The NBA season is barely under way, but already one highly anticipated basketball book has fouled out.
Former referee Tim Donaghy's Blowing the Whistle has been cancelled by its publisher and parent company Random House. Astonishingly, the NBA had problems with a book subtitled The NBA's culture of fraud, by one of its referees who got a 15-month jail sentence for fixing basketball games.
After a few well-placed words with Random House from the league - "lawsuit" may have been one of them - the book was halted two weeks prior to launch.
As scribblers ourselves, Usual Suspects always believed that you wanted a little controversy to drum up sales. 60 Minutes was all over the book, with plans to interview Donaghy, who's just getting out of a detention centre in Florida.
But Random House has chosen discretion over valour in handling a tome that allegedly describes the Machiavellian world of NBA refereeing.
Long-time referees are portrayed as publicity hogs, cheats and game-fixers in the book by the former NBA zebra.
So you can see why the NBA was not exactly stocking Blowing the Whistle in its online store.
For the curious, the U.S. website Deadspin.com has excerpts it claims are from the book.
They are not pretty. According to the muckraking Deadspin, Donaghy alleges that refs deliberately miss fouls and punish good defensive players who challenge the Kobe Bryants of the league.
Donaghy is evaluating his options - self-publishing, publishing outside the United States or replacing Simon Cowell on American Idol. Lights, Camera, Action
Sports and Hollywood are joined at the hip of their designer jeans these days. LeBron James and Tom Brady guest star on Entourage, Spike Lee and Jack Nicholson sit courtside at NBA games, and ESPN has commissioned a series of 30 sports films by some of Hollywood's top directors to celebrate the network's 30th anniversary.
Barry Levinson, Albert Maysles, Peter Berg and Michael Tollin are among the glitterati that have married their sports passion with a documentary subject.
Berg, a passionate hockey fan, has focused Kings Ransom on the 1988 trade that sent Wayne Gretzky to Los Angeles - a move that emboldened the NHL to try its controversial U.S. Sunbelt expansion in the 1990s.
The docs have started on ESPN to critical praise, and TSN is going to show them starting in November. Obviously, the Gretzky film has the most appeal to Canadians, so TSN has scheduled Kings Ransom at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern) on Nov. 17, prior to the Colorado Avalanche-Edmonton Oilers game.
Other films that week include: The Band That Wouldn't Die (Nov. 13, 8:30 p.m.), Levinson's examination of the Baltimore Colts defection to Indianapolis; Small Potatoes: Who killed the USFL? (Nov. 14, 7 p.m.), in which Tollin places the blame for the upstart football league's demise on Donald Trump; and The Legend of Jimmy the Greek (Dec. 5, 7 p.m.), a look at the legendary TV tout whose career was ended by a racial remark.
The ambitious series expands ESPN's massive footprint in American sports TV and is worth following when it comes to TSN.
Ducking Head Shots
The NFL's media-charm offensive on concussions is not getting much traction - at least not in the U.S. Congress.
People with long memories harkened back to equivocating tobacco executives when they heard NFL commissioner Roger Goodell try to spin the story in Washington this week.
No conclusive connection between concussions and head trauma, intoned the commish. Not all players suffer from dementia after their careers, ergo concussions can't be the cause for the rash of brain traumas.
The denials met with some derision in Congress - and with a few of the predictable Mike Milbury "pansification" remarks from members of the judiciary committee.
Democrat Linda Sanchez, of California, saw the tobacco comparison, chiding Goodell: "And it sort of reminds me of the tobacco companies pre-'90s, when they kept saying, 'Oh, there's no link between smoking and damage to your health.' "
(One can just imagine what Sanchez might say to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who's even deeper in brain-trauma denial than Goodell.)
While Congress burned, most mainstream media outlets held their fire. The New York Times devoted good space to the story. (George Vecsey referenced the NFL committee on mild traumatic brain injury. "Is there also a committee for Maybe-a-Bit-More-Than-Mild Traumatic Brain Injury?" Vecsey wondered.)
But for many outlets tied closely to the league, the story of Goodell's Congress visit was buried beneath coverage of the World Series or the NFL's on-field goings-on. Meaning that, unfortunately, this remains a cause in search of a tragic storyline.