Cheating refs NBA’s biggest news so far

By Kevin Spitz

It seems like for some reason on campus the two favorite sports this week are football and bowling, with hardly a whisper that the NBA season is under way. The last we heard from the NBA Mark Cuban wanted to buy the Cubs, Tony Parker’s dry spell with Eva Longoria finally ended on their wedding day, and Tim Donaghy possibly single-handedly ruined the NBA.

In late July the story broke that Tim Donaghy had been involved with betting on games.

In addition to that, Donaghy also admitted to illegally telling people which refs were doing each game and how certain refs interacted with certain players.

Certainly the NBA had problems even before this. If you ask people about the Lakers-Kings Western Conference Finals in 2002, many will tell you that the basketball officials were fixing games. Personally, I am still angry at the officiating during the 1998 NBA Finals between the Jazz and the Bulls and the infamous no-call on MJ’s pushoff before his game-winning shot. Yes, world, I am a Jazz fan. And the second happiest day of my life was when Dee Brown was drafted by the Jazz. The happiest day of my life was when Deron Williams was selected.

Getting back on topic, basketball officials have it rough. They are scrutinized more than in any other sport, but it’s not entirely their fault. They have too much to watch on the court to see everything and there is just too much judgment for them to handle.

In football things are a lot more cut and dry. You hit a player after they call fair catch and it’s a penalty every time. The Illini have tested that the last two weeks, and the officials stood tough.

But, in basketball, a referee must assess how much contact there was, if it moved the player out of position and if an advantage was gained. Officiating basketball is not easy to do so we had to trust that they were doing the best they could.

That’s the best thing the NBA had going for it. Trust. Practically every time you would see David Stern he’d brush away the conspiracy theorists. I can almost hear his New York accent now: “A referee conspiracy in basketball? You’re crazy.”

Well, the people weren’t totally crazy. Yes, the dictionary definition of a conspiracy would mean that there were two officials who were fixing games, but even Donaghy by himself ruined the purity of the sport.

What David Stern and the NBA should have done was crack down on gambling the same way they cracked down on headbands and wearing blue jeans on the bench. Instead, for some reason when the NBA found out that a big percentage of its officials were breaking the rules and gambling at casinos the NBA let it go!

I’ve had my fair share of fun at casinos. In St. Louis they have this really fun Top Gun slot machine, but when I lose money, it’s only $40. What happens when referee Hue Hollins loses a quick $1,000 in blackjack and he goes looking for a way to get that money back?

Well here’s one easy way to get it back: Have someone bet the over and keep calling fouls until the points are scored.

I can think of very few instances when a company would find out that half of its staff was breaking a rule and change the rule to accommodate them. I suppose baseball tried to do it when it let people get away with taking performance-enhancing drugs for an entire decade, but history has shown that public opinion turns quickly, and I for one think that David Stern and the NBA made a terrible decision when they chose to be lax on this rule.

I think most NBA fans will enjoy this season. But I can only enjoy it if I know that the games are fair, and if I ever see Dick Bavetta next to me at the roulette table and putting his paycheck on black, that will be the last night I watch the NBA.

Kevin Spitz is a senior in Engineering. He can be reached at [email protected]