Photos courtesy of Peter Vecsey and NBC
Peter Vecsey speaks out
By JESSE SCACCIA
Turn to the Hoop Du Jour column in the New York Post. Look at the face glaring back at you. The beard that looks like it has been trimmed by tiny gold scissors. The black shirt and a suit that shines through the dull black and white of the newsprint. What is that, sharkskin? The lower lip jutting out, feigning petulance. The cocksure five-degree tilt of the head.
Peter Vecseys eyes are what one really notices. They radiate, like there are whole worlds back there, fights between good and evil reflecting through his irises. Those are eyes that you can imagine staring down at you from the mouth of an unmarked grave. Those are eyes that watch bridges burn. They look like they may even be capable of lighting fires on their own.
You used to be able to see Peter Vecseys face and hear his voice a lot of places. The Daily News, USA Today, NBC, SportsChannel, ESPN Radio, and, most recently, TNT. Not anymore, and probably not ever again.
He calls Dick Young, the godfather of the Daily News Sports section, "A real prick." USA Today? He walked out on his contract when Rupert Murdoch offered him a better deal. He says of NBC that, "The relationship certainly wasnt friendly for various reasons the last two (years). Again, if not for the money, I wouldnt been out during those depressing days."
Peter Vecsey accuses ESPN, and specifically their NBA reporter, David Aldridge, of one of the most egregious sins in journalism: stealing stories. "When I was at NBC, David Aldridge was the worst," Vecsey says and pauses, as if to make sure the name of one of his biggest rivals is duly noted.
"Id report that Chuck Daly is going to be the Nets coach, and three hours later ESPN comes on saying theyve learned that Chuck Daly is going to be the coach of the Nets. Its a shame. I called them out on that. I was doing ESPN radio back then. Theyd announce something and say We got it. Wait a minute, youre stealing that. They told me to stop it or theyd let me go. It cost me a fortune, basically," he says and lets out a burst of cackle, before adding, "They have been doing it for the last dozen years. I would not want to work for those people."
Vecsey saves his sharpest criticism (and biggest match) for TNT and Charles Barkley, the station who financed those sharp suits for the past three and a half years and the former NBA superstar turned pundit who edged him out of a job. Barkley will have plenty of time to talk during this upcoming NBA season. Vecsey, who claims to have not spoken with the press since a damaging Sports Illustrated article came out five years ago, made it clear that this is his turn.
"I loved working at Turner until Barkley showed up," Vecsey says. "When his boss got upset with me for exposing Barkley as a fool, dumber than a stump, he distanced himself from the proceedings. I was warned to lay off while the boss publicly bragged our tongues weren't tied."
Vecsey, a man whose brother, Chris, referred to as a model of impertinence, says there was one reason that he stayed at Turner once it was clear that the executives favored the more popular Barkley. "Only the money kept me from quitting, but I knew it was over when the contract ran out," he says, before returning to his favorite subject of the afternoon.
"Barkley pretends he knows what's going on around the league, making him a fraud. [Kenny] Smith readily acknowledged to me he doesnt want to know what's going on (in fact, he's proud of it), making him a blight on the business."
Vecsey, convinced that his was the only meaningful voice on the Inside the NBA program, had this to say about his former employers: "It's sad how uninformative Turner has become in the name of entertainment/nonsense. Only intelligent fans recognize they're being grossly shortchanged. Nobody attached to the show has any clue what's really going on around the league."
Director of Public Relations for TNT, Jeff Pomeroy, left little doubt that Vecseys departure from the network would be permanent. "We were able to get Magic Johnson, a Hall of Famer, on the team, so thats the direction we decided to go," he says. "We have a six year deal with the NBA, so I dont foresee any changes."
Vecsey claims not to care. "There's only one thing I miss about TV and that's the money. So, I can never say I won't work in TV again; if there's the opportunity to solidify my future and take care of my family I would consider resurfacing but not unless the parameters were thoroughly spelled out. I don't see that day ever coming, which is fine by me," he says.
Theres one bridge left in Vecseys professional life, but it seems like this is one even the opinionated star himself cant incinerate. Peter Vecseys relationship with the New York Post is made of stainless steel. Like its star columnist, the Post sports section unabashedly refuses to accept common standards of propriety.
"A lot of our columnists write with an edge," says Sports Editor Greg Gallo. "If that translates into stepping onto people's toes, I don't know. That's kind of the style we have in the section. He's one of several columnists that write with a punch. Its part of the style that's the section's reputation. We write with an edge. We're aggressive. We don't pull punches. "Were very happy with him," he adds.
Vecseys current stint at the Post has been ten years, and he just signed on for another three. "I'm permitted to do whatever I want and obviously that formula works well for The Post, Peter Vecsey and the paper's readership," Vecsey says.