09.30.07

Stern : Don’t Blame Vescey For Jayson Blair

Posted in Basketball, Sports Journalism at 12:08 pm by

Peter Vescey’s vacation just happened to coincide with the sort of over-the-top upheaval in the NBA that you’d otherwise expect the Post’s “Hoops Du Jour” columnist to be completely on top of. Perhaps by way of over compensation, Vescey returned this Sunday, proclaiming “the NBA couldn’t have experienced a worse summer had Isiah Thomas bought the league.”

Anybody with intimate knowledge about a degenerate gambler knew this kind of sports scandal was inevitable, just as common sense dictated referees were without a doubt more susceptible to violating a sacred trust than players and coaches. Of all those with a controlling hand on the wheelhouse of wins and losses and, oh, yeah, altering or enhancing point spreads/totals, wiseguys always knew, if they’re going to get to anybody in the pros, tempting a referee or threatening to tattle on one who has something to hide is your best shot.

Moreover, nobody’s more abused and thought less of than referees, not even sports writers.

I only point that out on the exceedingly slim chance referee Tim Donaghy isn’t sick, isn’t addicted to the thrill, the action, of betting. If that’s the case, pure greed and a superiority complex may have been the determining factors for his morals rotting. Who knows, he may have felt the incessant insults his nightly chores invites entitled him to steal an extra five or 10 grand tax free to pay off mounting losses and bills, or maintain a lifestyle beyond his $200,000 annual means and indulge in decadence without his wife catching on.

Thanks to Donaghy, the league’s 60 referees will be taking immeasurable grief for seasons to come. The integrity of every single call that goes against a team will be questioned even more fanatically, just as their body of work will be scrutinized even more scrupulously and meticulously by the league office.

There isn’t enough money in circulation to pay me to walk in their shoes, and that was before this scandal. How is anyone supposed to handle such nightly pressure? The league might want to think about outfitting each ref with a bodyguard and a personal psychiatrist.

David Stern repeated to me his message of total support he communicated to the refs when he addressed them last week at their camp in Jersey City.

“Just because one of their members engaged in a criminal activity, it’s unfair to impugn the reputation of any other referee. Same as it’s unfair to impugn the reputation of other FBI agents because Richard Hanson sold secrets to Russia. Jason Blair failed to follow the ethics of his profession but, guess what, it didn’t influence me not to return your phone call. I don’t think less of you because of what Jayson Blair did.”

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