Griefs and Muffins

It's rough out here, really. I got over being thankful for the Donaghy Disaster, and no matter how hard I try, I can't let my body shake to the rhythm of HISTORIC BLACK SOX DISASTER. They had a half-wit who pure hit his way into God's Cooperstown; this reel's got a drab stalker-compulsive who is no less of an asshole than everyone else from Philadelphia. I guess we'll be talking about this until 2049, but it will be either as an abstract point of reference, or because less devout fans of the game will shout about it whenever a call goes slightly askew.

Let me make the incredibly brazen suggestion that, if Donaghy was able to go this long without detection, he wasn't particularly stupid about it. There's a reason why we're hearing that no playoff contests were involved—putting himself in a position to mess with events in close games, on national television, when everyone cares, would not be the best way to stay on the low. The same goes for regular season games that would likely come down to the wire, where a basket awarded one way or the other could actually have some effect on players' psyche. If he did this right—and since the NBA only found out because the fact of it came up in another investigation, I'm assuming he did a little of that—Donaghy would only have dealt with making sure teams covered the spread, ideally in garbage time.

Fine, the competitive fabric of the game has been raped. Now go and tell me that you don't turn off the last three minutes of a blowout, or that in those waning moments, both teams are clawing at the throat of possibility. In theory, any ref in any sport can affect the outcome. But in basketball, the unique combination of easy-to-come-by points and frequent meaningless play makes it easy for a zebra to make small strokes that translate into major figgers.

Of course there's no way Donaghy could predict which games would end with a patch of nothingness, and there is such a thing as an upset. But this wasn't a dude making a few big scores and getting out—he was a psycho-gambler, as accustomed to losing as he was the chorus of victory. And I'll say it once more: if Donaghy were to be too demonstrative about it, or actually decide the victor, he risked getting uncovered and losing his position of influence. Knicks make it close against the Pistons? Fuck it, he'd double up when the Mavs hosted Charlotte. As far as I can tell, many remember him as not being a particularly notable ref one way or the other, which is consistent with his trying to keep a low profile. Oh, and another thing: just because Donaghy presided over a game he'd placed wagers on, doesn't mean he had to push the tide on way or the other.

I apologize if this is all a little too flippant for some of you. I do think, though, that Donaghy's insult to the sport itself would have been impossible to sustain if, you know, it actually mattered in the way people are making it out to. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to call in on the FBI on my neighbor with the spliced cable signal.

Also, I like how the proof that Donaghy was evil is the Sheed incident, which was after a game and involved the all-time leader in volatile behavior.


At 7/22/2007 2:58 AM, Anonymous tom said...

Dead on about experienced gamblers, especially card counters, knowing when to lay back to minimize exposure to risk and I'm sure Donaghy played his point-shaving scheme in much the same way but there's that other side of the experienced gambler, the compulsive gambler that will take foolish risks for the potential of immediate return.

This is amplified when the gambler runs into a streak of bad beats or is facing the very real possibility of a serious beating from an unsavory looking wiseguy so I wouldn't be at all suprised if Donaghy did effect the outcome of a game or two.

But I think there's a larger constituency than NBA fans that Donaghy has severely pissed off that should be mentioned. If you lose thousands on a game because the ref calls a stupid foul in garbage time, you're sore for a few days. If you find out later that maybe the ref isn't as stupid as you thought, you're out for blood.

And not to go on too much of a tangent here but don't you think the words "the refs can't possibly be this stupid" will speak a little louder in your head every time a bad call is made in crunch time?

At 7/22/2007 4:43 AM, Blogger Nate said...

You are so on point with this. Fuck a ref. Can we get back to talking about actual basketball now?

At 7/22/2007 4:46 AM, Blogger Nate said...

And of course our great commenters at the fanhouse tried to tear me a new one after I made some of the same points yesterday.

At 7/22/2007 5:54 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

I agree with Nate. This is all just a PR issue now; wake me up when it becomes something more than one guy fixing meaningless games against the spread. I've been asking myself how this changes my experience of watching games for the last two days. Haven't found a legitimate answer yet.

Speaking of assholes from PA, does anyone else think he looks like Santorum?

At 7/22/2007 7:32 AM, Anonymous padraig said...

First off, I'm not sure why this is shocking to anyone. Wait a minute, you mean to tell me that organized crime is involved in fixing sporting events? Stupefying. I'm with you 100% Shoals-the issue isn't that this is any more horrifying than steroids or the NFL's numerous problems, it's that this is a golden opportunity for dudes who get their jollies harping on why the NBA was 7000000 times better back in the day when everyone had to dribble through 8 feet of snow, without shoes, uphill both ways every time they drove to the rim.

Really, I don't see how this is going to change many opinions about the NBA. Cats like us will continue to, you know, get excited about Bobcats/Hawks games in January and obsess over Matt Barnes' insane fast break decisions (or Gerald Wallace or TYRUS THOMAS IN THE PLAYOFFS-what'er your cup of tea may be), maybe a little more cynically. The multitudes of dudes who are like "Thugs! Selfish! Larry Bird's mustache! F the NBA!" will continue to hate, maybe a little more smugly. There's not much of a middle ground these days anyway.

Sure, Stern has to do something but c'mon, he's not stupid. Arrogant, set in his ways? Sure. But not stupid.

Nate-don't sweat the ALL CAPSLOCK crowd

At 7/22/2007 10:03 AM, Anonymous Spectator said...

I know the reports said he was betting on the point spread, but let's say I was a scum-sucking corrupt NBA ref.... My scam would be to bet the over on the total score over/under and then make sure I call the game a little tighter than normal. It wouldn't look too extraordinary if I was calling a few extra fouls on BOTH teams, resulting in more free throws and betting the over/under.

At 7/22/2007 10:15 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

that probably would make more sense, wouldn't it?

times article on heavy betting and how it affects the line. it both gives two examples of the line shifting in games that donaghy worked, but then says that vegas would've noticed if donaghy's games kept doing this.

for what's it's worth, betting on the suns to cover a 5-point spread against houston in houston seems like a bad play to me, as does a one-point raptors/sixers game.

At 7/22/2007 10:16 AM, Anonymous paper tiger said...

this whole ordeal kind of interests me most as a counterpoint to the referee racial bias study that was released this season. granted, the results were generally misconstrued, no real consensus reached, blah blah blah. what's interesting to me though is how immediately stern and the league jumped up to scream "impossible! racism does not exist in our league!" whereas here there was no defense, no wait and see, just swift capitulation. it's possible stern was handed irrefutable evidence, it's possible they thought in this situation this was the better PR move to make, circumstances, etc.
even in light of all that, though, i think this is where we see the character of the limitations on stern's utopian presentation. "unconscious racial bias? not on your life! compulsive gambling and mob ties? yes, why yes there is."

At 7/22/2007 11:21 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

the referee bias study was a mess. this case is a matter of fact, since it wasn't someone leveling accusations as a fan or observer of the games themselves.

and to tom, you're right, getting the shit beat out of him might have been a reason to take a risk. but then you get into the whole thing of how valuable he was to the mob, how they'd want him on the court, how if they torched his house and then donaghy went to work, it would look strange.

what could be better in a point-shaving arrangement than a ref sinking further and further into debt? to the point where the mob, not his own desperation, had the final say over what got fixed and when.

At 7/22/2007 4:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I can feel is a strong need for actual NBA play to resume.

At 7/22/2007 4:20 PM, Blogger Carter Blanchard said...

F Donaghy, why's it been so quiet on Marbury's latest awesomeness over here? So many gems all week but especially on Friday's post:

"If my sense don’t add up to yours, then pay me no mind. Feel me?"

"I do have one admission. I am high, high off of life."

"I’m coming out with a children’s book where the ball has a personality, which is the best way I can explain how this will work next season."

This shit deserves to be broken down and appreciated.

At 7/22/2007 4:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If my sense don’t add up to yours, then pay me no mind. Feel me?"

I guess he doesn't want to be blogged about.

At 7/22/2007 5:40 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Game 3, Western Conf. Semis, Suns at Spurs.

Line: Spurs by 4
Over/under: 201.5

Officials: Rush, Willard, Donaghy


This, to me, speaks a lot louder than some armchair psychoanalysis about when and when not Donaghy felt comfortable influencing a game.

Also, finally, the spread on most NBA regular season games is usually only a few points, even when it's two mismatched teams. So calls that are only intended to help cover/beat a spread could easily affect the win-loss outcome. I don't think that getting the margin of a blowout from 20 points down to 17 helps anyone make any money. What are you talking about?

At 7/22/2007 5:56 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

so wait, the entire crew was in on the fix? because donaghy didn't make all of those calls.

my "armchair psychoanalysis" was, lo, nothing more than a look at how to fix games and not get caught. FIXING THE WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS IS NOT THAT.

and about the spreads. . . if you're right, i sincerely apologize. actually, maybe i don't; there can be a big difference between the score when the game stops being competitive, and what it ends up like during garbage time.

on that note, i'm done talking about this issue for the rest of my time on vacation. fuck this.

At 7/22/2007 6:26 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

There are some really bad calls on that video, and I remember the Suns getting the majority of the bad calls. But I'm pretty sure you could make a video of all the bad calls from any NBA game and have it look like something approaching that.

This is not proof of the Suns losing because of one crooked referee. Proof would be a video of all of Donaghy's calls in the game--although even that wouldn't explain his angles on no calls and so on. Putting in calls from the other referees is disingenuous as shit, and a perfect example of what happens when people research with an eye towards a specific answer.

I don't think anyone doubts that Donaghy fixed some games, but we shouldn't be so quick to declare that Phoenix lost because of this guy. It'd be far easier to judge the effect he had on games by looking at insignificant ones in December, when they're lower profile--and therefore easier--to fuck with.

At 7/22/2007 6:59 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Man, Shoals, I wasn't trying to break your balls.

I love this blog; it's the best one by far; I always read it. I figured I could post a counterpoint to your point. I'm not coming in here with some agenda to beat and prove anyone else wrong.

I came in here, was stimulated by what you said, had a few thoughts of my own, and posted something in response using (or trying and failing to use, perhaps) the same literate, no-bullshit tone you use in your posts. Lighten up, man.


At 7/22/2007 8:26 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

shibboleth indeed.

it was just the last sentence that set me off. mostly because i was struggling to make my point make sense in light of what you said about spreads. i kind of think i did so, but it does make it a lot more difficult.

i'm trying to both rationalize my own indifference and find a way to beat back all the cassandras on the corner.

At 7/22/2007 8:37 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Absolutely. This is only indirectly about the sanctity of the game. Primarily, it's about the sanctity of the book. The level of outrage shows just how much our sports coverage has become about the book.

At 7/22/2007 9:27 PM, Blogger Davey said...

Whether or not it was related to anything fishy, that Ginobli play was just a cartoonishly bad call.

At 7/23/2007 1:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bethlehem, your Holy Grailness of good thinking and good writing, let me respectfully point this out to you. The point of getting a ref in on a fix is to assure a predetermined outcome for the benefit of the bettor. The bettor must, of course, place a bet before a game is engaged. Which means Mr. Dirty Ref has to make damn sure that the game goes, say, over. He's got to do more than blow cheap whistles in the dying minutes of a game that's already in the bag, because when the bettor makes the "gamble" no one knows how close it will be, or how many points will be scored, at the end. This is Black Sox redux. Methinks you misunderstimate this thing.

Look, no one likes this. It's a stain. But let's not waive it off as meaningless, much like we can't waive off GSW because they lost in the 2nd round. It has to mean something profound, eh?

At 7/23/2007 5:02 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

Anon: I'm not sure anyone's saying this is meaningless; I think we can all agree that a referee fixing games is a story. But I think it's also a mistake to say it's "Black Sox Redux." Players involved in the game have the ability to directly affect their point totals and foul situations. They can reach in at inopportune moments, intentionally miss short or long. Referees, try as they might, can't make players go 5/16; they can make some questionable, often awful calls that have some effect on possessions and foul trouble. And even then each ref only comprises 1/3 of the total decision making braintrust there. This is very different than eight players (or seven, if you don't want to count the .375-hitting Shoeless Joe) on a baseball team throwing an entire the World Series.

The bigger issue here is that it was impossible to differentiate Donaghy's calls from Eddie Rush's in that video. There's a problem with most every referee in the league, and they're not all married to the mob.

Again, I think the only way to seriously guage his effect on games is to look at one from December. It's easier to look at those objectively (even if you're not a Spurs or Suns fan, there's an emotional level there that won't be present for Kings/Bucks), and it's more likely that Donaghy'd take a more active role in fixing a low profile game.

Changing gears significantly, did anyone watch the USA scrimmage? Durant's gonna average 20 easy this year. Still needs to put on that weight for rebounding, though.

At 7/23/2007 5:34 AM, Blogger T. said...

Continuing along the changing gears topic, the world news newspaper (Beijing) has an article suggesting that Yi fire Dan Fegan and hire new representation, and basically blaming Fegan for all the issues with Yi signing in the NBA.

This is a screwed up situation - I just talked to someone who knows Yi really well, and they said "the kid just wants to play ball and not worry about anything else"

At 7/23/2007 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darkofan: Saw a quarter of the USA Scrimmage White v. Blue. Didn't even think about the referee scandal.

Durant seen for the first time working inside and outside against the pros, trying to think of some comparison but can't George Gervin and a young Elvin Hayes combined ?

K.Bryant was whippet thin and realed off the last seven to win.

Poor Labron James missed the last one but at least he is taking the last one on a team of Stars .

Keep working Freedarko.

At 7/23/2007 12:16 PM, Anonymous Brett said...

Actually high profile playoff game are better to fix because the more money that is bet the less the fixer has to worry about hammering the line and setting off alarm bells in Vegas.

There are plenty of people who "care" - as in bet money on every game. But refereeing is so inconsistent that its not that big an exposure. Scams
like this get uncovered when betting gets lopsided.

And the fix that makes the most sense is "over the total". Then all the ref has to do is get players to the free throw line and not favor either team.

Most likely Game 3 Suns Spurs was fixed by Donaghy to go over. I'd bet on it!

My question is was Donaghy already under investigation at the time. If so, Stern is going to have an even bigger problem.

At 7/23/2007 5:00 PM, Blogger Nate said...

Check out some of the comments I've been getting on AOL. And they wonder why I hardly post there anymore:



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