Saturday, June 14, 2008

Putting Donaghy into some sense of perspective

It's odd how Eight Men Out author Eliot Asinof died on the same day, Tuesday, that jailbird-to-be ex-NBA ref Tim Donaghy's charges of game-fixing gained greater public attention.

This was touched on briefly on Offsides yesterday, but there is a unique historical parallel between the Black Sox Scandal and the Donaghy firestorm. Each took place in an era that was marked by massive public corruption in American life. Bill James wrote once that the Black Sox foreshadowed the Teapot Dome scandal that took down a U.S. president a few years later; it was one among many "purgings and cleansings."

You could extrapolate that something very similar has gone in Sportsland, U.S.A., toward the tailend of Bush and Cheney's administration. It's one thing to pretty make up an election result and act like everything's normal, to rush into war under false pretenses for the benefit of Halliburton, to contract out that war to a private company or put a somewhat dim member of the horsey set in charge of federal disaster relief because he's Bush's buddy.

However, when the New England Patriots videotape their opponents' signals, or ballplayers take steroids so they can hit more home runs, or some people in the NBA cock up a few foul calls in order to win their bets and ensure the league of more revenue, well, that's just going too far.

(Something else that's weird is that, according to his Chicago Tribune obit, Asinof had finished a novel which will be published in September. Guess what real-life figure is fictionalized in the book? George W. Bush. You couldn't make that up.)

As for the refs doing business, this clip posted first at The World of Isaac should give everyone pause, to put it mildly.

(Excuse the total nerd moment, but this is annoying: Asinof's Chicago Tribune obit states he "spent nearly three years researching the book, including interviewing the two members of the team, Joe Jackson and Happy Felsch, who were still alive."

Anyone who read the W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe knows "Joe was the first of the Unlucky Eight to die." Four them, in fact, were still alive in the early 1960s when Asinof would have been researching the book. Swede Risberg, the shortstop, was the last one to go. You could look it up.)

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