Tim Donaghy returns to the spotlight in the Netflix documentary – but something is missing

LAS VEGAS – By January 2007, Jimmy Battista’s NBA bets had caught the attention of the world’s heavyweight players, who had associated umpire Tim Donaghy with the action.

“Just a fool,” wrote Dr. Sean Patrick Griffin, “would have ignored Battista’s ridiculously obvious betting success.”

Griffin’s three-year descent into offshore betting was sparked by his curiosity about Mafia involvement in sports betting, which stemmed from an FBI wire tapping of the Gambino crime family.

Donaghy was mentioned on these tapes. Subsequent headlines about betting scandals shook the NBA. One of his officers is dirty, film at 11. But that was just one knot in the tangled web.

Griffin, a professor of criminal justice at the Citadel and a former Philadelphia police officer, unraveled much of this mess in his 2011 best-selling book, Gaming the Game.

He describes the genesis of the scheme involving Donaghy, Battista and Tommy Martino, former classmates at Cardinal O’Hara High in Springfield, Pennsylvania, and how Battista manipulated the global betting markets.

After it hit the fan and the court case dragged on, Battista hoped to expose Donaghy’s mountain of lies through testimony. However, Griffin explains why Battista, the professor’s main “gaming” helm, decided to request.

Griffin’s impressive work is relevant again, as Netflix is ​​set to air Untold: Operation Flagrant Foul on August 30 about the scandal. It advertises interviews with Donaghy, Battista and Martino – not Griffin.

He told me on Monday that those producers called him, they spoke for maybe 90 minutes, and Griffin provided relevant notes and possible research.

But the person who knows more about the case than anyone else is not on the show and will not be watching.

“I have incredibly low expectations for what they’re producing,” Griffin said over the phone from Charleston, South Carolina. “People know I have documents and files, and they keep asking me questions that they don’t like the answers to.

“And it drives her crazy. They just keep marching, saying whatever they want anyway. They produce whatever they will produce, regardless of the evidence. For me, Netflix is ​​the next iteration of that.”


Donaghy published a book in June 2010, nine months before Gaming.

Guess what footnotes, byline credits, cross-references to facts from many officials and resources, and extensive due diligence by a PhD forensic expert. in the Penn State Department of Justice?

Griffin became so clearly and repeatedly aware that the former referee was full of fakery and fiction that he relegated Donaghy to the insincere shadows of his own imagination.

“Don’t forget that I had a hand in not making Donaghy’s story come true [b.s.]said Griffin, 52. “I was just doing research. I’m one of the idiots who bought Donaghy’s book.

“Once I realized I was dealing with these offshore guys who might as well be your neighbors, I was blown away by all that sociology.”

It baffles Griffin how media, particularly sports talk radio, have offered Donaghy a platform for his sensational fodder.

“It’s absurd. He gives the media a press pack and they read him the questions from it like it’s a public relations campaign,” Griffin said. “Nobody realizes it’s a scam. I’ll never understand that.”

Battista, who called Donaghy “a pathological liar” with bottomless greed, told Griffin, “I knew that Timmy’s demand for money far exceeded his ability to get it. He was [expletive] smart and thought everyone owed him the world.”

But Battista refused to yell at Donaghy.

“The Feds wanted to talk to me and take action against him, but I didn’t want to,” Battista told Griffin. “That could have helped me and absolutely hurt Timmy, [but] I wasn’t a rat.”


Had Battista gone to court, Donaghy’s character would have come under immense scrutiny.

In high school, during a trip to the Jersey Shore, Donaghy got drunk and searched neighbors’ homes to steal items. Battista called him “a weird, mean guy.”

Battista said Donaghy and Martino were close in high school because they both enjoyed smoking pot. When Donaghy became an NBA umpire, it continued, sometimes with hookers.

Griffin documented Donaghy admitting to getting into Villanova, in part by having someone take his SAT for him. Martino said Donaghy also cheated on tests at Villanova.

Dust charges with neighbors (one who called Donaghy “a flaming madman”), an attack on a mailman, and the mayor of West Chester, Pennsylvania, noting Donaghy’s “very aggressive personality” were also filed.

Donaghy once stuck a dead, maggot-infested bird in the pocket of fellow golfer John Minutella. “Nobody wanted to play golf with him,” Minutella said. “I can’t say anything nice about him. I think this guy was almost soulless.”

NBA commissioner David Stern stopped Donaghy from working on the second round of the 2005 playoffs because of the “sheer volume” (Stern’s words) of such reports. One more incident and Stern would have Donaghy fired.

Battista overheard Donaghy making racist NBA comments. Scandal architect Battista was addicted to various pills and cocaine, but he was the man, as countless pieces of evidence and others confirmed his smallest details.

He documented a Donaghy win rate of 78% and paid him $201,000 for his “tips,” just a cog in Battista’s tentacles, which reached Asia, Europe and Vegas.

“Just money, just business.” Battista said to Griffin. “It’s not like I laughed at his calls when they helped us or got angry at his calls when they hurt us.

“The ‘Timmy Elvis Donaghy thing’ was just a small part of everything I did, and I didn’t want anyone to find out. So I didn’t really have time to focus on it, let alone enjoy it.”

Griffin peels the onion.

“I don’t want to say that the NBA scandal was easy,” he said, “but when I was given access to US law firm officials and FBI agents, they not only confirmed what Battista said, they carried it out.”


Battista and Martino agreed and drove to the Marriott at Philadelphia International Airport on December 12, 2006 for an exploratory meeting with Donaghy.

Donaghy didn’t like betting on former St. Joseph hoopster Jack Concannon, but little did he know that Battista had been tracking his NBA bets with Concannon since 2003 when Battista was in Curacao.

That’s when Battista started calling Donaghy “Elvis,” the king of predicting NBA games — including his own, Battista told Griffin. Donaghy was terrible at betting on any other sport.

Donaghy had Martino arrange the Marriott rendezvous. It was Donaghy’s 13th NBA season. He had an unhappy marriage, four daughters and a salary of $260,000.

“I knew what it would mean,” Battista told Griffin, “if I had an NBA umpire on my side.”

Donaghy had sent Battista a Lakers jersey signed by Kobe Bryant for giving him soccer picks. At the Marriott, Battista thanked Donaghy for the gift.

As they left, Battista asked Donaghy who he liked the next night when the 76ers hosted the Celtics in a game Donaghy would officiate. Donaghy said Boston “is going to kill the Sixers.”

The Celtics were favored by 1.5 points. Just before tip-off, Battista bet $60,000 on Boston, raising the line to 3.5 points. The Celtics won 101-81.

The next evening, the trio met at Martino’s house to agree terms. Battista rolled $7,000 in a rubber band — two for the Celtics pick, five as a signing bonus — on the edge of Martino’s couch for Donaghy.

“For our new partnership,” Battista said to Donaghy.

In his book, Donaghy wrote, “I knew I was screwed and in a difficult position. . . but my instincts to play took over and I was perversely excited.”

Sometimes, Battista told Griffin, Donaghy would call Martino from an NBA locker room to see how far a game was about to start.

Battista envisioned the arrangement for 20 years. Twenty months later, all three trials had escaped trial and were awaiting sentencing by US District Judge Carol Bagley Amon in Brooklyn.

Donaghy faced 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

“Tim Donaghy unknowingly put himself in danger,” Griffin wrote. “It’s likely that Tim didn’t realize how influential Jimmy had become or how Battista’s words and actions were now affecting bettors and bookmakers worldwide.”


Griffin had already published a bestseller in 2005 with “Black Brothers, Inc.” about the violent rise and fall of the black mafia in Philadelphia.

When “Gaming” hit #2 on a Nielsen list in mid-September 2011, he knew something was wrong, even though his royalty checks were only a handout. Barricade Books, his publisher, had problems.

“Embarrassing,” Griffin said. “Ridiculous.”

It cost Griffin to produce this book. A few years ago he bought his rights and original digital files. He had the artwork. He publishes it independently.

Griffin has a dogged determination. He works seven days a week. He’s been working on “something big,” as Tom Petty sang, for 10 years, and his near-future release is going to be a bomb.

Gaming the Game is definitive and crucial to understanding the NBA scandal and how sports betting money is zipping around the world.

Martino also wrote a book in 2019. Griffin said, “Even if it’s missing, nothing can compare to Donaghy’s book” to add comic relief.

The FBI investigated the disgraced umpire’s claims of involvement of other NBA officials with negative results. “It would have been great for me, great for sales, just for selfish reasons,” Griffin said. “[But] nothing is there.”

Griffin never spoke to Donaghy. Twice, Griffin said, he appeared in a television studio to take part in documentaries in which Donaghy was to appear.

Both times, however, Donaghy failed to show up.

“I’m not naive,” Griffin said. “I imagine TV producers were looking for a mix-up on air. I accepted because I’m an academic; We fight for our livelihood. But it’s not really a debate. That bothers me.

“It’s not a he said he said story.”

Donaghy, Griffin said, distracts and distracts.

“I’m just focusing on evidence, his betting records, a bunch of things that I can quantify, the ridiculous things he says in his book like, ‘I agree with everything Judge Amon said.’

“Really? She said there was no blackmail, no conspiracy and she were more culpable than the others. Do you agree? This isn’t her [b.s.] story you have told over the past 10 years.”

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