(Donaghy, before working for Gawker Media throwing games cost him his family and dog)
Having (barely) made the transition from rogue ref to published author, Tim Donaghy recently became David Stern’s least favorite hoops analyst with a paid gig for Deadspin critiquing the officiating taking place during this month’s NBA Finals between the Boston Sportsguy33’s and the LA Fleas. Fanhouse’s Tom Ziller, noting Donaghy’s penchant for burying his former colleagues, the Association and even ABC/ESPN broadcasters, wonder if there’s not something a tad unseemly about Deadspin providing a vehicle to a guy who’s not exactly a poster child for personal integrity.
Donaghy continues to maintain he didn’t fix games, despite having been proved a liar over and over again, and despite the evidence piling up. I understand Deadspin’s motives and justification for publishing Donaghy — felons have a right to earn and Deadspin has an irreverant, anti-establishment position in the sports media landscape.
The problem is that because Donaghy has absolutely no credibility, publishing Donaghy drowns out legitimate, reasoned criticism of the officials — something vital to the improvement of NBA officiating. It’s not exactly the crooked ref who cried wolf, but it’s close. Every time Donaghy bleats about Dick Bavetta’s supposed bias toward close games or various refs’ love affairs with Allen Iverson, it dilutes the real substance of arguments for ref reform. Haralabos Voulgaris, meanwhile, by uncovering the substance of Donaghy’s violations — which are almost assuredly discoverable but ignored by the NBA — pushes the narrative. Voulgaris is doing the work that is helpful to critics and reformers. Donaghy is doing the work that is helpful to, well, himself.
If Deadspin’s hiring of Donaghy is more stunty than substantial, to be perfectly fair, the same could be said of Fanhouse’s use of Steve Phillips. Adulterers deserve a chance to earn a living just as much as felons, but unlike Donaghy, Phillips’ struggles with an online column were previously established.