Editorial: Let’s fix the games
We who are sports fans watch, sweat and cheer because we believe the athletes we so rabidly embrace will decide the results on the floor, ice or field.
While bad calls (or good, depending upon whose team is the victim) by referees, umpires and field officials can impact games, most fans, except for the hardcore conspiracy theorists, can pass it off to human frailty and failing eyesight.
But with the allegations by desperate and disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy that at least two playoff series in recent years were intentionally manipulated by referees under pressure from top league officials, even the most staunch apologists will have a difficult time warding off charges of favoritism of one team over another for ratings purposes.
This is beyond betting scandals that have been present on the sports scene since the 1919 White Sox threw the World Series after being bribed by gamblers.
Name your sport and there have been allegations of corruption – the 1951 college basketball point-shaving scandal; a similar problem with Arizona State and Northwestern in the mid-1990s; the suspension of 13 Boston College football players for betting; the gambling-related suspensions of NFL stars Paul Hornung and Alex Karas in the 1960s; Pete Rose admitting he bet on baseball while a player and manager; the recent betting scandal surrounding the Phoenix Coyotes in hockey. . . There is no end to examples in any game.
But nearly all those involved individual players who, once removed, no longer had influence over the results of their teams’ games, or so we believed.
Donaghy’s charges are troubling because there is a ring of truth in them, especially given his own confession that he fixed games and passed inside information to bookies.
NBA Commissioner David Stern has arrogantly dismissed Donaghy’s allegations as the acts of a rogue official seeking leniency as he faces 25 years in prison for his crimes.
Stern can dismiss this as the rants of a drowning man all he wants but all one has to do is look at the baseball steroids scandal to see the most accurate and complete picture of the drug use came from none other than Jose Canseco, not exactly a star witness.
We’re not sure what the answer is but a full investigation of the charges, interviews with anyone even remotely involved and a transparent report of the results would go a long way toward ensuring the NBA is not viewed just below professional wrestling.
When people can correctly predict, like in the current Celtics-Lakers series, that a disproportionate number of calls benefiting Boston in Game 2 would be offset in the next game in Los Angeles, you have more problems than a smirk and dismissive wave of the hand can fix, pardon the expression.