George didn't write about his dad'; passing for the Times. Peter's column "caught the humanity of my father," George says, and he knew that there was nothing more to be written.
"Pete scooped him," Chris Vecsey says. "George wasn't too happy about that, as I recall."
"I told you—I love this!" Peter says. It's a mid-March evening a' Philadelphia's CoreStates Center, and the man is in his element: before the game, behind the basket, basking Already he has interviewed his new love, Allen Iverson; heard the 76ers point guard stroke him about their chat; talked with team president Pat Croce and coach Larry Brown. The security guards know Vecsey, fans call his name. Now a girl is asking for an autograph. Behind her a boy is waiting to take a picture.
"I know the fans, the audience," Peter had said earlier that day, at lunch. "They love me. They love me. I get it back a thousand times, and it's tremendous: out on the street, in the letters I get.
"I've always known that my brother was good at what he did and had the respect of everybody, deservedly so. I know I don't."
Unlike George, Peter has been guided by none of journalism's notions of fairness and ethical probity. He once hit up a coach he was covering, Kevin Loughery of the New Jersey Nets, for a job as an assistant. During the 1981-82 season, Peter accepted two low-interest loans totaling $60,000 from Leon Spiller, a close friend of Nets owner Joe Taub's, to build a house on Shelter Island, in New York. Peter was questioned about the loans by his bosses at the Post, who chastised him but did not suspend him. The loans were a textbook example of conflict of interest—and a firing offense at most newspapers.
"Did I take it easy on Joe?" Peter says. "I love Joe. But I didn't take it easy on the team. It was winning in those days. But my honesty is the best thing I have going. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't put myself in the position to be nailed."
This year, Peter applied to the Denver Nuggets for the general manager's job eventually given to Dan Issel. Asked if he thought this compromised him, Vecsey says, "Why? There've been newspapermen who've gone to work for teams before. I wanted to join the fray."
Ever quick to tee off on others for any transgression, Peter has blurred the line between journalist and subject so often that at times the line has disappeared. A decent player at Archbishop Molloy High in Queens, Vecsey not only covered Julius Erving for the News when Dr. J was with the Nets but also coached and played with Erving for four years on a team in the renowned Rucker League in Harlem. Erving was Peter's best man when he married his current wife, Joan. Peter knew all the New York playground legends, hung out at team parties, put up Earl Manigault in his apartment one summer when Manigault was hiding from drug dealers.
Such access helped Peter build his strong network of sources, but it also gave him a ready pool of clients when, banished to covering high school sports for the News after his tiff with Young in '76, he began recruiting pro players to endorse Pony sneakers. "I was actually out there signing players to contracts—M.L. Carr, Darryl Dawkins, World B. Free," he says. "They got $1,000 a year. That was my job." It created a thin line for him to walk: Though Vecsey didn't cover the NBA that year and ended the arrangement when he joined the Post in 1977, he ended up covering people with whom he had once had business ties. It is precisely such gray areas that deny him the respect George is accorded.