Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Looking at NBA Hoops in a Different Light

It’s the first Tuesday of 2010 and that means a new year of Slammin’ Sam on Sports Media and Free Keon. Thanks for stopping by during the first full week of the new decade! The next couple Tuesdays, Slammin’ Sam on Sports Media brings you a pair of non-traditional hoops books.

Tim Donaghy refereed NBA games from 1994 to 2007. He was sentenced as a result of his participation in a pro hoops betting scandal for what he says lasted for the final four years of his NBA officiating career. After his recent release from prison, he begins the task of putting his life back together.

His book, “Personal Foul”, is billed as “The book the NBA doesn’t want you to read” by Deadspin.com. Apparently Borders isn’t so sure they want you to find out what’s on the inside of Donaghy’s book, either. The book was published in November 2009, but I just found a number of copies on the store shelf for the first time.

I’m glad I got my hands on it. Here’s why you should draw some contact for a “Personal Foul.”

1. The so-called “rogue ref’s” book speaks to the life choices and situations that all of us encounter. The possibilities for pitfalls are not limited solely to sports or to the NBA. Donaghy’s confession provides a morality check in a context that we all love, sports, to ask questions we might not otherwise ponder.

Former FBI Special Agent Phil Scala writes in the book’s forward that Tim Donaghy started life on the right track with good values – You will later read that it was partly loyalty to longtime friends that got Donaghy started tip-toeing, then, down the line sprinting toward deception. “… Over time, the subtle crossing of too many ethical lines led him to the point where those lines no longer existed.” (Personal, X)

You never know what triggers patterns or behaviors that will become someone’s downfall. Not long after a teenage friend moved into Donaghy and his wife’s neighborhood years later, this friend started golf wagers with the Havertown, Pa. native. For the first time, Donaghy was betting regularly and was invigorated by the experience. Reminds me of a Flintstones episode I saw where Barney reignites Fred’s betting frenzy with a simple game of marbles.

2. Conspiracy theorists who think the NBA or pro sports in general are tainted or rigged will be salivating at this tell-all in which almost anyone in basketball is fair game for the former ref’s revelations.

Two years into NBA officiating, Donaghy recalls a story about Michael Jordan. Jordan had already established himself as the best basketball player ever. Donaghy was still green behind the ears in his career and trying to do things by the rule book. Donaghy did what he was supposed to do but not what he was “supposed” to do by whistling a travel on the basketball magnate. Philadelphia fans started booing while Jordan and Coach Phil Jackson stood perplexed, heading to a timeout. “Phil, that’s the travel (the league) told us to call,” Donaghy explained. “They don’t want that called on (Jordan),” Jackson countered. After the game, a veteran referee affirmed Jackson’s comment. “You have to think about who you’re calling it on,” he said. (26) There are definite politics in “The Association”, and Donaghy furnishes example after example to support his argument.

3. Ultimately, basketball enthusiasts will be less interested in the salacious details than they are in Donaghy’s suggestions for improving officiating - I almost wrote “fixing officiating,” but that is what we are trying to stricken from roundball, isn’t it?

In Donaghy’s view, a good deal of the NBA’s problematic officiating is the league’s emphasis on the individual, rather than on the big picture. Is pro basketball better off promoting an entertaining showcase of athletes or encouraging hoops’ fundamentals, he questions. (240)

How do you see basketball?

Sam Miller/Free Keon

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful overview Sam! I actually came away from Donaghy's interviw on 60 minutes KIND of respecting the guy... and certainly think much less of David Stern for basically saying that Dunaghy is just a one-time case and everything else is fine... Realy?!!?!?


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