June 11, 2008

Basketball is Not a Sport, Plus It's Crooked

LOYAL RANT READERS may recall the -- ah, enthusiastic -- response I received when I declared that basketball was not a real sport. Well, news today reveals that not only is basketball not a real sport, it's crooked too. At least that's the reasonable conclusion I drew from the explosive allegations just released in the Tim Donaghy matter.

First, some background. Mr Donaghy was a referee for the National Basketball Association until it emerged Mr Donaghy was a scoundrel and a cad. Mr Donaghy had not only bet on the games he was refereeing, but had passed on inside information to bookmakers, and these activities caused a great hue and cry when they were discovered. However, when Mr Donaghy pleaded guilty to related charges back in August, the scandal eventually died down. The public largely accepted that Mr Donaghy had been a rogue agent.

Unfortunately, the NBA -- committing one of the classic blunders -- did not see fit to let sleeping dogs lie. The league claimed, in a letter to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, that Donaghy owed it $1 million in restitution over the whole affair. As Mr Donaghy is due to be sentenced next month on the matter, and potentially faces a rather long spell in the yank, this did not go over well. So, Mr Donaghy's counsel, John F. Lauro of John F. Lauro PA, did some beautiful lawyering.

Not only did Counselor Lauro smack down the NBA something fierce related to the restitution demand, he also innocently included details of all the secrets Mr Donaghy revealed to the prosecutors, in a letter to the court showing how cooperative Mr Donaghy had been with the Government. This tactic was so beautifully executed -- and in the middle of the NBA Finals, no less! -- that The Rant believes Counselor Lauro can now, under the General Principle Rule, shout in court at the NBA's lawyers, "You wanna know what happened? We just whooped your ass!"

The allegations are particularly serious too. They include charges that referees favored a team to cause a playoff series to reach seven games; that referees were told to avoid calling fouls on certain players; and that referees, despite policy, were socializing with coaches, accepting free meals, and so on. So much for your Lakers-Celtics rivalry -- now, people are asking whether you can trust the NBA.

I am not a basketball fan, so I don't know the answer to that one. Although I do think basketball -- due to its fast pace, innumerable rule violations and petty emphasis on fouls -- is uniquely open to these types of issues. With football and baseball, the pace of the game is slower and the fouls are concrete: one either held a player or did not; the player is safe or he is out. Plus, with instant replay and video closeups, everyone can see whether a call was made correctly or not. But with basketball, where fouls routinely are called for no discernable reason, or completely ignored if convenient, that "cut and dried" aspect of the game doesn't seem to exist.

I don't know how one would go about fixing this, but something needs to be done -- if only to assure the fans they're watching an honest game.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at June 11, 2008 01:05 AM | TrackBack
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