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Things Fall Apart

What you want if you're at the center of a controversy is a bigger controversy somewhere else. Or perhaps a number of controversies, big and bigger, each of them somewhere else. Either way, the idea is that the new controversy or controversies, which are by definition more compelling than an old controversy, will divert people from the particular mess into which you've gotten yourself.

So who's had a better week than Barry Bonds?

He hasn't broken Henry Aaron's homerun record yet? The grand jury investigating him has been extended? So what?

A guy who'd won two stages of the current Tour de France flunked a doping test and his whole team dropped out of the race.

An NFL quarterback is in court today, having been indicted for running a dog fighting operation which allegedly included the electrocution of a losing dog not fortunate enough to be shot.

An N.B.A. referee is being investigated for betting on games he officiated, and for his alleged association with organized crime.

The first story in that trinity of stupidity may shake loose from pro bicycle racing the last of the people who cared about the sport. Even one of the riders responded to the news of Alexandre Vinokourov's positive test by saying, "We might as well pack our bags and go home."

Entry number two presents a story that's spectacularly perverse, even by the standards established by previous crime stories involving pro football players. The charges against Michael Vick will have fans throughout the league begging players to stay in the strip bars and the adjacent parking lots, for goodness sake, where gunfire is always an option but electrocutions are rare and dogs, for the most part, are safe.

Then there's story number three.

Commissioner David Stern announced on Tuesday that referee Tim Donaghy's crooked behavior is the worst situation he has encountered as head of the N.B.A. Now, this is a league where players have assaulted their wives and girlfriends, players have gone into the stands after fans, and one player has chocked his coach, so it can certainly be argued that Mr. Stern's priorities are at best self-serving and at worst insane, but that's not today's point. Today's point is, Barry who?

This program aired on July 26, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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