Lest anybody think I would miss the Tim Donaghy book story, rest easy.
With a quick pause in the World Series, let me loop back to the news of last week that was akin to Christmas for all of us David Stern haters.
The disgraced former NBA ref has penned a book from prison. And …. it... is.... awesome!
The original publisher got cold feet, and pulled the project. Thankfully, somebody with a rough copy got a very salacious chunk of it to the boys at Deadspin.com. Allegedly, several other publishing houses are in negotiations to pick up the book and run with it.
You can read the devastating chapter-and-verse of NBA refereeing shennanigans here. Don't believe him? He's a crook? What about his credibility?
Just because a guy is a gambling degenerate scumbag, doesn't make him a liar. Besides, the roid dealing creeps who took Pete Rose's gambling action on baseball, were scumbags.
They also told the truth about Rose.
Even if only 20% of what Donaghy says is true, it's a devastating enough barrage to cripple the league's credibility. Not until David Stern has slipped into a wealthy retirement, and many of the high profile crony refs we all know by name – Bavetta, Javie, Delaney, Crawford et al. - hang it up, will we ever feel like the league has returned to being roughly on the up-and-up.
People always called me a “conspiracy theorist” on the NBA. Not true. I never claimed conspiracy. You didn't need one.
The NBA simply “massaged” outcomes, and manufactured excitement any way they could. The refs caught on, that calling “rules” and “fouls” when they were not needed, wasn't going to get them in the good graces of the league brass.
This is exactly what gave rise to guy like Dick Bavetta. He was, and is, a professional brown-noser. He knew what made the bosses happy, and went about helping make it happen. There were no grand conspiracies needed. No memos, no meetings. No guys in trenchcoats waiting outside the arena.
Here's the key exerpt on this point from Donaghy...
In the pregame meeting prior to Game 6, the league office sent down word that certain calls-calls that would have benefitted the Lakers — were being missed by the referees. This was the type of not-so-subtle information that I and other referees were left to interpret. After receiving the dispatch, Bavetta openly talked about the fact that the league wanted a Game 7.
"If we give the benefit of the calls to the team that's down in the series, nobody's going to complain. The series will be even at three apiece, and then the better team can win Game 7," Bavetta stated.
As history shows, Sacramento lost Game 6 in a wild come-from-behind thriller that saw the Lakers repeatedly sent to the foul line by the referees. For other NBA referees watching the game on television, it was a shameful performance by Bavetta's crew, one of the most poorly officiated games of all time.
We watched the game. We saw it. But it's nice to see it in black and white. Finally. There it is.
“Nobody is going to complain...” Exactly. Except the fans whose team (usually small market) gets screwed.
Bavetta's crew that night should have been suspended, if not fired. It was such a travesty, it did not pass the smell test on any level.
But it gave the league another game (more product!), controversy, hype, and ratings. Win, win, win.
If this game was an isolated outlier, that would be one thing. But you combine it with the fact that Jordan almost never fouled out of a game despite playing pit bull like defense, the Sixers over the Bucks in the Eastern Finals in 2001, the frothing at the mouth Mark Cuban tirade as Stern left the court in Miami, Cuban's repeatedly fined crusade for more officiating research, improvement and transparency, and on and on and on....
It is a shame. The NBA has super-freak athletes. The game could – and should – be so much more at that level. But the instinct of Stern to be a marketer first, league commissioner second, has stained the league. It won't go away, until he finally does.
There's a reason why the NBA used to pull 17-18-19 ratings for the Finals, where now, even a Lakers v. Celtics “dream matchup” with stars-a-plenty, wheezes to crack a 10 share.
Casual fans may enjoy the sizzle, but genuine sports fans don't take the league at face value. And too many fan bases of lesser markets, now never feel they will get an honest chance if the stars align to deliver them a championship caliber team.
Tim Donaghy is, according to the court of law, a convicted felon.
To me, he's a hero. May his full story in the league, yet be told.