Pleats Will Forsake You

I suppose one could easily accuse me of having tried to minimize the Donaghy Clunk, if not positively ignore it. I'll plead guilty on both charges, insofar as what I've said so since it broke has been glib and imperfect. But I can't help but feel like this is what every anti-NBA tyrant has been waiting for: an absolute that grinds the league's credibility into the ground. It's as if many have already made the leap from "one crooked ref" to "the entire league is fixed," which is like looking for hundred dollar bills on the ground every morning because once, it happened.

So fine, my take on Donaghy's relative irrelevance was a little exaggerated, and off. Still, I think it's a decent counterpoint to anyone thinking that he masterminded the Suns' demise. Mostly, I could give a fuck less against the rising tide of public perception. It's never been on the NBA's side to begin with, so why would I suddenly be so concerned with what this scandal means for the league's image? Because the complaints are concrete and legitimate, I should now be listening to the same voices who have harangued the NBA for years now?

Or is it the spasms we get from being in the presence of history. For reasons for self-gratification and self-promulgation, writers like nothing better than to set pivotal moments in their sights. It's a field day for coverage, and instantly justifies the otherwise hum-drum dance of sports journalism. Even someone like Simmons, who when he's on might be the finest NBA writer of this era, is playing to the crowd (or his inner audience) and claiming that we'll never see a bad call in the same light again. I guess that's true if—as he does—you use the examples of chintzy announcers and biased fans.

In the rush to judgment, I think people might be overlooking what's most troubling about this entire unfurling ghost. Namely, it's only going to satisfy out operatic impulse for a little while longer. There's something disgustingly obvious about it all; as has been said by many, the game lends itself to this type of manipulation, refs feel underpaid, and lousy calls are easy to camouflage. Once the details will out, this will be no more interesting than that mole sliced out of your hip. For any number of reasons, a shock cancer would be more fulfilling for fans and media. But when it's all said and done, I doubt we're going to be able to pin all the league's woes on one deranged straggler, or see in this one man the full glare of the NBA's current state.

Fine, bring on the reforms to officiating. That can only help the quality of the product, but it won't transform the sport. That's the bind here: Donaghy's being cast as the NBA's death angel, and yet only represents a small, ultimately limited, picture of what's flawed about it. That's why my first thought was "thank lords it's not the players." Durant and Oden gang-raping a minor would do more far-reaching damage, even if they'd one day be replaced. Donaghy, for better or worse, will never be forgotten. He's assured his own immortality, and become a burden that the league will drag about till next century. They'll put his picture in time capsules, and write a musical about him in the year 2109. Sadly, this will do precious little to explain the precarious (and exhilarating) NBA condition, circa 2007.

P.S. We're coming up on two weeks of donations, and I am still surprised and humbled. Now keep the cash coming or I will start corrupting the integrity of FreeDarko!!!! But seriously, it is all much appreciated, and in the next month or so we will provide even more incentive to give a little bit to our cause.


At 7/23/2007 9:42 AM, Blogger Sneaky Pete said...

Mr. Shoals,

I'm feeling you on this one. I could care less what the "public perception" is when the public didn't give a damn about our sport in the first place. But as I was reading this something else hit me. I believe that Mr. Simmons might have officially lost touch with me. This isn't one of the typical "Simmons has jumped the shark" rants that have become common in the blogosphere. Rather, it's just a realization that we aren't on the same page anymore. The first chink in the armor came with the Mayo-Love column back in the spring. I was pretty heated after reading that, having felt as if he became one of the "sportswriters that hates sports" that he spent so much time railing against. Now he comes out with this. I'm not saying I'll never read him again. I'm just saying I'll never read him the same.

Sneaky Pete

P.S. Hurry up with the ABA shirts.

At 7/23/2007 10:03 AM, Anonymous Cyanide said...

There's only one solution: Eliminate the refs, streetball rules, players call their own fouls.

Now if you excuse me, I have to go watch a seven hour free throw contest between Manu and Rip Hamilton.

But seriously, dude manipulated the game with his officiating to change some final scores. One side, obviously that's an insult to the game, shady all the way around, etc, etc. But on the other hand, there's two other refs out there. And I'm sure an entire personnel division in the NBA that oversees all this stuff. Plus the gaming commissions (and some super-knowledgeable sports betting wizards) who would note and inquire about any irregularities on a regular basis.

This dude fucked up big time, and deserves to be made an example of. Officiating is a game of human error anyway, no reason to add gambling interests to the mix. But the alarmist attitude that every game he was in or the entire 06-07 postseason and whatnot need to be asterisked is hurdling past ridiculous, unless everybody above is in on it.

The doldrums of the NBA offseason is a drag. We're in that part between the draft/initial free agent rush and training camp where we over analyze off-court happenings and refresh RealGM to see whose signing Mike Wilks. I'm ready for basketball again. =/

At 7/23/2007 10:26 AM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Thank you for having some common sense, Shoals. That Simmons article, and all the articles like it, are just pats on the their own back for those writers. For example, that You Tube video of the Suns-Spurs Game 3 - I broke down each call, and only one call is clearly Donaghy making a bad call - the Ginobili late whistle. Everything else is hardly "damning", including several calls or no-calls by the other refs. Simmons is way off on this one.

It's hard to see how one ref could get away with as much as people think he could. Not to say he couldn't alter the outcome of a game, but not on regular basis.

Odd, the "league was extremely impressed with his progress" and "thought it was his best year", according to today's reports. I guess when he wasn't "fixing" games he made sure to keep a low profile in terms of abnormal behavior?

At 7/23/2007 10:26 AM, Anonymous Sweat of Ewing said...

You guys ever listen to Simmons podcast when it was still called "Eye of the Sports Guy?" The intro had an audio clip from some movie or other with a character screaming "This is important!" in a shrill and obnoxious voice. I usually get a big kick out of his columns, but this one just pissed me off for the exact same reasons as that clip. Screaming "this is important!" into a microphone doesn't make it important, no matter how much a sportswriter might want it to be so. Donaghy is not going to change the face of the NBA other than lending a sense of justification to the NBA paranoiacs, who, in the end, are still just pissed their team lost and will take virtually any excuse to sling mud at that fact. The refs will be more closely scrutinized, great, good for the game. If Simmons thinks that Phoenix is going to win that series next year, it's not going to happen because of a more honest ref squad.

At 7/23/2007 11:32 AM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

I have to agree, Simmons' column was way over the top this time. There was a similar scandal in German soccer a year and a half ago. In the case of soccer, the lone referee obviously has greater influence on the outcome of the game than one member of an NBA crew, but his crucial calls (penalty kicks, red cards) are far easier to point out.

In the German case, the outcome of one game of the league cup (similar to the British FA Cup) was directly affected by a terrible penalty kick call by the refereee in question, so the manipulation was much more obvious and had far greater implications than an NBA regular season game.

The only thing that should be questioned after this incident is how far criminal influence on sports betting goes. It would be pretty easy for baseball pitchers to give up a run at the end of a certain loss or for quarterbacks to toss another interception in a blowout.

And on another note, the greatest NBA-related bit I've read today again comes from Marbury's blog when he's talking about how the Knicks will share the ball on offense next season:

"It’s whatever coach says, I don’t care. The ball will go to whoever. 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. The ball will go into whoever's hand he feels has the hot hand. As long as the ball is happy with a W, it doesn’t matter who scores."

At 7/23/2007 11:33 AM, Anonymous Bayern Munich said...

Here's the thing - the type of "fixing" (of referee assistance, or deliberately bad calls, or whatever you want to call it) that so many people have accused the Association of sponsoring in the last decade is entirely different than the Donaghy story. In fact, they're closer to opposite than they are to similarity.

The thing that so many fans (even serious ones, not just "casual" observers) have claimed to notice is league-sponsored favor granted to certain teams. This was/is done on the basis of: which city is bigger, who has the richer TV market, which team has the more popular and marketable players, etc. Mavs/Heat 2006 series, Lakers/Timberwolves 2004 series, and some others followed that pattern. Unless you believe in a conspiracy of truly epic proportions, gambling had NOTHING to do with that.

The Donaghy situation, regardless of how "big" it ends up being or how "deep" the roots go, is about point spreads and gambling money being laid on certain teams. There's really no relation between that and referees "favoring" the more marketable team from the bigger, hipper city, other than the fact that, in both cases, the referee did bad.

Now people who have spend the last 5 years claiming that games are fixed will say "I told you so!" It's stupid. It's like claiming Iraq has a nuclear weapons program, then finding they have canisters of nerve gas, and saying "see ... I told you they had destructive weapons!" Even the most superficial understanding of the situation shows that those who claimed the games were fixed never had this in mind.

At 7/23/2007 12:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darkofan: The request for financial support-- is it something that the readership can ride out like those National Public Radio fund drives ?

Left a related comment on the prior posting-- the summer activity just has too much positive energy to be diminished by the corrupt referee scandal.

At 7/23/2007 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I hear Kobe is 15 pounds lighter and is more vicious than ever on the court. Watch out for the mamba!

How many refs does it take to fix a game?

Im sure theres a funny answer to this out there somewhere haha.

At 7/23/2007 1:41 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Bayern Munich makes a great point. The two (a solo ref fixing the game for gambling purposes, and a NBA crew fixing the game for ratings purposes) are not related.

And while I love conspiracy theories, the reality is that it doesn't make sense for the league to fix the series so the Spurs (low rating guaranteed or your money back) can advance at the expense of the more popular Suns.

As for Marbury's blog, the thing I enjoyed the best was his subtle attack on LeBron:

You want to make me the clown…I’m not the dude on the ESPYs, getting carried on a throne. I’m not him. I’m the good guy, not the bad guy. I don’t want to be carried on the throne…I just want to walk among the people.

If the Knicks can really be any good next year (still a big question), then Marbury (and Q-Rich) vs. LeBron could become a fun rivalry.

At 7/23/2007 1:53 PM, Anonymous tom said...

I'm perfectly fine with blowing off all of the cynics, blatant NBA haters and journalist trying to write their piece of sports history who are claiming this brings the NBA to its hour of judgement because when it comes down to it, one official shaving points from a handful of games does not destroy the integrity of the game.

But what's really troubling here is that all of the facts aren't out yet, not by a longshot. Donaghy is cooperating with the feds and agreed to implicate others involved. If other refs are named, then I don't think they'd be wrong to say the NBA is fixed.

On a side note, the NBA can kiss their dreams of a team in Vegas goodbye forever.

At 7/23/2007 1:54 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

that thing about donaghy vs. conspiracies was one of the reasons i thought this was good for the league. as in PEOPLE, THIS IS WHAT CORRUPTION IS. NOT STERN WRITING SCRIPTS.

At 7/23/2007 3:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regular season ball was hanging by a thread before with only 1) L junkies 2)fantasy players 3) gamblers 4) status seekers giving a rip about it. One group (3) is dead & (4) has been diminished. FD basketball is as kicking as it has in the last decade. Course FD ball for me has always been fantasy with less emphasis on stats and more categories with prose. I'd love to call it "Who's Now", but then I'd need to post a rebuttal including how zanax, oxies, and warm whole milk should never be mixed.
Simmons does nail the NBA bar graph.

At 7/23/2007 6:21 PM, Blogger Justin said...

Bill's Love vs. Mayo column should be the most supported one. Seriously, look at OJ Mayo ... everything you could dislike about the modern NBA is represented with that guy. Who would ever want to watch this guy except for dunk highlights? He was embarrassing in the McDonald's game.

At 7/23/2007 6:59 PM, Blogger Ben Q. Rock said...

So, just to be clear, it appears as though Donaghy wasn't fixing who won the game as much as he was fixing the total score of the game (over/under)? From that standpoint, it doesn't seem so bad. But considering the bad publicity and "HA! I told you so!", it's terrible.


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