betting Scandal and the Gambler Who Made It Happen (Barricade, 2011) was penned by John L. Smith and appears today in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

For previous reviews of Gaming the Game, please see here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gaming the Game on PCN's "PA Books"

Some may recall that of the dozens of media interviews I entertained for Black Brothers, Inc., by far my favorite was the one conducted by the Pennsylvania Cable Network's Brian Lockman for their popular "PA Books" program.  You can thus imagine my delight when I was invited to appear on the program with him to discuss Gaming the Game: The Story Behind the NBA Betting Scandal and the Gambler Who Made It Happen (Barricade, 2011).

The 1-hour interview airs for the first time on Sunday, May 1st at 9pm.  The program may also be viewed via live streaming video at www.pcntv.com, and will be posted as a podcast on the website for one week (beginning the Monday after the initial airing).  The wide-ranging interview discusses everything from the NBA betting scandal (including the credibility of former referee Tim Donaghy) to the underworld of big-time sports gambling to the ongoing debate about the legalization of sports wagering.

UPDATE: The segment is available online here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Gaming the Game Q & A at Covers.com

The latest interview regarding Gaming the Game was published yesterday on Covers.com, a popular and influential web site covering sports and related betting information and analysis.  **Please know that when I get the time, I will be posting a commentary about what was edited out of the piece, and how such editorial decisions have adversely affected the public's understanding of the NBA betting scandal until now.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gaming the Game on Don Best TV

As I explain in great detail intermittently throughout Gaming the Game (also see my post here), pro gamblers rely heavily upon the Don Best service for real-time betting line movements.  Thus, it is fitting that I was interviewed about the book (and about my assessments of former NBA referee Tim Donaghy's claims) on "Don Best TV".  Here is Part I (of two):


Here is Part II of the interview:


You can also find the interview posted in two parts here: Part I and Part II.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Gaming the Game on 610 WIP (Philadelphia)

I taped an interview with Steve Trevelise for broadcast during his show tonight (technically for early Saturday morning [4/2/11], 1:00am - 5:00am) on Philly's 610 WIP.  The segment will be re-aired during his show early Sunday (4/3/11) morning, between 2:00am and 6:00am.  As I explained to Steve during the interview, a large percentage of the writing for Gaming the Game took place with him or his fellow early morning WIP host Big Daddy Graham on in the background.

Gaming the Game discussed on ESPN 710 (L.A.)

I appeared briefly (notwithstanding cell phone issues!) with Max Kellerman and Marcellus Wiley today to discuss Gaming the Game.  The "Max and Marcellus Show" airs on ESPN 710 (Los Angeles).  Podcasts of their shows can be found here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gaming the Game on The Lion Roars throughout April 2011

Each Thursday night in April at 7:00pm, Philadelphia-area Comcast subscribers will be able to watch a 30-minute interview conducted by Dr. Moylan C. Mills, Professor Emeritus of Integrative Arts at Penn State.  The segment largely focuses on Gaming the Game, with a few comments about my work more generally, including Black Brothers, Inc.  The program, The Lion Roars, airs on Comcast Cable Channel 190.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Next Gaming the Game talks/signings

There will be several of these engagements in the coming weeks, spread throughout the Greater Philadelphia region.  These events have been entertaining thus far, and I very much enjoy the Q & A session and hearing the thoughts of others regarding the big-time sports betting world and, especially, about various aspects of the NBA betting scandal.   

Particulars for the next two Gaming the Game events are as follows (books will be available for sale/signing, of course):

Thursday, April 7, 2011 from 7-9p at SmokeEaters Pub, 7681 Frankford Ave., Philadelphia, PA, 19136 (Frankford and Sheffield), (215) 338-4188.

Thursday, April 14, 2011 from 7-9p at Liberties Restaurant and Bar, 705 N 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19123 (2nd and Fairmount), (215) 238-0660.

Gaming the Game event on Monday, March 28, 2011

There are numerous things in the works regarding Gaming the Game (book events, signings, press coverage, etc.).  I still need to post some media coverage from the past few weeks when I get the time (I am in the teeth of an academic semester right now).  Until then, interested parties may wish to know that I'll be appearing at the Chester County Book & Music Company on Monday, March 28th at 4pm, where I'll sign books and entertain questions.  CCBMC has requested that attendees RSVP.
I will also be there earlier taping an interview for broadcast on Brandywine Radio.  The segment, which will be hosted by local author (among other endeavors/titles) Bruce Mowday, is set for broadcast at 5pm on Friday, April 22, 2011.
Here is a related story in the Delaware County Daily Times.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Author profile in Philadelphia Magazine

In the context of the recently-released Gaming the Game, there is a brief profile of me in the April 2011 issue of Philadelphia Magazine.  [Note: If  you read the piece, please know that the establishment being referenced was formerly a nondescript chain restaurant back when I held court with interview subjects.]

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Latest Gaming the Game press

As I noted earlier, there is much more that I need to post.  For now, here is some recent coverage of the new book on pro gambling and the NBA betting scandal:

My appearance with Chad Doing on The Morning Sports Page (95.5 The Game; Portland, OR) on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 is now available online.

Here is a related commentary to the above appearance by Dwight Jaynes on Comcast SportsNet Northwest.

Friday, March 18, 2011

NBA Betting Scandal on YouTube

In response to several complaints about the format of this blog vis-a-vis the viewing and sharing of the audio/vid clips I have compiled of Tim Donaghy's media appearances, I have created an "NBA Betting Scandal" YouTube Channel that will house these and similar "videos".  Thus, the assessments posted on this blog regarding Donaghy's media appearances (see here, here, and here) now relate to clips that can be shared and viewed more easily.  Thanks to those who pointed this issue out to me.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Gaming the Game on Facebook

I still don't get the allure of social networks, but at the urging of many, Gaming the Game now has its own Facebook page.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Comcast SportsNet appearance tonight at 5:45p

For those in the Greater Philadelphia area (or who otherwise have access to the network), I will be on Comcast SportsNet's "Daily News Live" program discussing Gaming the Game tonight at 5:45p.  The panel, hosted by CSN's Michael Barkann, includes Stan Hochman and Dick Jerardi of the Daily News
UPDATE: HERE IS THE SEGMENT:
  video

Sunday, February 20, 2011

NBA Commissioner David Stern's comments re: Gaming the Game

In case you missed it, NBA Commissioner David Stern was asked to comment on Gaming the Game yesterday during the league's All-Star weekend festivities in L.A., which elicited the following reply:
I have not read the new book or seen it yet, although I'm happy with each All Star Weekend or Finals to present an opportunity for a convicted felon to issue yet another tome on his misdeeds.

So we'll see if there's anything new suggested, Mr. Pedowitz will be asked to continue to review it as we have with each one that has been published, because we want to make sure that we get to the bottom of it all.

But right now, I don't have any more information other than I know you always confirm your sources; so I commend you to confirming the convicted felon's sources.
Of course, we have no idea what question was posed to Commissioner Stern which resulted in the above reply [see below for 2/24/11 update].  As I have taken pains to point out explicitly in Gaming the Game, and others have already been quick to note (see, e.g., here), my new book would have been completed in the Spring of 2008 if the research simply entailed interviewing pro gambler Jimmy Battista (as my wife and kids will attest!).  Thus, I am glad Stern at least noted that he had not seen the book, because anyone who reads GTG will easily understand this project absolutely consumed me for almost 3 years such that little of the book rests solely on Battista's words.

Readers may wish to know that although Larry Pedowitz was gracious enough to humor my inquiries, the NBA and the National Basketball Referees Association (NBRA) each refused to entertain my correspondence on several occasions.  Given the correspondence and how much I was doing in this area of inquiry, it is difficult for me to believe the Commissioner didn't at least have a rough idea of what I had discovered in the course of interviewing federal law enforcement officials, pro gamblers (beyond Battista) and others, in addition to reviewing confidential FBI files, court documents, betting records and other objective betting data.

2/24/11 UPDATE: Thanks to Silver Screen and Roll (an L.A. Lakers blog hosted by SB Nation), we have the question that was posed to Commissioner Stern about Gaming the Game
I don't know if you've seen this new book about the Donaghy scandal, but having read it myself, three of the four conspirators have said something on the record to somebody, and they are unanimous - the fourth, by the way, is Donaghy himself - and they are unanimous that he was really good at winning bets on games he officiated, really bad at winning bets on any other games, and he was gambling on games since 2003 until he left the league and the report that he looked at 16 games. How confident can we be that there are not fixed games in the NBA?
This was a pretty good question, and Stern's reply is thus more curious than I had first thought. 

Gaming the Game reviews

The first reviews for Gaming the Game: The Story Behind the NBA Betting Scandal and the Gambler Who Made It Happen (Barricade, 2011) are each available online.






GTG Review by Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame member Stan Hochman of the Philadelphia Daily News







GTG Review by Henry Abbott of ESPN.com's True Hoop


GTG Review by M. Haubs of ESPN.com's The Painted Area 







GTG Review by Jack McCaffery of the Delaware County Daily Times [also for The Daily Local (Chester, PA)]









GTG Review by the gambling web site Bettors World 


GTG Review by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff of the Blogger News Network






GTG Review by John L. Smith of the Las Vegas Review-Journal







GTG Review by Ted Sevransky of Covers.com






GTG Review by Allen Moody of About.com 

Gaming the Game in the news






The Philadelphia Daily News ran two excerpts this past week from Gaming the Game:

GTG excerpt 1

GTG excerpt 2


My brief appearance on Fox 29's Good Day Philadelphia program on Friday:


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gaming the Game book events this week

The first two book events for Gaming the Game are this coming week.  The particulars for each event are posted here.  I look forward to speaking  - and, especially, entertaining questions - about the underworld of big-time sports gambling and, of course, about the 2003-07 NBA betting scandal. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A comment on my forthcoming posting re: Gaming the Game coverage

As a rule, I post as much newsworthy commentary and analysis of the NBA betting scandal as possible, regardless of my opinion of what is written.  That will not change with whatever coverage relates to Gaming the Game, and I welcome suggestions for information to be posted on this blog.

Gaming the Game released on February 17, 2011

For reasons that are unclear, the information regarding the release of Gaming the Game: The Story Behind the NBA Betting Scandal and the Gambler Who Made It Happen (Barricade) is inaccurate (e.g., Amazon.com says the pub date is April 15, 2011).  The book was shipped weeks ago and, though I realize the distribution chain is notoriously slow, books should be widely available shortly.  I know that certain Philadelphia-area stores like Robin's Bookstore in Center City got stock of Gaming the Game a while ago, though they were only permitted to begin sales today.

On Donaghy's media appearances (part two)

As can be sensed by now, a review of his appearances discloses the same phenomenon in re: Donaghy simply repeating canned replies on a fairly small universe of topics (a tidy summary is here [see paragraph two]).  You can plainly hear and see that he was an absolute machine in getting his message out - and that he benefited greatly from a mix of hosts who, at a minimum, ignored the public record (which had also been widely reported contemporaneous with key events).  I'll have more on this latter point soon, but until then I thought I'd highlight a brilliant public relations strategy Donaghy (and/or his handlers at the time) employed.

You see, it wasn't simply that Donaghy was remarkably robotic and on-message (he'd be any political campaign manager's dream candidate in that regard), it was also the patterning of the questions which allowed him to weave a storyline that commonly ended with hosts and "interviewers" expressing sympathy and well wishes.  Often, Donaghy's appearances looked or sounded something like this (paraphrasing his statements in my "quotes" below):

* As evidence he didn't fix games on which he bet, Donaghy would say, "I did not fix games by making incorrect calls to influence outcomes to facilitate my bets.  If I was doing that, I'd be throwing up red flags all over the place and I would have been detected even sooner than I was."
* In response to the predictable (if not explicitly scripted) question, "Why should we believe you?", Donaghy would typically reply, "Because the FBI conducted a thorough investigation, as did the NBA, and they concluded I did not make any calls to influence these bets."
* If the above wasn't sufficient enough to establish Donaghy's credibility, he often said something like, "The FBI supports the book" or "The FBI stands behind the book".
* On the (extremely rare) occasion a host pointed to ESPN's TrueHoop host Henry Abbott's research (see, e.g., here, here, here, and here) which quite seriously called into question several of Donaghy's assertions (and which, until now, was the most comprehensive critique of Donaghy's overall situation), Donaghy would attempt to discredit Abbott's work by arguing it was a biased result of research done on behalf of the NBA because the league has a significant business relationship with ESPN.  [I must admit I have never understood Donaghy's argument in this regard, since Abbott was among the most substantive and equally damning when it came to the issue of whether Donaghy had ever been cleared by the FBI or the NBA in re: fixing games, and indeed had posted interviews (see, e.g., here and here) with pro gambler Haralabob Voulgaris, who openly stated he firmly believed Donaghy fixed games.  Thus, to me Donaghy makes little sense when he says ESPN is out to get him on behalf of the NBA.  After all, the NBA almost certainly has no interest in someone - much less the influential sports network - promoting the idea that Donaghy may very well have fixed games - especially after the league conducted its own "study", the one Donaghy loves to cite so much as clearing him of fixing games!]

With Donaghy's confessed and alleged criminal activity out of the way (often in brusque fashion), typically complete with his credibility intact, the "interviews" moved onto topics or themes that painted Donaghy as both victim and hero.

* Donaghy commonly got into his rant about the NBA's alleged culture (of biases and corruption) of which he was, in his view, a bit part.  In short order, the Donaghy appearance would thus move from his actions to those of others (referees, league officials, etc).  Importantly, it was often at this point of Donaghy's appearances that he shrewdly employed two time-tested public relations strategies within a sentence or two:
1) Donaghy would ingratiate himself with his audience by saying how "smart" or "knowledgeable" they were (ala politicians who so often say, "The American people are smart..."), including taking the time and effort to make it personal by naming the market/town/city in which he was appearing (i.e., "The NBA fans, especially in a city like Dallas, are very, very knowledgeable..."); and
2) Donaghy would use a speaking tactic that exploits a cognitive phenomenon known as "confirmation bias" by saying something like, "Ask the fans if I was a lone, rogue referee because they know they have seen a lot of unusual things over the past ten or fifteen years" (alluding to pre-existing and well-known conspiracy theories which argue the league conspires, by various means, to feature certain players and/or teams and certain playoff/championship matchups, all with the league's financial coffers in mind).  [Note: Confirmation bias is defined as "a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions" - often at the expense of evidence, however valid and substantial, that does not support one's preconceptions.]

The takeaway is therefore that rather than being treated as a common criminal who simply and shrewdly defrauded his former employer for his own personal gain, Donaghy is to be heralded as a whistle-blower exposing corrupt practices within - and institutionalized by - his former organization.

Donaghy's appearances almost always ended with a combination of discussions that had the collective effect of painting Donaghy as a sympathetic figure who was fighting multiple battles.  For example, the following themes were commonly explored as his "interviews" concluded.

* Donaghy claimed he was beaten in prison by "someone claiming he was associated with the New York mob," which was likely because he was a "cooperator for the government".  Related to this...
* Donaghy claimed he is now frequently "in contact with the FBI, who say they have people within these organizations and if they hear anything they'll let me know..." (implying that Donaghy has something to fear from organized criminals).  Please revisit my comments in part one of this review and elsewhere about Donaghy's "mob" claims.
* Donaghy claimed he bet on NBA games not because of greed or a want for money but rather because of the addictive rush of gambling.  Indeed, so great was his addiction that not only cost him his job and his freedom, it cost him his marriage.  For the purposes of this analysis, readers must take Donaghy at his word that it was his gambling addiction and not his other alleged behaviors (including those discussed in Gaming the Game and elsewhere [also see, especially, here]) that caused his wife to seek a divorce.
* Donaghy commonly said, as with numerous Donaghy assertions without a shred of supporting evidence, the NBA was trying to suppress him from telling his story - including intimidating his first publisher and attempting to influence CBS in re: Donaghy's appearance on the network's 60 Minutes program.

In sum, Donaghy says he was a guy who was: fighting the mob, fighting the NBA, fighting ESPN, and fighting his addiction.  Far from a more simple tale of manipulation, deceit, avarice and malevolence, this was instead an inspiring story of victimhood, addiction, recovery, and redemption.  As such, Donaghy says he wrote his book - and will continue to do related appearances  - because "friends, family, and even law enforcement officials" have told him he has an "important message" to spread.

With this unbelievably predictable template in mind, combined with the requisite unprepared hosts, you can see how Donaghy's appearances so frequently ended like this (and why I stopped treating them as newsworthy long ago):
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On Tim Donaghy's media appearances (part one)

Anyone who has remotely followed this blog will recall that I stopped some time ago posting information regarding former referee Tim Donaghy's media appearances.  As I explained in less detail previously, I wrongly assumed two key and related things when Donaghy began his book tour in late 2009: 1) that Donaghy would be interviewed, complete with original, informed questions and references to the existing public record (i.e., court filings, plea agreements, public utterances of relevant authorities), and with follow-up questions; and 2) that Donaghy's appearances would be newsworthy.

What I soon discovered after listening to dozens of his "interviews" was that these were essentially scripted appearances.  That is, the questions asked of Donaghy were almost always the same, and were commonly asked in the same pattern/order.  If this wasn't problematic enough for anyone (naively!) assuming this weighty subject matter would be treated seriously, Donaghy's answers were arguably more rehearsed.  Thus, instead of bona fide interviews, these were more akin to canned political stump speeches.  [As an aside, his ability to remain, as they say in politics, "on message" is remarkable.  Perhaps it isn't entirely coincidental that his publisher was political consultant Shawna Vercher.]

To provide a sense of what I am describing, and thus to to help explain why I ceased covering his appearances, I have put together some montages of Donaghy's replies during the "interviews".  Please note that at some point this process got way too tedious and I thus stopped compiling the clips (you'll see why, I am sure).  As such, the fact that some montages may have more uses of a phrase than others does not represent the relative use of the phrases (i.e., if I offer a clip using 5 instances of a phrase, this should not be interpreted to mean the phrase was used less frequently than a phrase I illustrate being used, say, 15 times in another montage).  Just know that I could have done this in even more detail with still more examples if I wanted to take the time, and that this goes for the number of phrases chosen and for the number of instances certain phrases are used by Donaghy.  Most of the audio files from which these were taken remain online, and many of the links can be found elsewhere on this blog (see, especially, posts from December 2009).

Please be sure to see below the clips for a summary of these and a brief analysis of Donaghy's appearances.

As I have posted elsewhere, Donaghy has often said he did not make "incorrect" or "unjustifiable" calls to facilitate his bets.  In the course of answering questions about the possible fixing of games, Donaghy has also routinely used some variation of the following paraphrased statement (Donaghy mainstays in BOLDED CAPS):

"If I was making incorrect calls in a game to facilitate a bet, I would have been throwing up RED FLAGS and I would have been DETECTED BY THE NBA AND BY THE FBI/LAW ENFORCEMENT even SOONER than I was."
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If (for some reason I can't fathom!) you'd like to see some of Donaghy's "red flag" quotes, for starters you can find them within his published interviews here, here, and here

Here is a smaller sampling (9 references, versus the 17 instances contained immediately above in "Red Flags") of Donaghy routinely using some variation of the following paraphrased statement (Donaghy mainstays in BOLDED CAPS):

"The FBI conducted a THOROUGH INVESTIGATION, as did the NBA, and they each CONCLUDED I wasn't making calls in games to facilitate/influence bets."  [Please note that for the sake of this review, viewers/listeners will have to ignore that, in fact, neither the FBI nor the NBA ever "concluded" that Donaghy didn't influence game outcomes.  I delve into this area in great detail in Gaming the Game.]
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If you're so inclined, almost identical "FBI/NBA/thorough investigation" quotes can be found published here, here, here, and here, for starters.

You can easily perform the task of finding published examples of the phrases from each of the remaining audio clips as I have done, even though I have opted to cease taking the time to post them.

Here is a very brief sampling of Donaghy routinely using some variation of the following paraphrased statement (Donaghy mainstays in BOLDED CAPS):

"The FBI STANDS BEHIND EVERYTHING IN/ STANDS BEHIND EVERY STORY IN/FULLY SUPPORTS THE BOOK."  [Please note that for the sake of this review, viewers/listeners will have to ignore that, in fact, "The FBI" doesn't review books penned by ex-cons, much less offer the Bureau's official endorsement or support for them!  Indeed, federal officials with direct knowledge of the investigation and prosecution disagree considerably with much of what Donaghy claims.  Perhaps most importantly, in light of Donaghy's comments, also note that although retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Phil Scala wrote the foreword of Donaghy's book, SSA Scala takes exception to certain key Donaghy assertions.]
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Here is another very brief sampling, this time of Donaghy routinely using some variation of the following paraphrased statement (Donaghy mainstays in BOLDED CAPS):

"ESPN HAS AN AGENDA to DISCREDIT ME because of ESPN's RELATIONSHIP WITH THE NBA."
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Here is a slightly more lengthy sampling of Donaghy routinely using some variation of the following paraphrased statement (Donaghy mainstays in BOLDED CAPS):

"Was I a rogue referee?  NBA FANS [especially in (insert audience market here)] ARE VERY KNOWLEDGEABLE and THEY HAVE SEEN A LOT OF UNUSUAL THINGS OVER THE PAST 10/15 YEARS."
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Here is a lengthy sampling of Donaghy routinely using some variation of the following paraphrased statement (Donaghy mainstays in BOLDED CAPS):

"I was HIT/WHACKED IN THE KNEE WITH A paint-rolling STICK BY SOMEONE WHO CLAIMED HE HAD TIES TO/WAS ASSOCIATED WITH THE NEW YORK MOB because IT WAS WELL KNOWN/WIDELY PUBLICIZED THAT I COOPERATED WITH THE GOVERNMENT and THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE IN PRISON BECAUSE SOMEONE/OTHERS COOPERATED AGAINST THEM."  [Please note that for the sake of this review, viewers/listeners will have to ignore that, in fact, that there is no evidence whatsoever Donaghy was assaulted in prison by an associate or member of organized crime.]
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Here is a fairly lengthy sampling of routinely using some variation of the following paraphrased statement (Donaghy mainstays in BOLDED CAPS):

"I am/stay IN CONTACT WITH THE FBI and THEY ASSURE ME THAT THEY HAVE PEOPLE WITHIN THESE (crime) ORGANIZATIONS and that IF THEY HEAR ANYTHING (of concern) THEY'LL GET TO ME/LET ME KNOW RIGHT AWAY."
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Here is very brief sampling of Donaghy routinely using some variation of the following paraphrased statement (Donaghy mainstays in BOLDED CAPS):

"I was ENCOURAGED TO WRITE THE BOOK by FAMILY, FRIENDS, and even LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS, because the story has an important message."
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NOTE: Please see the conclusion to my assessment here.