Re: Donaghy

1

It might the beginning of the end...... like that was a bad thing.

It will just become sportainment like pro wrestling. The transition will be smooth. The crookedest refs will become cult heroes.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 10:33 AM
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It might what the beginning of the end?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 10:34 AM
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Simmons makes the mistake, common to ESPN functionaries, of assuming that people care about the NBA.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 10:35 AM
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It might could be the beginning of the end.


Posted by: DaveB | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 10:35 AM
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In the news stories following this it's been reported that lots of people have followed referees in terms of how likely they are to officiate games in which the score tops the over-under. And Donaghy among others consistently had something like 75% of his games top the over-under.

That sounds like one of the most risk-free ways to make money gambling if you just bet on all of the games officiated by one of those guys. But then why doesn't the over-under take into account the officials properly?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 10:35 AM
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2: It might begin the end.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 10:35 AM
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The problem isn't the crooked ref. The problem is that atrocious officiating affects too many games. Whether a ref controls the outcome of a game because he is crooked or whether he does it because he is bad at his job doesn't much matter to me. And the fix is pretty simple: more good refs who call the games more consistently.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 10:37 AM
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Maybe ogged and Tim should apply for jobs as NBA refs.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 10:38 AM
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And the fix is pretty simple: more good refs who call the games more consistently.

Not anymore. They have a PR problem, and they need to convince people that everything is legit. Given that there will always be bad calls, they can't just indict Donaghy and say "look, 90% accuracy!"


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 10:39 AM
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I don't know anything about the NBA, really, but isn't there an almost explicit practice of not enforcing the rules with respect to the big stars (that is, if someone famous picks up the ball for a step before shooting, it's not a foul, even though it would be for a nobody)? Would quitting that sort of thing make a difference?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 10:42 AM
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Stars get preferential treatment, yes, but that doesn't outrage people nearly as much as when it seems like a team is getting preferential treatment, because stars cancel each other out, teams not so much.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 10:43 AM
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I get that you could favor stars without teams, but it seems as if when the refs have lost credibility, favoring no one might be a help.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 10:45 AM
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You're right, it might help. It just seems to me that they need to do something showy and dramatic at this point. Firing squads might help.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 10:48 AM
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There are those who think that crooked refs are a problem in themselves, worse than the problem of bad refs alone. But Tim's value-neutral convictions forbid him to agree with those people.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 10:49 AM
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The star treatment has had the effect of making all the best players sloppy. This might explain the recent disappointments at the international level. We get the movies, books, and sports leagues that we deserve.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 10:50 AM
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I disagree. The NBA is about entertainment, not integrity.

I agree with this article:

http://thesportseconomist.com/2007/07/some-needed-perspective-on-nba-referee.htm


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 10:51 AM
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Plus, not all stars are treated equally. Dirk and Dwayne Wade were not treated equally two years ago. The funny stuff has been going on for a long time, I think.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 10:52 AM
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My opinion is, more crooked refs! It would spice up the game, and fans could factor the refs in as they watched. It wouldn't just be the boring players any more.

"They say that Donagan has switched from the Vice Lords Commandos to the Russian Mafia Ninjas. He's worth a good 3-5 points per game whene he officiates".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 10:54 AM
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I think it's right to say, "Where and when does a particular sport have its outcome strongly determined by officiating?" and then look hard at that. This turns out to be the problem with basketball: it's an intensely officiated sport with enormous potential variability in how and whether a ref calls the game. Short of sports where the outcome is determined entirely by judging at the end (where corruption is a supreme temptation that is almost impossible to eliminate), I can't think of a major American pro sport that is more dependent on officiating, where officiating can be used to shave the outcome in particular directions in ways that are almost impossible to deal with.

If you compare to baseball, it's really striking. Most of the action of baseball can take place without an umpire messing with it. There's only two ways to really systematically meddle with it: a) constantly call safe/out in a way designed to throw the outcome. Problem: there's not really that many close calls of this kind in most games. b) constantly call balls and strikes in a way designed to throw the outcome. Problem: that's really easy to catch somebody doing it. If a guy calls pitches on the outside corners a strike for one team and then a ball for another, it's only going to be a few games before the league recognizes that it's going on.

About the only fix I can see is a really thorough revision of basketball's incredibly complex rule structure so as to eliminate a lot of the discretionary room--and how are you going to do that, given the nature of the game, that many players packed into that tight a space, that complex an interaction between ball and players?


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 10:55 AM
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the only fix I can see is a really thorough revision of basketball's incredibly complex rule structure

Are the rules really that complex?

But I agree that they need to make big changes. My pet proposal is to make the game four-on-four, and then I'd say they should allow more incidental contact.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:13 AM
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Doesn't soccer have the same sort of structure? It's not an American sport, but it should have either the same problems or have figured out a way to avoid them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:13 AM
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19: That's what I've been wondering about. It's amazing that Donaghy did this for years undetected -- or is it? Was he really good at intentionally bad calls, or could anyone officiating in the NBA pull the same thing off?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:17 AM
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Dirk didn't choke—Dirk got strangled!


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:18 AM
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I think that basketball usually involves literally dozens of fouls called each game, and that soccer has dramatically fewer.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:21 AM
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It's amazing that Donaghy did this for years undetected

Well, two years, as far as anyone can tell, and apparently the NBA was already investigating him last year, but the FBI asked them not to fire him until they have more evidence.

Stern had a press conference today, and basically went with the "bad apple" theory, which may be true, but still seems like the wrong response. What makes the situation in the NBA different from the Black Sox scandal is that there's already a perception that the reffing is crooked.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:23 AM
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21- I don't think so. NBA basketball has a density of approximately 0.002 players per sq ft, while international soccer has a density of approximately 0.0005 players per sq ft. And that's if they're uniformly distributed. As a rule, players are generally farther apart in soccer.

Quite different structure.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:30 AM
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Surely every misspent youth of the '80s spent a few hours reading Howard Chaykin's American Flagg!, and developed a fondness for the brutality-fortified version of basketball imagined therein. My favorite moment is when the captain of Flagg's local team tells a prying reporter that he's starting to irritate a man known as "the master of the two-finger lobotomy."


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:30 AM
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Point shaving doesn't work so when there's only a few goals a game, as in soccer.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:32 AM
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Work so well


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:33 AM
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25: Still, it wasn't his officiating that prompted the investigation in the first place. And granted, there's more and faster action on a basketball court than on a baseball field, but this was going on in plain sight.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:33 AM
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The major differences between basketball and other major sports are much higher scores and many more fouls. You can see how this gives refs an enormous opportunity to shape the game.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:34 AM
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I suppose there are too many fouls for something like instant replay to work.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:38 AM
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They have a PR problem, and they need to convince people that everything is legit. Given that there will always be bad calls, they can't just indict Donaghy and say "look, 90% accuracy!"

This is just wrong. What matters is the difference between fans' reasonable expectations about how fouls are called and the actuality. This ref appears to have influenced games without favoring specific teams. Deep down, no one cares about O/U influences except that it probably benefits slower teams and good foul-shooting teams, and that it shows that cheating can be done. Stern may have more explicit fan support than any other commissioner in US sports, and in the absence of the Dwayne Wade '06 fiasco and the PHX disaster, everyone would accept "one bad apple," which is, after all, a credible (if not the only credible) story.



Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:41 AM
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Doesn't soccer have the same sort of structure? It's not an American sport, but it should have either the same problems or have figured out a way to avoid them.

It's an older, more sophisticate, chain-smoking civilization, and they're fine with rampant corruption in their sports leagues.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:43 AM
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As ever, you're too optimistic. My sense is that a lot of fans thought the reffing was biased, if not fixed, and this just confirms those suspicions. You'll see, young Tim.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:43 AM
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I suppose they could have a review system like the NFL's, where teams get to challenge a limited number of calls per game.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:44 AM
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The beginning of the end? But why? If steroid use didn't kill baseball, a crooked ref isn't going to make a dent in basketball. People don't care.


Posted by: interrobang | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:45 AM
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Jesus, Tim, did you study with Ari Fleischer?

"Move along folks, no story here!"


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:45 AM
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What's bad for the NBA is good for soccer! Yay! Also, 28 isn't quite accurate. Sure, you can't shave points as easily, but there are other ways to subtly influence the game. As someone who made my high-school spending-money as a soccer official, I can tell you: there are tons of little calls that can go one way or the other. It's a lot like basketball in this respect, I think. The difference between calling a foul, or calling a foul and giving a card. Or the difference between how lenient you are on certain kinds of tackles, how much arm-contact you allow, etc.


Posted by: arthegall | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:47 AM
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Steroid cheating is different than ref cheating. Steroid use gives you an unfair advantage, but also makes you a better player.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:48 AM
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My sense is that a lot of fans thought the reffing was biased, if not fixed, and this just confirms those suspicions.

Right. I am one of them. But last year's Finals did more to shake my faith in the NBA than this reffing scandal did.

Again, the fix is simple. More better refs. Tell all of the refs that each week the NBA is going to select a handful of games (or plays, or whatever) in which the reffing is controversial and the refs responsible for those games are going to have to justify those calls (or non-calls) to the public. Right now the pressure on refs comes from either the league or the teams; it ought to come, more diffusely, from the fans.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:48 AM
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Dude, there's the reffing problem and then there's the PR problem. What do you suggest be done about the latter? Every time there's a bad call, fans are going to be talking about Donaghy.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:50 AM
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My opinion is, more crooked refs!

Also, allow the players and especially fans to carry small but unwieldy weapons into the stands/ on the court. The reasoning is that if enough ofthe fans harm each other inside the stadium, they are less likely to cause real damage when they leave the stadium, and if excellent players are wounded often enough, the illusion of authentic elitism in sport may vanish. This would likely hurt sales of T-shirts, so it will never happen.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:52 AM
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I love that soccer is being put forth as an example of a sport free from the taint of corruption.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:53 AM
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This is exactly the same as arguments about the pernicious effect of X on politics. At the end of the day, I want well-justified outcomes, not motivationally pure ones. The pernicious effect problem in politics is a function of how much we don't see and cannot (or will not) watch, as well as the complicated and incomplete models we have for assessing political decisions. None of that is true of NBA games.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:53 AM
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I have no idea what you just said, but I'm going to do some cheat-free swimming, so it doesn't matter...


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:54 AM
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. What do you suggest be done about the latter? Every time there's a bad call, fans are going to be talking about Donaghy.

As always, sunlight is the best disinfectant. For every call, there are fans who benefit, who lose, and (the vast majority) who do not care about that specific call. At the end of the day, popular opinion will carry the day on how we judge refs. If the NBA plays it straight--and if ESPN/NBC stop acting as fucking spin doctors for ref decisions--the end result will be refs who are broadly fair and a fan base that accepts that. Why? Because it's the path of least resistance.

Look at the NFL. They've had really controversial calls over the years, but you don't here people talking about NFL refs, generally. Because the NFL addresses the fucking issue before it spirals out of control. Sadly, the NBA hasn't. Instead, over the last five years it has wasted time worrying that potential fans might find the league too "urban."


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 11:59 AM
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Firing squads might help.

My first thought was the China FDA route as well. My second thought was "I guess the mafia had the Heat in 2006."

If the league really thinks this is a major problem, it could institute rigorous monitoring bank accounts and occasional private investigator tails as a condition of employment as an NBA ref. Some financial firms do a version of this now (all stock ownership/trades must be vetted for potential conflicts insider information, etc.).


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:00 PM
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My pet proposal is to make the game four-on-four,

I've thought this for a while. There are just too many bodies moving around in too small a space. Four on four would massively improve the game, and give players space to operate and show off their skills.

Actually, almost every sport was designed in a time when there was a smaller athletic pool to draw on, and could potentially be improved by reducing the number of players. Can you imagine how exciting and more athletic baseball would be with one less fielder?


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:03 PM
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44: That's an Italian problem, not a soccer problem. In general, European football is amazingly well officiated. Why? Because they relegate/promote their refs.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:05 PM
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it could institute rigorous monitoring bank accounts and occasional private investigator tails as a condition of employment as an NBA ref

My understanding is that it does. I've seen explicit reference to the league's access to ref income information, and the league obv. did put a PI on Donagy.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:06 PM
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46: how would you cheat in swimming? Really bad gas? A propeller beanie?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:06 PM
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50: so that's why flopping isn't a problem, yes?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:06 PM
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I don't think soccer is really being put forth as free of all corruption.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:07 PM
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49: But SS is the best position there is. What would be better is if we could come up with a way to make the pitcher bat.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:07 PM
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The game of soccer itself is a corruption of the original ur-game, Head Kick.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:08 PM
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I'm with SCMT, I don't believe that the mafia is running the NBA. I'm inclined to believe that the "bad apple" theory is correct. And, I would greatly like to see more transparency in the way that refs and calls are evaluated.

I know that, in the last couple of season, more journalists have been allowed to attend the ref training camp before the season. What about allowing journalists into some of the weekly review sessions? What about, to borrow an idea from truehoop, a weekly feature on NBA.com in which fans could nominate controversial calls and someone from the league would select 5 or 6 calls of the week and give an explanation for why they were called they way that they were.

I realize that no league ever wants to say, as an official statement, "the referees made an error in this case" but, really, NBA fans know that it's a difficult game to ref, why not be honest?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:09 PM
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One problem with the bad apple theory is that this guy is one of (something like) 4 refs who all went to the same Catholic high school in Philly. Bad apple basket, maybe. It also sounds like people might have had an idea he was dirty: the guy was not well liked, to put it mildly.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:11 PM
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if we could come up with a way to make the pitcher bat.

Don't we have one already? I think it's called the National League.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:12 PM
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Baseball's problem is a lack of violence. I've long held that the batter should get to take first if, on a called third strike, he can hit the pitcher between the shoulders and the knees with a flung bat.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:12 PM
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50:Flopping, like diving? Well, that's why the ref has to be so damn skilled. Anyway, it looks silly to American eyes, but at its heart, going down at the slightest contact is just a way to signal that you feel you've been been fouled. Actual diving, where you pretend there's a foul that didn't exist is more problematic, but is just an exaggerated version of a catcher framing a pitch.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:12 PM
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What? Baseball has plenty of violence. You never watch any Red Sox games, do you, Apo?

Actually this season has been sadly brawl-free.

I will note that 55 and 60 have exactly opposing ideas for how to fix the sport.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:14 PM
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Has this been linked here before?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:14 PM
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61: see, I like it when people don't fall down unless somebody else actually makes them. This "dear sir, I believe you have wronged me, so I shall feign a grevious injury for fifteen seconds so you might learn the error of your ways" schtick seems a bit twee.

That said, there were some games during the World Cup where it didn't seem like that happened at all, and they were great.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:15 PM
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Fucked if I know what "grevious" means.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:16 PM
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Bad.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:21 PM
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Despite my defense of soccer officialdom, the best '06 WC games were the worst officiated ones (e.g. Netherlands/Portugal and Australia/S&M).


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:21 PM
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Baseball has plenty of violence.

Brawls are extracurricular violence, not intrinsic violence. There's the brushback pitch, the spikes-first slide, and trying to jar the ball loose from the catcher, but that's about it and all of those are infrequent. Similarly, Tonya Harding didn't add any spark to the actual "sport" of figure skating when she hired a goon to whack Nancy Kerrigan.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:22 PM
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in the absence of the Dwayne Wade '06 fiasco and the PHX disaster

Add to this the Lakers-Kings fiasco a few years back (and the other one, before that). If I paid better attention, I could probably identify a truly egregious, crooked-looking series in every playoffs, going back at least to 1997.

I don't think the mafia runs basketball; I think there's a strong-form star system that basically determines most playoff series. The league more or less cops to a weak-form star system; it's a testament to our basic corruption that we're ok with this.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:22 PM
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"Grevious" describes a very serious pre-existing condition.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:22 PM
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Add to this the Lakers-Kings fiasco a few years back (and the other one, before that). If I paid better attention, I could probably identify a truly egregious, crooked-looking series in every playoffs, going back at least to 1997.

Really? When the Lakers Kings series happened I remember feeling much more disgusted at the time than I had been by, for example, the Lakers - Portland series two years prior. At the time it felt like a level of bad that I hadn't seen before.

Other Sonics fans tend to point to the 1993 Sonics/Suns game 7 as another egregious example but, having gone back and watched a videotape of them game (it just happened to turn up) I defend the oficiating in that game. I haven't tried going back to watch the games from the Lakers-Kings series again, and it would be interesting to do so.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:27 PM
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68: but what if it had happened on the ice, on camera?

That's right. It would have been totally awesome.

You can't tell me Pedro Martinez throwing a 70 year old attacker to the ground didn't add something to the sport of baseball.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:30 PM
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68 is true in a way, but brawls are extensions of the violence inherent in the system: the game itself involves throwing a hard thing at somebody at very high speeds. Brawls usually erupt in defense of a hit batsman.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:33 PM
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72: That was so awesome. That toad had it coming.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:34 PM
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Oh, for sure.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:36 PM
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Of course Pedro's throw-down was an excellent moment. But that's because the 70-year old was:

a) Don Zimmer
b) a Yankee


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:40 PM
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Actually this season has been sadly brawl-free.

For Boston, yes. But there was this.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:41 PM
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"Grevious" means the awful thing that preceded the current awful thing. Thus, W is our president, and Nixon was leader of the grevious administration.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:45 PM
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78 is a point made greviously, in 70.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:47 PM
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Lakers-Kings was the first one I really noticed but I don't know if I would have been able to identify earlier instances. There's Jordan's famous last shot.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:49 PM
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This is exactly the same as arguments about the pernicious effect of X on politics. At the end of the day, I want well-justified outcomes, not motivationally pure ones.

Spoken like a true process liberal.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:52 PM
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Similarly, Tonya Harding didn't add any spark to the actual "sport" of figure skating when she hired a goon to whack Nancy Kerrigan.

Actually, she did.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 12:56 PM
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Like a dozen people have said above, the problem isn't one bad apple, it's that officiating sucks in general. I'm sure one reason he could get away with it is that there's little visible difference between a ref in the tank for the mob and the standard awful officiating, where refs are routinely in the tank for stars, or screwing up their calls for god knows what reasons.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 1:05 PM
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Yet another problem that can be solved by not giving a shit.

At my current pace, I'm scheduled to become Bartleby in about 2024.


Posted by: DaveL | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 1:13 PM
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79: 70 wasn't grevious at all. It was prelightful.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 1:23 PM
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Yet another problem that can be solved by not giving a shit.
This is the sentiment that I was struggling to articulate in the Spoilers thread.


Posted by: rapoli | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 3:29 PM
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86: Dammit. I haven't read the Spoilers thread yet. Now you've ruined it for me.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07-24-07 7:03 PM
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I've been thinking about the Donaghy scandal, and I really think the impact will depend on how much players, coaches, and owners support David Stern.

If the only people saying that referees do a good job are David Stern and other league officials they look like they're just trying to cover up a problem. If Mark Cuban comes out and says, "I've had my differences with David Stern, I think refereeing could be improved, but nobody can say that David Stern willfully tolerates corrupt referees." That would make a huge difference.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-25-07 6:37 PM
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The definition of naive=one crooked NBA ref.


Posted by: rich | Link to this comment | 07-25-07 11:11 PM
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