So I think it’s pretty obvious to most fans who the most powerful man in sports is, but just in case it’s not, let me make yet another case for a vertically-challenged Jewish lawyer who works in New York.
His name is David Stern, and he’s the commissioner of the NBA.
David Stern could’ve made Mother Teresa attack someone with a knife. He could’ve gotten Noah to bring the animals on to the Ark one at a time. He could have convinced Thomas Edison: “You know what? People like it dark.”
Stern can do absolutely anything he wants, I am completely certain. His fingerprints are on every decision made by any commissioner in the last 25 years.
And in the last few weeks, Stern decided that there was no way in HIS green earth that disgraced referee Tim Donaghy was going to publish a book further tarnishing his officials’ integrity.
You remember Donaghy: He was the guy who was caught gambling on NBA games, and making calls that affected the point spread in games he bet on and was refereeing. He was disgraced, and he said he wasn’t working alone, and yet, after initial outrage (especially from Sacramento and Phoenix fans, who could finally say “A-HA, I knew we got screwed in the playoffs”) the tumult died down. No more refs were implicated, the fans moved on, and King Stern had his league back to normal.
Only now, Donaghy has written a book. And man, does he spill the beans. In excerpts published on the popular sports blog Deadspin, Donaghy dishes all sorts of explosive details. He talks about he and his fellow striped shirts making wagers on who can go the longest without calling a foul. He talks about noted homer referee Dick Bavetta intentionally trying to let the Lakers win Game 6 of the 2002 NBA Western Finals, and about how Steve Javie had a personal vendetta against Allen Iverson.
Could Donaghy be making all this up? Perhaps. But read that excerpt; this is a guy who has a ton of details in there, details that would be hard to make up.
This book was going to make huge waves in the media and with fans, and David Stern couldn’t have that. And so, curiously, Random House has decided not to publish the book after all.
The NBA says it never threatened a lawsuit. And sure, it’s possible that Random House, after reviewing the final draft, full of uncorroborated accusations, veiled threats, and other possibly-litigious material, decided on its own to yank the book.
But I’m not buying it. This is David Stern’s work. Of course I have no proof, but I have little doubt he and the league brought pressure to bear.
He’s just that powerful.
**Covered a high school volleyball game Thursday night. I really enjoy covering the sport, mostly. The points are fast and exciting, the players are the happiest athletes during their competition I’ve ever seen, and there’s great athleticism on display.
But man, the shrieking. The players shriek. The fans shriek. Everyone seems to shriek at a volleyball match. Admission should come with two Advil.
***ESPN is now 3-for-4 in my book in its “30 for 30” documentary series, scoring another great one this week with “Muhammad and Larry,” a film about the 1980 Larry Holmes-Muhammad Ali fight. This was the fight that never should have happened, as a way past his prime Ali was just pulverized by the heavyweight champ, Holmes. Great behind the scenes footage from before the fight, and some great interviews from the present day with Holmes and Ali’s friends.
It’s on again Sunday, I think, at 3 p.m. on ESPN.
**Finally, a few thoughts on Thursday night’s World Series game, won by the Yankees (whoo-hoo!)
1. I’ll tell you what one circle of Hell is: Driving home in the car, the only radio broadcast of the game I could pick up was the WCBS 880 feed from New York, with John Sterling doing the play by play. Absolutely the worst announcer of any sport working today; even lots of Yankees fans don’t like him. He’s so pompous he makes James Lipton look humble, he constantly gets his facts wrong, and often blatantly misrepresents the action.
2. Why did FOX hire Ozzie Guillen to be a commentator? The man is pretty unintelligible.
3. It was fun booing Pedro Martinez one more time. As much as I hated the guy throughout his career, I think he’s the best pitcher of my lifetime. Better than Clemens. Better than Maddux.
Well, since I was talking about James Lipton earlier, I stumbled upon a few minutes of genius here, as the great Kevin Spacey perfectly impersonates some fantastic acting voices: