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.