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A Betting :.; by Tom Matlack

Tom Matlack talks to disgraced NBA referee Tim Donaghy about betting on games he refereed, gambling in America, and the road to recovery and redemption. My column (and this magazine, for that matter) isn’t about Hollywood images of manhood. I will certainly write about and interview plenty of guys ZKR DUH KHURLF E\ DQ\RQHœV GH¿QLWLRQ²IURP marines to athletes to guys working in the trenches of poverty and abuse. But to me, manhood and goodness are not about getting it right from the JHWJR 7KH\ DUH DERXW PDNLQJ PLVWDNHV²ELJ PLVWDNHV²DQG WKHQ ¿JXULQJ RXW ZKDW WKH KHOO you’re going to do about it.

sharing their stories with me. Given the mistakes I’ve made in my life, I’m in no position to judge others. But I am in a position to be inspired. That’s WKHSRLQWRIZKDW,œPGRLQJ²WREHLQVSLUHGDQGWR inspire you as a reader. So, fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

“So, fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.�

As my grandmother told me when I called her shortly after being tossed out of the house fourteen years ago for being a drunk and a liar, “Tom, it’s not how you fall in life that counts; it’s how you pick yourself up.�

:LWKP\%RVWRQ&HOWLFVLQWKH1%$ÂżQDOV,ZDQWHG to explore a manhood problem that no one seems to want to talk about. We’ll get to sex, drugs, and Wall Street in future columns. But why doesn’t anyone want to talk about gambling? We won’t legalize the drugs that are destroying our inner cities and causing Mexico to be burned to the ground, yet when it comes to casinos and lotteries, the government just keeps expanding in hopes of covering budget shortfalls. We’re all too willing to ignore the fact that we’re generating tax income by encouraging addictive behavior, largely among those least economically able to “play.â€?

So when I say everyone has a story, I mean everyone. I am particularly interested in guys who made huge mistakes in their lives. Are they now following my grandmother’s advice? To me, manhood is about redemption. It’s about admitting you screwed up. I’m always willing to listen to guys who others might criticize me for talking to, even just to learn what not to do.

Along with Pete Rose, former NBA referee Tim Donaghy is among the most famous compulsive gamblers caught participating in professional sports. Many of my friends urged me not to give him the time of day, but I wanted to talk to Tim DERXWKLVOLIHJDPEOLQJWKH1%$ÂżQDOVDQGKRZ NBA referees can unfairly impact the outcome of a game.

When I spoke to convicted murderers at Sing Sing, I asked them what moment made them a man. I was moved to tears by their courage in

Donaghy worked as an NBA referee from 1994 to  'XULQJ WKDW WLPH KH RIÂżFLDWHG  UHJXODU season games and 20 playoff games. He resigned

from the league on July 9, 2007, amidst reports of an investigation by the FBI into allegations that he EHWRQJDPHVWKDWKHRIÂżFLDWHGGXULQJKLVODVWWZR seasons. On August 15, 2007, Donaghy pled guilty to two federal charges related to the investigation DQG ZDV VHQWHQFHG WR ÂżIWHHQ PRQWKV LQ IHGHUDO prison. He published a memoir, Personal Foul, in which he claims that NBA referees often let their biases get in the way of doing their jobs.

MATLACK: I’m a big Celtics fan, so I’m somewhat ELDVHG %XW ,œYH VDW RQ WKH ÀRRU DW WKH )OHHW XS close and personal, watching the refereeing, and it just seems like it’s a real problem in the game right now.

DONAGHY: It’s a huge problem, because with the blueprint of the book and exposing what goes RQ LQ WKHVH ¿QDO VHULHV DQG SXWWLQJ LW RXW LQ WKH open, it’s really putting the NBA and the referees in the spotlight. And the bottom line is that there are a lot of knowledgeable fans out there who are being turned off by what’s going on. Not only have I received a lot of letters from fans, but also owners and players, saying that they’re hoping that this thing truly becomes an athletic competition where everybody’s treated the same.

MATLACK: Do you think there’s any role for video? In other sports, there’s the ability to go back and actually look at a play. I know it’s hard to do in basketball, because it’s moving so quickly, but I always thought if you had somebody in a booth somewhere, he could actually be making the closer calls based on video rather than being on the court, having to try and look through huge bodies. Does that make any sense to you, or no?


It absolutely makes sense, because there’s an accountability factor with that. ,WZRXOGFHUWDLQO\EHHPEDUUDVVLQJIRUDQRI¿FLDOWR miss a call and have it overturned.

MATLACK: Which rule do you think is broken WKHPRVWÀDJUDQWO\ULJKWQRZ",IWKH\ZDQWWRPRYH a game, what do they use? DONAGHY: The traveling violation is one. It’s being ignored or not based on the player. Another is freedom of movement, where certain people are allowed to grab and hold, and dislodge people. But then again, if you do something like that to a

LeBron James, or a Dwyane Wade, or a Dwight Howard, the whistle’s blown right away. It’s just way, way too subjective, and they need to narrow WKDW GRZQ D ORW PRUH WR JHW WKH IDQVœ FRQ¿GHQFH back.

MATLACK: Who do you think the NBA wants to ZLQWKHÂżQDO"


You know, I don’t really believe that they have a stake in who they want to win the ¿QDOEXW,WKLQNWKDWWKHLUJRDOLVFHUWDLQO\WRKDYHLW go up into that sixth and hopefully seventh game, to where globally there’s a tremendous amount at stake.

MATLACK:: So tell me a little bit about your story, and how you got in trouble.

DONAGHY: Well, certainly I got in trouble because I suffer from a gambling addiction, and

I crossed the line I should have never been near. I was betting on the NBA, and eventually on NBA teams that I refereed. And the reason that it’s all exposed is that a friend of mine was passing the information along to people associated with organized crime, and when I decided I wanted to stop betting, the people who were getting these picks, and making millions of dollars off the picks, certainly didn’t want to stop, and they picked me up in Philadelphia and basically threatened to expose me to the NBA or have somebody visit my wife and kids in Florida. So I participated, giving them the picks, and this whole thing was heard over Gambino wiretap, and the operation was basically exposed. I became a cooperating witness for the government against people associated with organized crime, and also the culture that existed within the NBA.

MATLACK: So, at that point, once they were threatening you, you started actually making calls based on making sure that the bets that they were making were going to win?

DONAGHY: No, it was never making calls in the game. In fact, there were times when they made reference to why I made certain calls against the teams I told them to bet. The bottom line is, I was

MATLACK: So you were winning this based on your knowledge of the teams?

something that has gotten way out of hand, and I’m hoping that by people understanding my story, and sharing my story, that they’ll realize that it’s a dead end, and that not only is gambling not good for you, it affects the other people who are special in your life, and that’s your family.

DONAGHY: My knowledge of the teams, my

MATLACK: So what happened to you in that

winning 70-80% of the time. At no time did I need WRJRRXWDQGÂż[DJDPHRUPDNHFDOOVRQDJDPH to make sure some of these bets won.

knowledge of relationships that existed between the referees and players, referees and coaches, and referees and owners, whether it was a positive relationship or a negative relationship. And I used that information to create a line on the game myself, and then I compared the line in the newspaper, and if there was a difference of four or ÂżYHSRLQWV,ZRXOGWHOOWKHPWREHWWKHJDPH

MATLACK: And so where are you now in terms of gambling? Have you completely given it up? DONAGHY: I have given it up completely. I still go to treatment to stay away from the triggers that got me excited, pushed me in the direction to want to gamble. And not only that, I’m personally working for a gambling treatment center out of New Jersey called First Step. So it’s something else that helps me with my therapy, and sharing my story with people who suffer from gambling addictions.

MATLACK: It seems like gambling has become such a huge business in this country. What do you think about that? We have a big controversy here in Massachusetts. The state senate and house DUH¿JKWLQJRYHUKRZPDQ\QHZJDPEOLQJSDUORUV to construct. There was going to be a big biotech complex just south of the city, and wouldn’t you know, it’s no longer going to be a biotech complex, it’s going to be a huge casino. DONAGHY: Wow. MATLACK: Because the state decided they could make more money on a casino than they could on the biotech complex.

DONAGHY: Yeah, I mean it’s absolutely exploding. My thought is, it really started to explode when ESPN got a hold of this Texas Hold ’Em, and these college campuses started having tournaments, and all these people started thinking that they were going to be the next guy to win $15 million in the World Series of Poker. People think that they’re going to make an enormous amount of money out of playing cards for a living. It’s just

regard? What did you lose by gambling?

DONAGHY: I lost my job, I lost my family, I lost my freedom, and I don’t think there are three more important things than that. You talk about being divorced with four children, a job where you’re making over $300,000 a year, and a situation where you’re put in jail with people accused of DWWHPSWHG PXUGHU²RU GRXEOH KRPLFLGH 6R DOO those things were certainly very, very tough to get through.

MATLACK: And what’s your relationship with your kids like now? DONAGHY: I’ve got a positive relationship with my kids. I talk to them every day. I’m in the process of working out a custody agreement so that I get to spend some more quality time with them. And it’s something that, over time, is just going to be worked out, and we’re going to move forward in a very positive way. And not only do I think that I’ve learned a great deal from this, I think a lot of other people have, also.

MATLACK: Yeah. Just so you know, my background is that I was CFO of a very big public company at 29. I had two little kids, but I got thrown out of the house for being a drunk and a cheat. That was 14 years ago. Then I went off and VWDUWHGDYHQWXUHFDSLWDO¿UPDQGHYHQWXDOO\JRW remarried and all that good stuff. But part of why I’m doing this magazine is because I believe that men have lost their way for a variety of reasons. DONAGHY: Yeah, I can tell you that, I’ve hung out with a bunch of different guys, whether it was referees, whether it was my buddies growing up, or whether it’s my new buddy here in Florida, and we all do the same fucking thing.

MATLACK: Well, the reassuring thing is that once you get on the other side a little bit, and you start actually talking to other guys, and trying to help other guys, you realize there’s only a very small handful of ways of fucking up, and everyone does exactly the same thing. It’s not like you’re

alone, for Christ’s sake. It doesn’t make it any less painful, but at least you’re not alone. So, on another note, we have these questions we ask everybody, from athletes to scientists to writers. So let me just walk through them with you. And generally, the best answer is whatever comes WR \RXU PLQG ¿UVW ,I \RX GRQœW ZDQW WR DQVZHU D question, just tell me you don’t want to answer it.


DONAGHY: Remorseful. I’m truly sorry for what I did.

MATLACK: Who’s the best dad you know, and how does he earn that distinction? DONAGHY: Certainly that would be my dad, because he has stood by me in this situation where it would have been easily understood if he chose not to.


MATLACK: Have you been more successful in your public or your private life?

about manhood in your life?

DONAGHY: I would say more successful in my

DONAGHY: My father. My father told me that

private life, because my daughters are a part of that, and I’m very proud of them.

there’s right ways to handle things and wrong ways to handle things, and honestly, he gave me the knowledge to do everything the right way. For whatever reason, I chose to make some poor choices and mistakes in my life, and I paid greatly for that.


When was the last time you


DONAGHY: Probably the day I got out of jail.

as a man?

MATLACK: That’s a good time to cry. What advice would you give teenage boys trying to ¿JXUHRXWZKDWLWPHDQVWREHDJRRGPDQ"

DONAGHY: Not sure. I don’t know if I have an

DONAGHY: I would tell them to realize that

MATLACK: How has romantic love shaped you

MATLACK: How are you most unlike him?

the choices that they’re going to make in life, not only are those choices going to affect themselves, but they’re going to affect their family, who are the people that they really care for and love the most. So to be a man is to make the right choices, and support and care for the people who mean the most to you.

DONAGHY: I’m most unlike him because I

MATLACK: And the last one is, what’s your

made some poor decisions that he would never have made.

most cherished guy ritual?

MATLACK:From which mistake have you learned the most?

working out, and I do it every day, and it’s something that helps me to get through the day, and begin it in a healthy way, and that’s what I usually start out doing.

answer for that one.

MATLACK:  ODXJKWHU  7KDWÂśV ÂżQH :KDW WZR words describe your dad? DONAGHY: Strong and ethical.

DONAGHY: Which one? There are a couple of them. I think obviously I should have been able to face up to the fact that I had a problem before it got to where it got to, and put me in a position to cost me and my family a lot.

MATLACK: What word would women in your life use to describe you, and do you believe it’s accurate?

DONAGHY: I guess working out. I just enjoy

MATLACK: Do you lift weights? What do you do?

DONAGHY: Yeah, I lift weights, and try and do something that is going to get me started, and I feel good about myself.

MATLACK: That’s all the questions. So where’s

DONAGHY: At this point, or in the past?

your book available?

MATLACK: At this point. You can answer it

DONAGHY: Right now it’s just available


on Amazon. A lot of them are sold out in the

bookstores, and they’re in the process of getting the paperback edition in there. But the best way to get it is on Amazon.

MATLACK: Okay. Well, that’s all I have, Tim. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. I personally am a big believer in the idea of redemption. I mean, my whole life has been about trying to make up for the mistakes I made. And so I really admire your courage and what you’re doing.

DONAGHY: Yeah, I got a long way to go, but I’m VWD\LQJGRZQKHUHDQG,œPJRLQJWRNHHS¿JKWLQJ every day, so we’ll see what happens.

MATLACK: All right, man, keep going. DONAGHY: Thanks, pal.and become a decent man, father, and husband. The men whom I have met during the Project have each inspired me to grow in a different way. They are my heroes. What we all need as men isn’t more silent suffering; it’s the willingness to tell and listen to the truth of our lives. Each week in this space, I’ll explore a topic that came up as I traveled the country talking about manhood: stay-at-home dads, post-traumatic stress among our veterans, pornography, fatherless ER\V LPSULVRQHG PHQ HPRWLRQDO LQ¿GHOLW\ JD\ fathers, sports, male violence, pedophilia, faith in the most general sense, 21st century boys, and what it means to be a good son, to name just a few.

Finally, a word on “Good is Goodâ€? itself. When I moved away from doing deals and started spending my time trying to write, I found myself doing a lot of PDJD]LQH SURÂżOHV of musicians, scientists, and D W K O H W H V ² generally guys who I just thought were cool and wanted to hang out with. My most recent piece is about a remarkable rowing coach, Charley Butt, who has led his lightweight men to seven national titles while also coaching perhaps the best female single sculler in American history to a silver medal at the Olympics. When I asked Charley how he shifted gears from college-aged men to world-class women, often in the same day of coaching, he looked me straight in the eyes and made clear that there was absolutely no adjustment necessary. “Good is good,â€? he said.

Mine will be a weekly post that is just one part of the newly launched online magazine that collectively we hope will become the destination for men, boys, and the women who love them, to talk about what it means to be male in the 21st century. My column will be a conversation starter, not the ÂżQDO ZRUG $V , KDYH RIWHQ VDLG , DP QRW JRRG enough to tell you how to be good. So I hope that you will join the conversation by telling me how I got it right or wrong each week. In addition, each week I will pose a “Man Mailâ€? question that I hope to explore in a future column. Please don’t use the comment section to respond to the question (that’s reserved for responses to the current column itself) but email me at manmail@ The more brutally honest you can be, the better.

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