September 30, 2011
Gambling Addict Tim Donaghy Talks Addictions, Sports & Mistakes
Former Professional basketball referee from the National Basketball Association (NBA) Tim Donaghy talked to the crowd at Idea Festival who showed up in Kentucky to hear lessons learned and insights from some of the country's top thinkers and leaders, authors, visionaries and politicians.
He obviously focused on his addiction to gambling and how his decisions led to his conviction and prison sentence for game betting. This addiction not only destroyed his career, but nearly destroyed him and those closest to him.
Many of you know the story. Donaghy resigned from the league in July 2007 before reports of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for allegations that he bet on games that he officiated during his last two seasons and that he made calls affecting the point spread in those games.
He shared he started gambling, and how it moved from dabbling to "over his head." Donaghy says, “three hours on game night were intoxicating and anything.” It was about the thrill and the bet for him, something he looked forward to more than anything else in his life.
Although he started gambling at casinos, it soon moved to sports gambling. He had a good idea of who would win because of his knowledge of the relationship between referees, owners and players among others. When asked by someone, he publicly told us that he passed information on for about 100 games over a three year period.
“The down time between NDA games were long and boring, he says, “My answer was gambling.” Donaghy started out with card games and then it moved into something bigger than himself. Even though he knew he was jeopardizing his career but he couldn’t stop because the high was too high.
As he was sitting in a room waiting for his lawyers, he recalls seeing a white board with a list of the estimated sentence times for money laundering, racketeering and gambling. A frightening moment, he says. He was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison in 2008. There, he was beaten up and had his head shaven in order to fit in with the gang who was protecting him at the time. (it was either that or a slow needle process to get a tattoo since there were clearly no tattoo guns in prison).
Since he got out of prison in 2009, he wrote a book and is traveling around the country sharing his story. His major goal of speaking is to get people to think about their decisions and how to avoid crossing the line where there’s potentially no return.
As a result of the betting scandal, Stern revised the guidelines on the behavior of NBA referees during the Board of Governors' meeting in 2007. Despite the labor agreement for referees, which restricted them from participating in almost all forms of gambling, it was revealed that about half of the NBA's officials had made bets in casinos, albeit not with sportsbooks. In addition, all referees had admitted to engaging in some form of gambling.
As a result, there were several other referee-related rule changes made: the announcement of referees of a game was moved from 90 minutes before tip-off to the morning of the game, to reduce the value of the information to gamblers; referees received more in-season training and counseling on gambling; more thorough background checks were carried out; the league declared its intention to analyze the statistical relationship between NBA games and referees' gambling patterns for those games; and the interactions between referees and NBA teams were made easier and more formal.
While Donaghy agrees that some of the changes that the NBA have been positive, he doesn’t think they’ve done as much as they could.
He's done a lot of therapy since he got out of prison and says he’s been gambling-free for four years. “I won’t place another bet again,” he says. “When you have four daughters, it’s enough to ensure you never gamble again.”
When a student asked him a question about his goals moving forward, he responded that it was largely to educate people and to encourage others to think about their decisions and how an addiction can not only end your career and land you in prison but could lose your loved ones as well.
March 25, 2011
Jensen Grand Prix Insider New Mobile App for What's Hot in the Car Racing World
While I was in Austin for SXSW, I ran across the Jensen Motorsport guys who just happened to have this incredible race car parked on the sidewalk. God bless Texas.
They were part of a promotion for Maple Leaf Digital Lounge and in conjunction with Dynamite Network, they announced the launch of the mobile application Jensen Grand Prix Insider.
Jensen Grand Prix Insider features up to the minute content of what' shot and happening in the car racing world as well as exciting contests and promotions offered by their race team partners.
They handed me a flyer about their promo and the announcement, but it lacked the most important details about the app or the promo. After reading the flyer four times, I finally saw a website link in small font but when I went there, it only gave me a form to enter the contest. I kinda need a reason to guys.
I did manage to find their Facebook page but after several searches, still didn't find much about their new mobile app.
That said, I thought the car was cool and they wooed me into sitting in it and learning more about motorsports in general. And, sitting in the car got me to write this blog post too, but while I'm not the target audience for the mobile app, it would have been great if they included more data up front to make it easy for people who did care about motorsports, to get hooked.
November 01, 2010
CarWoo Drives Vintage 78 Camaro to World Series to Raise Money for Breast Cancer
By bridging two significant events together, San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers fans can show their support by giving to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation to raise money for breast cancer.
The story: CarWoo! bought a 1978 Camaro and painted a pink stripe down the center.
Then, at the second World Series game at San Francisco's AT&T Park on Thursday, October 29, 2010, they asked Giants fans to donate to the Susan G. Koman foundation in exchange for being able to sign the Giants' side of the car in support of their team. They are doing the same thing for Rangers fans at the fifth game of the series on November 1, 2010.
The fans who raise the most money will win the “competition”, and all of the funds raised will go towards the Susan G. Komen chapter in the team's respective city. The car, complete with all of the signatures, will be auctioned off, and the proceeds from this sale will also be donated to the foundation.
Specifics can be found on CarWoo’s World Series page and at CarWoo Cares on the Komen site. Details of the car’s trip across the country and its ultimate exact location at the stadium in Arlington can be found here.
August 05, 2010
GAMECHANGERS Sports Micro-Venture FundArchitecture for Humanity has been partnering with Nike Inc. to fund a series of innovative sports facilities for at risk groups around the world. Architects, youth leaders and grassroots community groups came together to collaborate on design, develop and build real centers of change. They learned an important lesson: don't make local groups jump through hoops to get support - ask what they want, how much they need and partner them with a team of committed and passionate building professionals to help realize their goals.
Today, they're announcing the GAMECHANGERS Sports Micro-Venture Fund. For the next 6 weeks, they're asking for proposals for the final round of funding to support the construction of sports facilities offering programs that tackle social issues in the community. This Request for Proposal (RFP) process will award up to $500,000 in funds and is directed toward micro-interventions with a construction time line of 6 to 9 months. The majority of these grants will be $25,000 for building or upgrading facilities and completing existing projects.
The breakdown of available funds is as follows:
* Africa - 2 x $25,000
* The Americas - 2 x $25,000
* Asia - 2 x $25,000
* Europe - 2 x $25,000
* Oceania - 2 x $25,000
plus up to $250,000 in additional funding. Here's the link to apply.
July 16, 2010
Sportypal for Cycling, Running, Walking & MoreI had an opportunity to connect with the COO of Sportypal Tode Bucevski, who was over from Macedonia for the recent MobileBeat Conference in San Francisco. Sportypal is an intuitive application for your mobile phone, which activates when you start exercising - running, cycling, walking, rollerblading or a similar exercise. In two simple clicks it will start to log and map your position, movement, distance, tempo and calories burned. It will not affect normal operation of your mobile phone, so you can still listen to music, receive and initiate calls and messages.
Below is a short interview with Tode who also shows us a demo of the app on his mobile phone.
July 02, 2010
And on the 20th Day They Rested
56 games after the opening match on June 11th between host South Africa and Mexico there was finally an off-day at the 2010 World Cup. Two days, in fact, before play resumed today with Holland's comeback win against Cup favorite Brazil and the upcoming match between Uruguay and Ghana.
After all the vuvuzela-ing, the officiating catastrophes and the disappointments of perennial big names England, France and Italy it still is the case that all but one of the group winners advanced to the final eight (the U.S. being the only exception), and that five of FIFA's seven top-ranked teams were still in the competition, so order has more or less prevailed.
It would have been even more so had third-ranked Portugal not had the misfortune of playing Spain in the Round of 16, and perhaps the greater misfortune of having their galactic star Cristiano Ronaldo in a tournament-long ego preen and pout.
Happily, Africa still has a representative in Ghana, but it is still the South Americans who are dominant, with four of their five teams in the final eight and an opportunity to advance all of them to the semifinals before Brazil's stunner.
It's been six days since the United States bowed out to Ghana in a disappointing loss, sufficient mourning time to perhaps enjoy one last scene of happiness, a video of the penalty kick goal by Landon Donovan which tied the match in the second half.
Alas, that was the only score by the team. This time there were no officiating excuses, just enough mistakes on defense and failures on offense and no last-minute heroics to keep them in the hunt.
If you've watched the other teams in the Round of 16 play, you can tell - even if like me you only know a little about soccer - that the United States has a long way to go in the dribble-and-pass game which all the great teams can play, whatever their strengths may be. They're also more resistant on defense and have at least one great goal-scorer up front, which the United States does not.
But perhaps that isn't so clear. Apparently a poll taken after the Algerian victory found that 90% of Americans expected the U.S. team to win the tournament. This wouldn't have happened if the rest of the teams were forced to play with two left boots.
Combine this poor vision with the response to the loss against Ghana - the anguish was so profound that it took two entire minutes for people to start talking about the Giants, in contrast to the liquid orgies of rage and despair in the English pubs the next day, after evisceration by the Germans. It's likely this week's love affair was about something other than soccer.For the most part the fan interest was a fling, an excuse to demonstrate national pride. After a decade of boggy military incursions, the Katrina-BP bookend disasters in the Gulf and the recent financial collapse and shakedown it felt good to have a reason to chant "USA" and show some American muscle without feeling defensive or having to kill anyone to do it.
The fan interest also resulted from some highly unusual late-game heroics. It's as if the United States lived up to its dual images of the Hollywood ending and the cavalry rescue, but the truth is that tournaments are won by teams which patiently build leads and hold on to them.
Or in some cases, play 120 minutes for a tie, which was the strategy employed by both Paraguay and Japan the other day. Witnessing this match was like watching an anaconda digest a feral pig on the Discovery Channel, without the benefit of time lapse photography. FIFA should destroy every tape and pull down all online video of this one. Even the soccer die-hards were in agony. A second ball rolled onto the pitch near the end of the regular time but nobody took the hint.
At one point in the stupefying delirium of overtime a mirage appeared of a split-screen TV, with the match on the left and on the right an episode of "24." Both of them in real-time, on one side you are begging for some time compression and on the right your adrenals are suffering because of it.
Now that the show is over perhaps FIFA can hire Jack Bauer as a roving field agent, reinforcing FIFA's utter control of the sport by having Bauer shoot a member of the team he determines is not taking enough risks. An American action movie version of a red card. That will manufacture interest in the U.S.
Successful soccer's premium on defensive play makes it hard to imagine the professional game taking hold here. It will be too dull for fans accustomed to other sports, and the economics of no in-play commercials might work for a World Cup but wouldn't for a season full of average-caliber contests.
There were certainly many households in America where young boys watched Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey and turned to Mom and said, "He's cool, I want to play soccer." Mom, relieved that the child is choosing something other than American football with its aggression and injuries, will ensure it happens.
But in order to vault beyond the second-level powers American soccer needs to extend the talent pool from the suburbs to the cities as well as take advantage of the increasing Latino population. Combine that with development in the European leagues after high school and it's not hard to imagine the United States being a consistently elite team in 12 years or so, even if the country doesn't care so much in between World Cup tournaments.
Anyway, one suspects the rest of the world has mixed feelings about the United States becoming a soccer power. American money will change the game and in some ways it feels as though the World Cup doesn't really start until the U.S. leaves, sort of like the loud rich neighbor who takes over the party but goes home early because he doesn't get it or have many friends.
Did anyone else notice in the videos of Ghanian celebrations in the U.S. that there were inevitably young white kids, protester-types somehow looking privileged and malnourished at the same time, cheering as if it were another way to denounce American imperialism and corporate dominion? They couldn't afford the trip to Davos or the Toronto G20 so slumming a World Cup loss would have to do.Moments to remember:
- A bird perched contentedly on the Algerian net during the England game, certain not to be disturbed by a shot on goal.
- Donovan's marine landing rush at the Slovenian goaltender, practically backing him into the net with the alternative of having his head taken off by the shot.
- Sepp Blatter being forced to come out of the FIFA tower to say something other than "Let them eat hand balls."
- Coach Maradona having more touches than half the Nigerian side in Argentina's first match. Letting go is hard.
- South Africa's tournament-opening goal, a beautiful scorcher. Like the promise of early morning, there hadn't yet been any officiating disasters, national meltdowns or 0-0 soporifics.
- Denmark's Jon Dahl Tomasson looking positively embarrassed after he needed a rebound on a penalty kick to end his international scoring drought.
- U.S. goalie Tim Howard leaping for a ball -- at the other end of the pitch. Desperate for the tying goal against Ghana he ran the full length of the field to create a man advantage. The replay showing both goalies jumping for the ball was amazing.
- The camera pan of the Portugese side heartily singing the national anthem before the first match, arms round each other, with the shot ending on Ronaldo at the end, self-contained, silent, head down. A nation of one.
June 29, 2010
FIFA Announces Solution to Referee Controversies
FIFA has taken a lot of heat for the number of obvious, dramatic and consequential errors made by referees during the 2010 World Cup, the latest being two embarrassing mistakes during Sunday's Round of 16 matches, one that resulted in a goal that shouldn't have been allowed and another which missed a goal being scored.
The international sporting press, players and coaches, and even politicians are calling for video review, additional on-field officials, or both, to ensure the integrity of match play. FIFA has resisted efforts to improve officiating, arguing that a certain amount of ambiguity adds to the appeal of the game as well as increasing fan interest. Usually FIFA refuses to even address or acknowledge the issue, but the severity of the mistakes in this tournament has forced a response.
FIFA has decided that, for the rest of the tournament, when the ball approaches within 20 meters of the net the video feed will be replaced by soap opera programming from the nation on the attack. Radio announcers will be required to stop calling the play and instead break out into native folk song. Fans at the match who do not turn their heads from the pitch will be escorted out of the stadium.
"This 'See No Evil, Hear No Evil' approach is the only reasonable remedy," according to a FIFA spokesman who refused to be identified for fear of reprisals. "It is a human game, with humans making mistakes, and it would be the gravest mistake of all to try to change this fact."
"The play's the thing. Goals are not important, which is a good thing because they don't happen anyway. The only result people care about at the end of the match is that FIFA is in control. If people cannot accept this authority then they will lose their privilege of watching a FIFA event."
"Soccer is a reflection of life. In medicine, do you think the quality of care has improved as a result of technology or an effort to correct diagnostic errors? No. In law enforcement, do you believe that DNA testing or fingerprint technology has made it more likely the right people will be convicted of crimes? Did it make a difference that Edison kept trying to get it right? Of course not. Do you honestly believe the scientific method has done anything to improve the lot of humanity? It's absurd. Why should soccer be any different?"
The spokesman, who was captured crossing the moat on his way back into FIFA headquarters near Johannesburg, went on to say that FIFA recognizes that shortcomings of on-field personnel also need to be addressed. Referees who receive a failing grade for their performance in a match will be required to watch portions of Italy's and France's first round-matches while translating articles into their native language from the United States press about how stupid soccer is. While playing a vuvuzela.
"Honestly, FIFA has done everything it can be expected to do. For decades we have asked the players, coaches and fans to make the sacrifices required in order for FIFA to be able to continue presenting the most compromised football in the world. Unfortunately, the public has become resentful rather than grateful," the spokesman continued.
"How can it be The Beautiful Game, without beautiful errors. People say they want justice. Well we at FIFA ask who can provide justice? Can the players? The fans? No. Can a camera? Only God can provide justice, God and FIFA, and we are both of the opinion that video replay will not lead to justice."
An offer to return the FIFA spokesman safely in return for some kind of comment, anything at all, from FIFA President Sepp Blatter was ignored by the organization.
June 25, 2010
World War Cup
You'd think that World War II was the most important event of the previous century what with all the parallels being drawn between the course of that conflict and the current World Cup. Basically, it goes like this:
France has capitulated early and Italy has given up the boot. England is left to fight Germany all alone, although the Yanks may show up eventually. The Japanese have advanced. All we need is for Russia to force Germany to divert most of her players to the Eastern Pitch.
But wait, the Russians aren't coming! Those pesky post-Tito Slovenes defeated them in World Cup qualifying because they penetrated the Russian defense in Moscow in November, a strategic conquest denied both Napoleon and Hitler.
Speaking of our favorite mass murderer, don't you think his hell-roasted spirit is in particular agony knowing that Germany's side has a bunch of guys who under his command would have been sent to a completely different kind of training camp? Turks, Brazilians, even Poles. To paraphrase another German, Max Weber, "The progress of humanity is the slow boring of hard boards." 65 years is not that long (the Serbs, who were eliminated yesterday, are still stuck on the year 1389). So this development is a very happy one.
Back in France L'Equipe is not being welcomed a la maniere de Gaulle. The French are playing Yellow Card Red Card Race Card, with digits pointing about who to blame, who won't sing La Marseillaise and who is and is not really French.
A quick look at a team picture shows 13 players with dark skin. Contrast this with the 1998 championship team, which had only 13 players with dark skin. Ok, so it's the same number but that team, in contrast, won so they're patriots, true French, whereas this team lost, so they are a bunch of unassimilated enfants d'Afrique unjustly blessed with French citizenship. We'd have done better with the Algerians!
Yes, they conducted themselves horribly, winners of the Petulant Boot, and deserve the nation's condemnation. They squandered a quadrennial opportunity on the world's biggest stage, their behavior a warning to the world's children rather than an example.
But maybe it's about individuals and their poor choices, or about how professional athletes are absurdly spoiled, rather than let's simply tar everyone with the same old tar? Vive, vive, vive Le Pen!!!
France's flame-out was spectacular but mostly took place away from the pitch, and the whole mess with Henry's hand ball against Ireland and the French coach's astrological consulting made this outcome seem preordained in that weird fateful fashion that is so common in soccer.
The argument could be made that Italy's collapse was more shameful, especially when you consider the end of the Slovakia game. Once they got down by two goals Italy began playing with speed and inspiration. It was the most riveting 20 minutes of the tournament and it made it obvious that Italy's prior performance was from apathy.
France seemed troubled, but Italy seemed indifferent. That's a greater sin. In contrast, the Western Hemisphere is playing with enthusiasm and purpose lacking in most of the European powers. At least six of the eight teams are going to advance to the Round of 16 and Chile, the team playing the most exciting soccer, might make a seventh.
More specifically, has anyone noticed that in this particular game of Risk the South Americans are taking over the board? 10 wins, zero losses, three draws, with top-ranked Brazil and Chile playing against Portugal and Spain today. Today could have the best play we've seen so far.
To give us a sense of where things are, let's take a look at the map.
June 24, 2010
American Soccer Players Are New Heroes
Jeff Klein at The New York Times Soccer Blog has gathered a wonderful video collection of 17 celebrations around the country (many of them here in California). Most of them are either after Landon Donovan's stoppage time goal or post-match, but this one from San Diego actually starts a few seconds before the goal so it captures the false start after Dempsey's kick into the goalkeeper, an intake of breath, then the explosion. It's just what it felt like at Nickies in the Lower Haight and one imagines all over the country.
This intense interest in the World Cup is more about national pride than a new-found love of soccer. Hopefully interest in the game will continue to grow for kids and their parents, because of all the team sports it's the one that will produce the highest degree of physical fitness, which according to statistics we desperately need to provide for our young.
It's even easy to imagine highly competitive high school soccer in more parts of the country but the economics and the low scoring will prevent the game from catching on at the professional spectator level. However, the United States international team could continue to improve dramatically as more and more kids go to play in the European leagues after they leave school.
Whatever happens later, for now it sure is great to get up at 5:30 in the morning and to go find a pub to share this team with others. It's also fantastic to play well in the world's game. Take a look at the bottom of the NYT blog's game play-by-play. It was a joy to read all the well-wishing comments from around the world.
It feels, too, that this team which plays a foreign game has an iconic American hero. Donovan is slight, without much swagger to him. He spends most of his time running, and his rush up the field on the winning goal was breathtaking. But he is most compelling when he stands still.
When Donovan is poised before the ball at a corner kick or a free kick he has an air of quiet certainty, alertness and complete self-possession. His confidence and attention radiate to his teammates and to all of us.
There's a little Tom Hanks in these photos, but when he is surveying the pitch before kicking the ball into play it is more like Gregory Peck, as if Atticus Finch were a coach whose job is to integrate a high school team in the 1960s American South.
He tells us with his eyes that he's going to get it done. A hero makes people say "That's what I want to be like." Donovan inspires that.
June 22, 2010
Who's Having Sex at the World Cup?
Who cares if nobody is scoring in the matches as long as there's plenty of action elsewhere and so far this World Cup has delivered. There is the controversy over the new ball, the vuvuzelas, the concern that the South African infrastructure was going to collapse and the fear that the citizenry would butcher and pillage their guests.
We have the quadrennial reminder that nobody in FIFA's tower can be bothered about whether the matches are refereed properly and that if the players, coaches, media and fans want answers they can shove a Jabulani where even Beckham can't bend it.
The French are having an epic farcical collapse, the Italians are one loss away from joining them, and don't fly into Heathrow without a parachute if England falls to Slovenia tomorrow (What if the sodding Yanks get in??!!).
Which brings us to the universal language, the only hierarchical need that approaches soccer these 31 days. Who's getting it from whom and who's upset about it? Who's deprived? Will the English dames arrive in time? Will John Terry need a scorecard? How does a celebrity romance become an international incident? Enter here and here and here and here and if you aren't otherwise occupied you can keep doing it all day and night.