Monday, December 7, 2009

Tim Donaghy Blows the Whistle on NBA;Referees

Sunday, disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who was recently released from federal prison after serving 11 months of a 1-year jail sentence for actions related to betting on NBA games and passing along insider information to mob contacts spoke to the CBS program 60 Minutes.

Donaghy is reported to have picked accurately on 70%-80% of his selections, amassing a personal profit of over $100,000 while the mob netted $1-2 million, a conservative estimate as proffered by the FBI.

Donaghy alleges that he was able to pick games so successfully because of his knowledge of personal preferences that certain referees had towards certain players, coaches, general managers, and owners. He reportedly was also privy to "gossip" that circulated inside the referee's locker room about player injuries and habits that had the potential to affect the outcome of the game.

In one scenario, Donaghy explains how NBA referees entered into a cabal against Sixers all-star point guard Allen Iverson after he threatened one of their officials. They were going to "teach him a lesson". Video footage of games in which Allen Iverson played, both during the end of his tenure with the Sixers and early in his time with the Denver Nuggets shows officials failing to call fouls on plays where Iverson drives to the basket and incurs sometimes hard contact.

In another situation, the Los Angeles Lakers forwarded a cd of 25 plays in which they felt NBA officals failed to call fouls when star guard Kobe Bryant drove to the basket. The NBA reviewed the cd and found that 22 of the 25 calls in question had been missed and forwarded a memo to that effect to the NBA referees. The result was an increase of calls in Bryant's favor and an increase in his free throw attempts down the stretch of the 2007-2008 season.

Donaghy also accused the NBA of purposely extending playoff series because it increased viewership and revenue. He says that these actions were particularly prevalent in large media markets such as Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago.

It is certainly admissable to take everything that Donaghy says with a grain of salt. He is a convicted felon who committed the cardinal sin of not only basketball, but all organized sports -- betting on games especially games that one has the potential to have a direct and immediate impact on.

However, Donaghy comes from an extensive officiating lineage, his dad having been a NCAA referee for over 25 years. His wife divorced him shortly after his indictment and took custody of their 4 young girls. He will likely live out the remainder of his life in witness protection and with the distinct possibility that the next time that he steps out of his home may be the last. Donaghy fully cooperated with an FBI investigation, an investigation that was corroborated and confirmed by an independent investigation conducted by the office of NBA commissioner David Stern. Stern called Donaghy a rogue NBA referee that acted alone in his transgressions but, in light of their support of the FBI investigation, that seemed more like a public relations diversion than a statement of fact.

As we enter the last month of the NFL season, the FBS prepares for the yearly extravaganza that is bowl season, and the NBA and collegiate basketball schedules hit full stride, fans should keep at least one critical eye on the accuracy of the officiating. Sports in America has always been part spectacle and part amazing feats of mental and physical strength and agility summoned by the world's greatest competitors in the toughest of environments.

I may be one of the many millions of sports fanatics mired in naivety but it is the basic principle that rules and regulations tempered and administered by the blind reasoning of the men and women charged with upholding neutrality on the turf or parque floor and NOT bold-faced prejudice and revengeful collusion that should decide whether athletes, coaches, personnel, and owners have the opportunity to embrace victory on any given night that serves as the foundation of the modern sports-industrial complex.

Without these assurances, our favorite pastimes become no more meaningful than a WWE wrestling event and the reverence that we hold for our modern day gladiators and their neo-heroic feats, as evidenced by our viewership and our dollars, are nothing more than most severe forms of idolatry.

Those who stand by in silence as a fraudulent farse is perpetuated for immense profit are not as guilty as Tim Donaghy, they are more guilty and they should and will have their day of judgement in the court of public opinion.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

0(-18) the Humanity!!!

With a 117-101 loss to the Dallas Mavericks the New Jersey Nets fell to 0-18, setting a new NBA record for futility to start the regular season.

"At this point, I feel the streak has definitely gotten the best of us. It's really starting to get to us now," guard Chris Douglas-Roberts said. "So when a team goes on a run, we kind of, it's almost like we give up, which is really unfortunate but that's what it looks like to me. We kind of give up and just lay down instead of trying to fight."

With a move to Brooklyn in the cards for the 2010-2011 season and a spot in the 2010 NBA draft lottery all but certain, general manager Kiki Vandeweghe will move from the frying pan into the fire Friday as he takes over the sinking ship vacated by the recently fired one-time longest tenured coach in the NBA Lawrence Frank.

"Nobody likes to lose. Period. And obviously we made it clear and you all know this is a developmental year, but nobody expected to be 0-17," Vandeweghe said before the game. "That's just obviously not acceptable and I think that it's not acceptable to anybody and especially the players."

Whether the Nets record setting 0-18 start is acceptable or not, the tide does not look like it will be stemmed anytime soon. The Nets roster is composed of talented but young and inexperienced players. Devin Harris, the Wisconsin product who returned from the disabled list in time for last night's ill-fated performance and Brook Lopez, the 7 footer from Stanford, are arguably the Nets best players. Coupled with the emergence of Chris Douglas-Roberts as a scoring threat, the future looks promising for the New Jersey franchise.

And then there's the here and now.

The Nets next 5 games come against teams that are at or around .500 including Friday against a much improved Charlotte Bobcats team that, ironically, yielded the Nets last victory at the end of the 2008-2009 season. In addition to the lack of depth on their bench, the Nets will undoubtedly be up against players that will motivated by the desire not to have be forever known in the annals of NBA and American sports history as the team by which the Nets infamous streak of underachievement was ended.

The Nets should send a collective thank you to Sir Isaac Newton because everything that goes down must eventually, sometimes against the force of gravity, come back up.

Looking at the Nets December schedule, it looks like New Jersey's record losing streak has teh possibility of coming to an end either December 8th in Chicago against my beloved Bulls team that is talented but inconsistent especially against teams that they should beat on paper. They especially have difficulty putting teams away in the 4th quarter. A sure bet (if there is a such thing anymore after watching the beginning of this NBA season) would be December 23rd against the equally woeful Minnesota Timberwolves who have rookie PG Johnny Flynn, veteran PF Al Thornton, and no one else.

By then, the Nets could have potentially added 10 additional losses to their record and may only want a quick and painless end to their wasted season for Christmas.

So far, all they deserve is a lump of coal.

New Jersey Nets Schedule - December

Fri, Dec 4 Charlotte 8:00 PM
Sun, Dec 6 @ NY Knicks 12:00 PM
Tue, Dec 8 @ Chicago 8:00 PM
Wed, Dec 9 Golden State 7:30 PM
Fri, Dec 11 @ Indiana 7:00 PM
Sun, Dec 13 @ Atlanta 5:00 PM
Tue, Dec 15 @ Cleveland 7:00 PM
Wed, Dec 16 Utah 7:30 PM
Fri, Dec 18 @ Toronto 7:00 PM
Sat, Dec 19 LA Lakers 8:00 PM
Wed, Dec 23 Minnesota 7:30 PM
Sat, Dec 26 Houston 7:30 PM
Mon, Dec 28 Oklahoma City 7:30 PM
Wed, Dec 30 NY Knicks 7:30 PM

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tiger Woods Being Unfaithful -- That's Par for the Course

In light of the recent saga involving Tiger Woods, his beautiful wife Elin Nordegren, their two children, at least three mistresses, a fire hydrant and a tree, I'm wondering now, more than ever, why high profile, superstar male athletes and celebrities enter into the state of eternal celibacy known as marriage?

I mean, these guys are getting ass thrown at them left and right, horizontally and vertically nearly 24 hours a day. That frequency must be double for athletes, like Tiger, who excel at individual sports where you don't have teammates, coaches, and other staff members present to block your game.

Part of the reason for this conundrum, I believe, is the reality that is lucrative, multi-million dollar endorsement contracts. Nike, Buick, and Gatorade aren't just throwing money at Eldrick because of his unmatched skill and precision on the golf course (although that composes the vast majority of their rationale), they're tapping Tiger to peddle their products because of the persona that he displays off of the links -- the family man with an exceptionally beautiful wife, two beautiful children, a dog, a (slightly damaged) Cadillac, and big backyard in the suburbs. Tiger also boasts a Stanford degree and raises more money for charity than any other athlete/celebrity short of Lance Armstrong and Bradgelina (that's Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie if you've been in a cave with Osama Bin Laden for the past decade).

All of these attributes make Tiger the type of guy that Tag Heuer wants to dial up to get you to buy a watch. Yeah, they could get Rocco Mediate but is Rocco the type of straw that stirs your drink? Do you even know who Rocco Mediate is? Exactly.

The point I'm attempting to make is that the type of celebrity that will likely make Tiger Woods the next billion dollar athlete is the same fame that is now eroding his once bulletproof public image. It's a double-edged sword for those who choose to go down that path...

...and then there's Derek Jeter. The 2009 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year is a life-long bachelor (although he has been linked to several famous fems). He continues to excel on the field, winning a Silver Slugger and leading his New York Yankees to the 2009 World Series Championship who also boasts lucrative contracts from the likes of Michael Jordan's Jumpman brand and Gillette just to name a few. Jeter has managed to maintain a pristine image partly because he doesn't rock a platinum abstinence ring...I mean wedding band on his left ring finger and partly because he's not trying to hide any of his escapades. The media will usually grant you some semblance of privacy if you're dating respectable young women and not...I don't know...cocktail waitresses in VIP gentleman's clubs or former reality show "stars".

Derek Jeter has shown that being a single, star athlete and a marketable role model need not be exclusive ventures.

Now, I'm a person that is firmly rooted in the opinion (possibly a minority opinion) that the institution of marriage is an antiquated social (mostly religious) rite that no longer has reputable credence in modern culture. There is an abundance of psychological and physiological research showing what men and women have known since the dawn of time -- that a boner in the trousers will displace years of commitment and vows in a man's neo-cortex. (Interesting enough, there is increasing research showing that women are beginning to have sex for many of the same reasons that men do).

Couple this with the generally sociopathic personality that most athletes (and celebrities in general) display -- that "I can do anything, anywhere, with anyone that I choose and not be punished for it because I'm me" attitude that has been developed over decades of having everyone kiss your ass and tell you how great you are and how grateful everyone should be that you exist and you have a recipe for impending disaster.

In the end I don't feel bad for Tiger, or his wife, or his slightly damaged Cadillac. Tiger knew what he was getting into when he won his first major, inked his first endorsement deal, and said "I do". He knew that society, with its myopic memory and selective morality, would build him up taller than the Tower of Babel and them explode him in a controlled demolition at the first signs of human weakness -- weaknesses that they themselves may have displayed in the past, all be it with less fanfare and certainly fewer Us Weekly "reporters" and paparazzi around.

Elin knew what she was getting into when she took those nuptials after signing a pre-nuptial agreement. Come on, she couldn't have been under the delusional assumption that her vagina had the magical powers to keep arguably the world's most famous athlete tied to her bedpost, and her bedpost alone. Did she not talk to Tiger's mother and hear the stories about all of the young women that would call her house looking for an admit one (or two, or three) to Eldrick's themepark, The Tiger's Den?

And let's nip the claim by Tiger and his handlers that the golfer is entitled to some semblance of privacy as a human being. If this incident involved Eldrick Woods, the accountant with a membership at his local country club, then some measure of privacy would be granted by virtue of his relative anonymity. Unfortunately, this is Tiger Woods, world class golfer whose very image and monogram have become marketable items, appearing on everything from hats, to golf balls, to the labels of Gatorade sports drinks. Companies pay hundreds of millions of dollars to use your likeness on their products and consumers dole out 10 times as much to feel some tacit connection to their favorite athlete and icon. Like it or not, you're no longer a private citizens entitled to the privelege of relative reclusion. Your likeness belongs to the public domain and no matter how much you whine and cry foul, you can't have it both ways.

I feel bad for those two young children who, when they are old enough to read and discern, will find out that there beloved father was a philandering man-whore and that their beloved mother, when it's all said and done, was a gold-digging, 3-iron wielding 4-B (big-breasted blonde bimbo and an exceptionally beautiful one at that).

I feel bad for my late, great uncle Fred Jones, who grew up in the segregated south and worked as a caddy for $.50 for 18 holes. He introduced me to the game of golf. Some of my fondest memories are of the two of us sitting around the television on Saturdays and Sundays, watching his and my favorite golfer Tiger Woods stare down his foes as he stalked towards yet another major championship. I'll never forget the tears that streamed from his hardened face as Tiger sank that historic put on 18 to win the 1997 Masters. Thank God he didn't have to endure this charade.

I feel bad for a society with an over 50% divorce rate and, surely, a higher infidelity rate (remember, cheating is not just actions but thoughts and intentions as well) because, in between episodes of Tool Academy and commercials, we're not intelligent enough to internalize the well documented fact that humans are designed to spread their DNA across as varied a gene pool as possible. In addition to being the greatest country in the history of modern civilization, we're also the most irrational.

Most importantly, I feel bad for Derek Jeter, a guy who has played the game of baseball and of life the right way, because, as long as he lives and as hard as he tries, he will never, ever get as much press and publicity in his lifetime as his good friend Eldrick "Tiger" Woods has gotten in the past week.

The so-called experts contend that there is no such thing as bad press and they may be right. The best thing that Tiger can do, short of facing the cameras in an interview with Oprah -- Elin and kids in tow, is win his next tournament at the end of January.

Humans are fickle creatures. We love front-runners and winners more than anything else. However, when all of the lights grow dim and the cameras and microphones are tucked away, Tiger will still have to live with his conscience...and at least 3 mistresses...and more women than ever vying to be the next one to receive a creepy voicemail at 2 in the morning...and the persistent questions about his character...and, oh yeah, a scorned wife in the master bedroom down the hall (because you know he's sleeping in the guest bedroom indefinitely).

A woman scorned? Now that's attention that neither I nor Derek Jeter would hope for at any time.