Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2007

Donaghy’s effect is worse than Vick’s

August 23, 2007


For commissioner Roger Goodell, the Sept. 6 season opener can't get here fast enough.

The NFL's new Get-Tough Commissioner travels from camp to camp to meet with teams but he hears the same questions. They are about Michael Vick.

This pathetic story isn't going to go away when Vick enters his plea in a federal court Monday. Even when Vick goes off to minimum security prison for probably about a year, the Vick story will continue to unfold and there will always be speculation as to when or if Vick should be allowed to return to the field.

But here's the good news for the NFL. Although the story of Michael Vick, a.k.a. "Ookie" according to the federal indictment, is the sickest of a very dark sports summer, it has no impact on the game itself.

The tale of gambling referee Tim Donaghy places a much broader stain on the NBA and its integrity than Vick's dogfighting habits will have on the NFL. The same goes for Barry Bonds and his record-breaking summer as we watch home runs sail out of ballparks and wonder what it all means and whether players are still doing it with illegal enhancements.

I'm not saying what Vick did is excusable in any way. Anything Bonds may or may not have taken is nothing compared to Vick's actions. We know lots of players have tested positive for steroids, and we know many more of them were doing questionable things before Major League Baseball got around to banning steroids and other supplements.

But steroids or human growth hormone or anything else baseball players have taken has a direct impact on the game itself. As a result the game's all-time home run king is vilified across the country and the record book is tainted.

It may be even worse for the NBA. There has been speculation that Donaghy is prepared to identify as many as 20 NBA referees who have been involved in gambling. And the bad news for commissioner David Stern is that it is his own rule and his own quotes that are going to come back to haunt him.

He has said that even legal casino gambling will cost officials their jobs. There will be no moral outrage from basketball fans when they hear the names of referees who have played blackjack or pulled a few slot machine handles.

Casino gambling is the new national pastime.

But Stern has drawn a line in the sand, and he must stick to it. Where he goes to find 20 competent officials ready to step right in and make critical calls in games played at NBA speed, I don't know. That's his problem.

It's not the only one he has.

Basketball has always been subject to more conspiracy theories than any other sport. Key calls that get the Los Angeles Lakers, the league's glamour team, into the Finals or the ping pong ball that magically bounced New York's way to give the Knicks Patrick Ewing have long been questioned.

With Donaghy's admission to having bet on games he was officiating, this isn't just speculation about fixed games anymore. It, apparently, really happened.

Every official that makes a questionable call - and how many are there in any NBA game? - is now subject to abusive fans and media speculation, thanks to Donaghy.

Meanwhile, Vick's actions, though reprehensible, have no effect on the game. Dogfighting didn't make him better or worse as a quarterback.

Vick's actions place a stain only on the man, not the game itself. For that, Goodell can be grateful.


TheOriginalCA 10 years, 9 months ago

IF the feds prosecute and IF the NFL disciplines Michael Vick properly, then YES, I agree with this article.

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