A HANDFUL OF SAND
The 32nd Round
A few letters. A lot of criticism. A little "cease-and-desist" action. I guessthat's what Teddy Atlas gets for straying from the script.
When Atlas was more or less taking his major ideas from Rounds 21 and 22 of"Operation Cleanup 2" - concerning appearances of conflict of interest betweenthe Mandalay Bay Casino and the Nevada Commission - and conveying them to his ESPN2audience a couple of Fridays ago, he sounded cogent, prepared, even sometimesprofessional.
But when left to his own devices on last week's program, when he was to come forward with"evidence" he had promised some unsuspecting reporters, he pretty much wound upwith the same thing he might have found if there were a REAL tropical bay named Mandalay.
Which is to say, a handful of sand.
In an attempt, I suppose, to "nail" NSAC chairman Luther Mack, Atlas introduceda piece of evidence - a hotel bill from the Mandalay Bay, dated December 29, whichdemonstrated that Mack had received a "special rate" of $115 at the hotel for asuite that, in the estimation of Teddy or one of his ESPN producers, would have gone for"about $400".
Let me clarify a few things about this bill that Atlas DIDN'T tell you. One is that Mackactually ran up quite a substantial tab at the hotel. For example, $93 in room servicecharges; $65 in the Raffles Cafe, $22 for in-room movies (perhaps some Vivid Video?), andthe customary inflated rate on phone calls, ranging from a buck for a local call to $39for a 20-minute call to Los Angeles. At the end of his stay, which lasted only two days,the bill came to $569 and change, which was charged to his Visa card.
Now, he might have had some comped meals, but I simply don't see very much room for it,judging from how many times meals were served and he was charged. And if he were gamblingin the casino, I don't think he'd have received anything in the way of free drinks thatwouldn't be offered to any other player at the table.
Let me relay something else to you - I'm not sure Mack got a much lower rate that anyoneelse could have gotten at that time, either. You must remember - Mack's stay lastedthrough December 27th and 28th, and the week between Christmas and New Year's istraditionally one of the slowest, if not THE slowest week of the year in Las Vegas. Itfollows that most hotel/casinos would be virtually giving away rooms in order to getpeople into the building. I know I am pelted with plenty of e-mails from Las Vegasestablishments advertising ridiculously low rates during that period.
Right now, during what may be considered a somewhat slow time, I could walk into theMandalay Bay (wearing a disguise and using an assumed name, I suppose) and get a"Deluxe" room for $99. Double that figure, then tell me how much more could asuite have been during the slowest week of the year, with the understanding that no one intheir right mind would want to accept anything higher than a "special rate" ifit were at all possible?
Given those facts, you'd have to wonder if (a) getting a discounted room, and not a"comp" at a hotel like this, would constitute a form of compensation as intendedin the Professional Boxer Safety Act; or (b) if it indeed did, whether it could possiblybe enough to make anyone on the state or national level do anything about it.
I don't want to make it sound as if I'm defending Luther Mack. Indeed, if there's somekind of evidence that comes to the surface proving he's dirty, so be it. And believe me, Iunderstand the concept of technicalities. But let's put it this way - I wouldn't want toapproach the U.S. Attorney in Las Vegas waving that piece of paper, in and of itself,demanding that he prosecute. It's simply not strong enough, and in fact may not amount toanything at all.
You don't want to swing and miss on something like this, because you're taken lessseriously next time. And you run the risk of making your target start to look like avictim. That's exactly what's happening, judging from the reactions of some of the boxingpeople I've talked with. One of them, an attorney, even suggested Mack could sue ESPN andAtlas for defamation.
As we've seen, it's also the kind of thing that invites letters like the one ESPN got fromthe Mandalay Bay's attorneys, because it has them thinking, "Gee, if this is the bestthing you can produce, what other agenda can you possibly have on your mind?" That'sa legitimate question, under the circumstances.
Indeed, it leaves me wondering whether this was just a retaliatory move on the part of thenetwork because, and only because, Mandalay Bay had revoked its hotel rooms andcredentials away for the Mosley-Marquez fight.
Of course, the motivation of Atlas himself is anyone's guess. Certainly it's differentthan mine. I don't recall making specific allegations or strong insinuations as Atlas did.My arguments are more abstract; more academic in nature. But it seems that for Teddy, orwhoever is behind him, to use this as a stepping stone to achieve a certain greaterobjective, he had to "get somebody". Well, that doesn't work if you're not anygood at it, or if you have an unusual degree of vulnerability on your own part.
Hey - I love publicity as much as anyone, but I'm not going to ride someone else's back,or use their work, to get it.
After Atlas first went on the air to discuss the issue of the Alamos - back on January 31- he immediately sprung into public relations mode, feeding people like Phil Mushnick ofthe New York Post and Larry Merchant of HBO with the "news" that he had"uncovered" these findings and conclusions, and that "hard evidence"could be expected on the February 7 telecast. Of course, they just went ahead and repeatedwhat he said, which tells me a little something about the quality of journalism in thiscountry.
Look, the purpose of what I'm doing is to create discussion - to make people take a lookat these issues, and take them further. And if ESPN came up with some additional,meaningful evidence that supplied a fresh angle, that certainly would be welcome. But I'mnot in the business of providing a service by which people can appropriate material forpurposes of enhancing their own image, whether that's for political purposes or not. Andwhatever thoughtless embellishments people want to inject are entirely their ownresponsibility.
Atlas told Mushnick, in a February 7 story, "I love boxing, it's how I make myliving. That's why I can't just quietly watch it be corrupted, over and over."
He told Royce Feour of the Las Vegas Review-Journal two days ago, "I think anybodywould see the obvious conflict. I have never accused them of any wrongdoing. All I havesaid is that the conflicts are obvious."
Fair enough - perhaps down the road we'll examine his standards in that regard.
Anyway, the aforementioned hotel bill constitutes the full extent of information Atlas hasbeen able to find on his own, pursuant to this story, although I know he didn't exactlyhave to dig for it. Well, obviously I know what is on that bill, and it's not something Iwould have done very much with, except within the context I'm discussing it now.
Did Teddy even seriously examine this document when it was fed to him, or did he just goon the air "blind" with it? Is THIS what he is trying to build a reputationwith? I hope not.
If I was out to "get someone", what I'd be trying to establish - not just aboutMack specifically, but any member or employee of the commission - would be things likewhy, with all the hotel/casinos in Las Vegas, would a member of the commission choose tostay, at a discount rate, comp, or whatever, at an establishment that also held apromoter's license?
Or whether there were some actual comps for people on the commission, as opposed todiscount rates that any number of people may have been able to take advantage of.
Or whether people associated with the commission were gambling on credit in a casino thatheld a license from the boxing commission, and if they were signing markers, whether thosemarkers were being shoved in a drawer and forgotten about. If that happened, THAT would benews.
Or whether any commission members serve on the board of directors for any company thatowns or controls a casino that has a promoter's license.
I mean, those kinds of things are CONCRETE - they're not just, well, sand.
And if you want to talk about Mack in particular, I'd be somewhat concerned with onestatement he made which found its way onto last Friday's ESPN telecast:
"In all honesty, a lot of judges and referees get their rooms for free."
If that's the case (and let's forget about casino discounts for a second); if Mack can betaken completely at his word, I'd want to know precisely what he was talking about. If Iwere part of the state attorney general's office or the U.S. Attorney's office, I'd bewanting to question him, if for no other reason than to determine what he would consider areasonable standard in that area. I'd be questioning ring officials in the state of Nevadato ascertain whether there is any truth to Mack's statement. And if some finger-pointingstarts to happen, I'd act accordingly.
This is all important because any irregularity might bring us into territory where theProfessional Boxer Safety Act was being violated, making it a matter very much within thejurisdiction of the United States Attorney. That's federal, not state. That means theconsiderations of the governor, the senator(s), and the state attorney general don'tnecessarily have to mean anything, because they have no authority whatsoever over the U.S.Department of Justice.
Take a look again at the Professional Boxer Safety Act as it would theoretically apply tothis:
"§ 6308. CONFLICTS OF INTEREST.
No member or employee of a boxing commission, no person who administers or enforces Stateboxing laws, and no member of the Association of Boxing Commissions may belong to,contract with, or receive any compensation from, any person who sanctions, arranges, orpromotes professional boxing matches or who otherwise has a financial interest in anactive boxer currently registered with a boxer registry. For purposes of this section, theterm "compensation" does not include funds held in escrow for payment to anotherperson in connection with a professional boxing match. The prohibition set forth in thissection shall not apply to any contract entered into, or any reasonable compensationreceived, by a boxing commission to supervise a professional boxing match in another Stateas described in Section 6303 of title."
Well, DOES it apply?
From what you'd have us believe, YOU'RE the investigator, Teddy. So get to work.
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