I don’t know much about Tim Donaghy. I don’t know how tall he is, for example. So therefore, I have no idea how big of a shadow he casts — physically. But I do know this: the shadow he casts, figuratively, is greater than one of those gargantuan space ships that were in Independence Day.
Donaghy, the ex-NBA referee in the middle of a firestorm caused by news that he’s under investigation by the Feds for betting on games and affecting their outcomes, may be just one man, but the “Lone Nut” theory doesn’t apply here.
You see, it really doesn’t matter if it turns out that Donaghy is just a poor sap who got himself involved in some gambling debts that he couldn’t take care of on his referee’s salary, thereby forcing him into a desperate route of game-fixing. It’s irrelevant if only Donaghy was crooked, and none of his officiating brothers so much as blew one inadvertent whistle. It is totally meaningless if he’s alone in this mess, because once the news broke and was confirmed, Tim Donaghy wasn’t alone. Not even close.
It’s not all that complicated. For if mobsters, no matter how “low level” they might be, can compromise an NBA referee once, then who’s to say they can’t do it again, or haven’t done it again? And, even bigger, who’s to say that any of the other professional team sports are immune to it? Donaghy isn’t a “Lone Nut,” after all. This bombshell has forever changed the way fans, media, and players look at game officials. How can it NOT?
Not that the NBA, or the other leagues, shouldn’t do all they can to ensure that this never happens again, of course. It’s not a losing battle from that perspective. Time heals, they say. If nothing like this is even sniffed about for the next several years, then maybe Tim Donaghy can indeed acquire the label of “Lone Nut” with minimal damage to the integrity of pro (and dare I say, college) sports.
The NBA, clearly, has no choice but to overreact — and I hope they do. I hope they go overboard in dealing with this, once the legalities play out and more information is gathered and authenticated. I hope Commissioner David Stern treats this as the albatross that it is — an ugly one around the necks of his league that he’s spent so much time building.
But now is not the time for overreaction — at least not by Stern and his deputies. Now is the time for patience, waiting for everything to kind of sort itself out. A league investigation is obviously in order, concurrent with the federal one of Donaghy. Rumors, of course, are swirling that Donaghy is poised to sing to the Feds like a canary, and that in that tune will be the names of other referees — and even some players. That thought is too chilling to digest right now, if ever. All the more reason to overreact when the time is right.
Now, you must understand something. The FBI doesn’t investigate things for fun. This isn’t some team building exercise for their employees. They’re nosing around because there is very credible evidence that something stinks with at least one man in the grey, blue and red shirts. And they want to know if there are others.
So it’s likely that where there’s smoke, there’s fire in the case of Tim Donaghy. And if it’s just him — if he’s just one dude who succumbed to the weight of a gambling debt owed to some unsavory folks, it may be considered good news by most. Thank goodness there was no one else involved, they’ll say.
But you kinda gotta ask yourself: How long has this been going on? And, worse, where else?
Doesn’t seem like such good news anymore, does it?