10 QUESTIONS FOR TIM DONAGHY

Ken Hoffman catches up with a disgraced NBA referee ahead of his new biopic

Photo by Roland Martinez/Getty Images

For two years during his career as an NBA referee, Tim Donaghy did more than send players to the free throw line and "T up" abrasive coaches. He and two cohorts cashed millions with Donaghy making questionable calls and betting on games that he was officiating.

On November 1, Donaghy's story comes to the big screen in Inside Game – The True Story of the NBA Betting Scandal starring Eric Mabius as Tim Donaghy, and Scott Wolf and Will Sasso as Donaghy's childhood buddies and co-conspirators Tommy Martino and James "Baba" Battista.

Donaghy refereed 772 regular season and 20 playoff games between 1994 and 2007. During his last two years as an NBA ref, he used inside information he gained from relationships with other referees, coaches, players, and front office personnel to gain an illegal betting edge.

Eventually the FBI wised up to his scheme during a separate investigation. Donaghy was sentenced to 15 months in prison. He was released after 11 months, only to return behind bars to complete his sentence for violating terms of his release.

In 2009, Donaghy wrote a memoir, Blowing the Whistle: The Culture of Fraud in the NBA, later retitled Personal Foul: A First Person Account of the Scandal that Rocked the NBA. The movie Inside Game is not based on Donaghy's book, however, and he had no input in the film's production. He is helping to promote the film, and that's how I got him on the phone last week.

CultureMap: How come you weren’t involved in this movie?

Tim Donaghy: I was hoping for a little control over the script, and that was something they wouldn't do. We couldn't come to an agreement, so I passed on getting involved as a consultant. I thought that I had done enough wrong in my life that they didn't need me to add anything. Every time I hope the story goes away something pops up.

CM: Have you seen the movie, and what did you think of it?

TD: I have seen the film. I like it. I think there's a great message in the film about how important choices are, and how the choices you make affect other people. They did a good job of getting the story correct.

CM: If gamblers wanted to fix a game, would they be better of bribing a referee or a player?

TD: I think you're going to have a situation on the college level where they go to one of these players who isn't going to make it on the next level and offer him a large sum of money. Let's say his team is favored by a large number, maybe 15 points. You tell the player, you can still win the game, just don't win the game by more than 10 or 11 or 12 points. I think that's where you're going to see the next scandal. Some of these college kids don't have much money and they need money for their families.

Continue on CultureMap to read the rest of this fascinating interview.

How the news of Kobe Bryant's death is impacting us all

Where were you when you heard the news?

I had just gotten home from coaching my daughter's 10-11 year-old basketball game.We got crushed by Coach Tackett and his daughter Eloise.It was 28-6. After the game I told Eloise that if she kept working hard, anticipating that she would be tall like her daddy, she could be great at this game.

I rolled up to the house and as I walked into the front door, I checked the various notifications on my phone, seeing what I had missed and I saw the notification, "Kobe Bryant believed dead in tragic helicopter crash." As I made it into the family room, my wife Julee said, "Did you see the news that Kobe Bryant died?" I told her I had just seen it and then began to process the news over the afternoon.

Where were you? What was going through your mind? As a pastor here in the heart of the city, with a passion for sports and a podcast (www.visionforlife.org) that brings faith and sports together, I immediately begin to process the pain that was being felt. Like a shockwave that was rippling from the mountains of Calabasas, the nation and world were feeling the waves of pain.

Last night and today, as I've watched ESPN and listened to the radio, there is a great deal of reflection on Kobe's influence on us all, through his game and his life after the NBA. But beyond that, we are all seemingly taking inventory, realizing the life is short. It is but a breath.

As part of my career, I've had to do funerals that it is hard for which to prepare. I've done funerals ranging from a one-day old baby boy to a 95 year-old World War II bomber pilot. Last week when Cesar Cortes of Bellaire High School lost his life, we hosted a memorial candle-light vigil and then his funeral. What do you do when you find yourself at the bottom of the pit of grief? What do you do when someone in your life loses someone they love? What do we as a society do when an icon like Kobe Bryant loses his life at such an early age?

From my experience of walking people through loss and pain through the years, here are a few take-a-ways to help us know how to move forward in our pain.

1.When you don't have the words, don't say anything. There is what we call in pastoral ministry the "Ministry of Presence." The ministry of presence is our simply sitting with people and being present. We don't know what to say, but we are compelled to be with them in their pain.

When Job from the Bible lost his loved ones, his friends came around him and sat with him for seven days without saying a word. This is the ministry of presence. It was when they began to speak to try to make sense of it, that things went sideways.

If you are a person in grief, and there are those coming around you to love on you and sit with you, I want to prepare you to have grace for their words, as we don't always know what to say, and when we force it, sometimes it comes out wrong.

2.Don't waste the pain. It's humbling to hear the reflections that athletes, commentators and callers are sharing about Kobe. The fact that his daughter Gianna was on that helicopter, as well as other parents and children makes the pain of this moment extreme. As a result, our hearts are heavy with what could have been and should have been for Gianna, her sisters, her mom and her dad.

Moments like this make us take inventory in our own lives and do a long, hard evaluation. Maybe you are longing for an improved relationship with your son. Or you want to seek to repair your relationship with your wife. Maybe you have felt the need to make a career change and there is something in your gut saying, "It's time to make a change." Don't waste the pain of this moment and seek to get better. Life is short. Life is fragile and if this has taught us anything, we see that none of us is immune from suffering, loss and death. Don't waste the pain, but instead see that life is a real gift.

3.Humility wins the day. I often teach on relationships and I ask my audience, "Would you rather be right, or right?" You see, you can be right on all the facts and the figures of life. You can be right on the issues. You can be right in a fight with you spouse. And, you can be all alone.

It takes a bigger person to humble themselves and see the long view of relationships.Those who take the long view choose to be right over the long haul, versus right in the moment. To be right over the long-haul, you will have to forfeit some of your own rights and be willing to take a loss in the moment to win the greater race.

I want to encourage you to use moments like this to take inventory and see it as a catalyst for positive change in your life.This would probably be the best way to honor the loss of this legend. Honor his work-ethic and improve your game at work. Honor his love for his family by prioritizing yours and communicating your love to them. Humble yourself and draw near to those that are the most important to you. Make the most of today and hug those you love.


Roger Patterson is the author of A Minute of Vision for Men: 365 Motivational Moments to Kick-Start Your Day, pastor of West University Baptist & Crosspoint Church – Bellaire, and podcast host of Vision for Life Radio: Where Faith & Sports Collide (www.visionforlife.org) Follow Roger on Twitter @rogerpatterson.

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