Winter is reluctantly releasing its grip and the NBA playoffs are right around the corner. That can mean only one thing – another book about the Tim Donaghy/NBA referee scandal is out.
The new tome is called Gaming the Game, and subtitled The Story Behind the NBA Betting Scandal and the Gambler Who Made it Happen.
Written by Penn State Abington professor Sean Patrick Griffin, it is 50 percent a biography of professional gambler Jimmy Battista and 50 percent indictment of Donaghy and the former ref’s denial that he fixed NBA games that he officiated.
Obviously, timed to coincide with the end of the NBA regular season and start of the playoffs, it will no doubt ignite another round of he-said, she-said about whether Donaghy actually used his whistle to affect the outcome of games that he worked in the mid-2000s.
At this point most bettors and fans have pretty much made up their minds on whether NBA games were/are fixed, as well as what exactly constitutes fixing a game. But the book does give a detailed look – from the viewpoint of Battista, anyway – at the origins of the scandal and how three people from the same high school in the Philadelphia area were able to shake down millions of dollars from international gambling houses and wound up all going to prison because of it.
Griffin, who surprisingly did not respond to requests through his publisher for an interview and did not answer questions emailed to him, comes down hard on the side of Battista, and the allegations against Donaghy are serious. Here are some, but not all:
1. Donaghy was a racist who was jealous that black players were making huge money and he wasn’t.
2. Donaghy often talked of killing his wife.
3. Donaghy, it was widely believed in the betting community, was fixing NBA games that he worked.
Curiously, Griffin says that Donaghy was not interviewed for the book because the former ref lacked credibility, and Donaghy this week returned fire:
“I don't plan on reading this sensationalistic and fictional portrayal of the past events,” said Donaghy, who has read media reports about the book. “There is a place on bookshelves for fiction, and books describing situations where the author's actions were clouded by sustained drug use fall under that category.”
Battista, who placed large NBA bets based on Donaghy’s advice, indeed did his share of drugs and has spent a lot of time rehabbing. A good part of the book is spent recounting how much of Battista’s life was consumed by obtaining and taking drugs, and how drugs ultimately destroyed the good life that he had created for himself and his family.
For the record, Donaghy denies that he is a racist, denies that he ever talked about killing his wife (“Kill the mother of my four daughters? Please”) and, in response to a section of the book that implies (but does not come right and say) that Donaghy fixed games, has this to say to Covers.com:
“My version of what happened, as described in my book (Personal Foul), continues to this day to receive the endorsement of the FBI, and I stand by its content as the truth. The NBA . . . concluded their investigation into my behavior to their own satisfaction. Case closed.”
Griffin, through Battista and backed up by what the author says is corroborating evidence gleaned via the Freedom of Information Act, paints a different story. While Donaghy claims that his ability to pick winners against the spread of NBA games was the result of inside information available only to referees, Battista implies otherwise: Donaghy had a better than 75 percent success rate o