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.