Thursday, August 16, 2007

Some parochial views

Aug. 16

The two have gone together for weeks now. It seems like you could not pick up the paper without seeing them, seemingly indelibly linked. I speak of Delaware County native and former NBA ref Tim Donaghy. Unless you've been living in a cave, you may have noticed that Donaghy has been in the news recently.

It has not been a pretty picture. It boils down to this. Donaghy got mixed up with gamblers. He apparently also liked to gamble a bit himself. It's a volatile mixture. And also a dangerous one. Add in the fact that you referee professional sporting events for a living, and you have a powerful concoction the likes of which have not been seen in professional sports before.

In other words, your name and face are plastered all over the front page of the newspaper. And on TV. And on Web sites. And in national magazines. But it has not gone unnoticed that something almost always accompanies all those mentions of Donaghy. He was a graduate of Cardinal O'Hara High School in Marple Township. And also Villanova University.

The two have become inextricably linked in recent weeks. There would be the mention of Donaghy, the inevitable comma, and the sure notation of him being an O'Hara grad.

It is a reference that bothers a lot of people connected to O'Hara. To put it mildly, it is not appreciated.People want to know why we insist on making that connection. Some have gone so far as to insinuate that the newspaper is engaging in Catholic-bashing for constantly mentioning the school he attended years ago.

Donaghy is 40 years old. He had been a ref for 13 years. He doesn't even live in Delco anymore. He had since moved to West Chester (where he also had more than his share of scrapes with neighbors), and then on to Florida. Still, that tag sticks. O'Hara grad. The reason is because that's part of the story.

The situations surrounding Donaghy are unusual. It's the first time an official in any pro sport has ever faced such charges. When that happens, that's what we call news. We look at the person, as well as his background. In this instance, several people closely tied to Donaghy, including two who eventually also were charged in the scheme, also had O'Hara ties. It became part of the story.

That is not to say there are not a lot of so-called "positive" stories emanating from Cardinal O'Hara. There no doubt are. But they are for the most part routine. They're what we expect. That's not necessarily news. We can argue the point, and debate what it is that readers want, but those are the decisions I make here every day. The people at Penncrest, Chichester and certainly out there at Sun Valley and all my friends in the Penn-Delco School District likely could counter any argument that we are somehow "picking" on O'Hara or stressing problems connected to Catholic schools.

There was, however, a very interesting comment that appeared this week in one of my favorite parts of the newspaper. A caller to our popular Sound Off column pointed out what he or she believed was a clear case of our biased reporting. It involved Jack Raymond, the young man who won this summer's Delco Idol competition at the Media Theatre.

Guess where he went to school? You got it. He's an O'Hara grad. The caller pointed out those stories and headlines did not stress the O'Hara connection. "Curious" thought we did that intentionally. We did not.

Of course, as we pointed out in the editor's note, Jack won the contest fair and square. If he had conspired with some pals to fix the contest, that would have been news. As it is, I did not see a lot of other media outlets paying attention to the Delco Idol competition. We covered it every week. We did not pointout where any of the other participants went to school either.

Finally, we have a wonderful little bit of technology here at the newspaper. It's called an electronic archive. You can type a name or word into it and it will retrieve every item containing that phrase that has appeared in the paper.

When you type in O'Hara, you get more than 11,000 responses. Yes, many of the more recent ones also contain the name Donaghy. Most do not. The overwhelming majority of them are not exactly what you would call negative when it comes to the school. Of course, most of them did
not appear on the front page either.

Anti-O'Hara? Anti-Catholic? Biased reporting? Sorry, but I wouldn't bet on it.

* Moving Beyond 10,000 Losses: An occasional look at why it's so difficult to be a Phillies – hell for that matter a Philadelphia –sports fan. Well, so much for Roy Hobbs. Russ Branyan turned back into a pumpkin last night. Actually, he turned into a Phillie. By that I mean he did what this team does all too often. Strike out. This team consistently fails to put the ball in play in key situations. Last night they had the bases loaded with nobody out. They scored one run. That was on a hit by a guy they for some reason don't seem to want, Chris Coste. He was followed by Branyan and Jimmy Rollins. Whiff and whiff. Then Tadahito Iguchi bounced out. Game, set and match.


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The Daily Numbers: 3 hits for the Phils off Nationals starter Tim Redding last night. The Phils' vaunted offense has been AWOL in D.C.


2,000 bucks, how much disgraced former ref Tim Donaghy would be paid when the info he provided for gamblers was right and they won. He had to pay nothing when they lost. Pretty sweet deal. But a pittance compared to what he ended up losing.


30,000 dollars, how much Donaghy forfeited to the government yesterday.


260,000 dollars a year, how much Donaghy earned as a veteran NBA referee.


1.35 million dollars, value of the home Donaghy was living in Bradenton, Fla.


1 dead and one wounded after gunshots rang out during a basketball game at a youth camp being held at a rec center in North Philadelphia.

258 people killed so far this year in the city.

3 new tiger cubs that will be trotted out for the public today at the Philadelphia Zoo.

47 cats found in what's being referred to as a "house of filth" on Northeast Philadelphia.

3 alarm fire that ravaged a vacant warehouse on Route 130 in Camden County this morning. No injuries were reported but traffic in the area was a mess.

80 million dollar deficit staring at officials in the Philadelphia School District. They have already decided not to cut librarians or counselors, but something will have to go to stem the red
ink.

100 million dollar plan to build a soccer stadium in Chester in the hopes of luring a major league soccer franchise to the region. The man behind the push is the guy who just stepped down as head of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission. James Nevels is from Swarthmore. Now Gov. Ed Rendell says he will support the move. Remember when they scoffed at the idea of building a racetrack in Chester? Might happen again.

7.9 magnitude earthquake that rocked Peru early this morning. The death toll is already over 300 and likely will go higher.

4 games behind the Mets, where the Phils sit after last night's loss to the Nationals They're also now in third place in the N.L. East, a half-game behind the Braves, and game and a half back in the Wild-Card standings.

2 Eagles likely on the shelf for the year with injuries. Running back Ryan Moats and defensive end Jerome McDougle were both injured in the Monday night preseason opener in Baltimore. More importantly, the noise surrounding hobbled offensive guard Shawn Andrews does not sound good.

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I Don't Get It (with apologies to Jack McCaffery): The guy who was reffing the rec center game in Philly where a wild – and deadly -- gunfight broke out described the scene as something out of the "wild, wild West." Where will it end?

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Today's Upper: There's a new boss in the Penn-Delco School District. Dr. Robert Mesaros used to be the head man in Marple. We wish him well as interim superintendent in picking up the pieces in his troubled new home.

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Quote Box: "Tim deeply regrets his involvement in this matter and especially the pain it has caused his family, friends and co-workers." -- John Lauro, attorney for disgraced former NBA ref and Delco native Tim Donaghy.

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