Monday, July 23, 2007

Monday 07/23 A.M. Quickie:
NBA Scandal, Brit Open, Vick, Kobe, More!

UPDATE: Darren Rovell has a must-read analysis about why the "over" is the Donaghy stat to pay attention to.

Tell you what: This story has sparked some tremendous detail work by online columnists and bloggers, who are naturally inclined to pore over the stats or to be open to the heavy database work necessary to illuminate the real story here. Let's hope that mainstream media sports writers are quick to credit any details they find from that kind of work. (Example: Check out the in-progress Donaghy game wiki from ArmchairGM.)

(And Henry Abbott, back from vacation, has a terrific post about what the NBA should do next. Using one of my favorite crisis-management cure-alls, Henry nails it: Transparency.)

NBA Ref/Gambling/Game-Fixing Scandal (a.k.a., Nelson Muntz-style: "Dona-HA-ha!") It's very hard to add anything to this story that hasn't already been beaten into the ground after a weekend of "What does it all mean?" coverage.

Among the things that stand out for me is that this is the inevitable result of leagues taking a "Get Tough" approach to punishing their talent. Leagues don't REALLY want to see what's under the rock: Between PEDs, gambling and crime, there's inevitably more where that came from... when you finally start to look for it -- and judge it.

Meanwhile, I don't think fans really care. Let me revise that: I have never thought fans really cared about PEDs, nor do I think they truly care about off-field incidents (even as jaw-dropping as Vick's).

Now: Gambling? That's worse, because it could lead to what we have here: Game-fixing. And game-fixing by officials is probably the worst of all; they can control the entire game. Why do you think that "lollygagging" offends more fans than steroids? (Because at least PEDs indicate that you're trying to be productive.)

I am surprised that the NBA got burnt: They seem to be the most sophisticated about tracking and grading their refs. What's scary is that if the NBA couldn't catch it, how bad could it get?

Oh, and by the way: There's no question that someone at the NBA has to be fired over this, and it has to be Stu Jackson, who manages the league's officiating. I have a hard time imagining David Stern publicly offering up his equivalent of "You're doing a heckuva job, Stu."

Update: Donaghy is reportedly getting death threats. I wonder how the people who are doing the threatening did in last year's NCAA Tournament office pool or in this year's fantasy leagues?

Oh, and apparently, Donaghy gambled a lot on sports even before this specific thing started, so who knows if (or, ahem, how many) he influenced in order to help himself. You'd really think the NBA would screen its refs for, say, gambling problems.

Padraig Harrington wins British Open: But only after both he and Sergio Garcia choked it away on 18 to create a playoff. It's interesting: Padraig had the bigger choke (double-bogey), but because he won, all is forgiven/forgotten. Won't be as easy for Sergio. Still, if you like golf, it was a hell of a finish.

Vick Watch: How could the Falcons NOT push Vick for a "leave of absence?" (I have no grasp of the CBA implications of this. It's just common sense.) Apparently, Arthur Blank is going to announce something tomorrow. I have the feeling Vick will either take a "voluntary" leave of absence or Blank will give him an involuntary version.

MLB Stud: Jon Lester, who made a comeback from lymphoma to return to the Red Sox. He will start tonight's game.

MLB Dud: The White Sox, who dropped into a tie for last in the uber-competitive AL Central. Man, how long ago does 2005 feel?

Who is Shelley Duncan, and how many of you had him on your fantasy league rosters (let alone activated) over the weekend?

Minor-league tragedy: The Tulsa Drillers' first-base coach Mike Coolbaugh died Sunday as a result of a line drive to his head. What a sad story. Should coaches on the field have to wear helmets?

Beckham's MLS debut: Maybe they should have made sure he wasn't injured before trotting/limping him out.

College Football Media Daze: ACC. Don't expect Wake Forest to put together back-to-back miracle seasons. The team (and emotional story) to watch is, obviously, Virginia Tech. (Virginia is the darkhorse.)

Meanwhile, I'll be interested to see how ESPN's new daily show "College Football Live" will do. It's a smart idea: There's more than enough to talk about, even in mid-July. I think execs will be shocked when it draws a lot of viewers, particularly for 3:30 p.m. (Whoops: I just found out that Colin Cowherd will be involved in some way. Well, so much for my high hopes...)

USA Basketball: The difference between this USA team and the last one, and why this edition will win gold in China in '08 after the Athens '04 debacle? Kobe Bryant.

Kobe had a team-high 26 in an intra-squad scrimmage, and he showed the team has the go-to scorer it really needs.

From Kobe's perspective, this is the closest thing he's going to get to being on a championship team, so he's obviously relishing the experience.

In case you missed it: I wrote an essay for the NY Times' weekly Play Magazine email newsletter about the goodness that is Mark Cuban owning the Cubs. Here's a link. (Yes, I know it says "1918," but should say "1908." Working on getting that fixed.)

Meanwhile, there is probably a bunch of smaller (yet interesting) stuff from over the weekend that I missed. Feel free to add/discuss in the Comments.

-- D.S.


Matt T said...

It sounds like most people in the Atlanta organization are pushing for the leave of absence, but Blank and Vick both have to agree to it. We should know a lot more after the first court date later this week.

UVA a darkhorse? They've been a darkhorse for a long time and have done less with more talent than most schools. Its too bad that college football show is at an atrocious time. But then again I can only take so much USC and fluff pieces.

Perks said...

Bill Simmons wrote "More than any other professional league, an NBA referee can directly affect the outcome of every game"

I disagree. The home plate umpire in baseball has a call on every. single. play.

Oh, and this NBA Donaghy ref is going to set something off where a lot of Sopranos type stuff is about to bust loose.

jhawkjjm said...

Sean, I disagree and think Simmons is right. The home plate umpire can affect the game only to a certain degree. His strike zone does have an impact, but its still up to the players to hit the ball. If he does try to have a huge affect, its going to be blatently obvious.

The NBA ref can affect the outcome of every game without it being absolutely obvious. He can call every little bump or ticky tack. If you foul out Kobe off the Lakers, they're going to lose. The reason the ref's can have an impact on an NBA game is because of the concept of fouling out. Football refs can throw crappy ass flags, but they're not going to disqualify a player.

I'd say out of all the leagues, if you asked me to say which league had dirty refs, I'd have said the NBA (and not even considering the tax evasion thing from years ago). This really doesn't surprise me all that much.

Coach Chip said...

You have to hand it to Stern. He always finds a way to get the NBA in the news during the offseason. First the dress code then the new ball and now this.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...


RE Cuban buying the Cubs - as a lifelong Cubs fan, I can only hope. However, I don't think it's Bud Selig that is going to stand in the way. It's Jerry Reinsdorf. He's not going to let MLB put Mark Cuban in the same city and same sport as him. I'm not 100% sure this is correct, but I vaguely recall a quote from him to the tune of "When he was buying the Mavericks, the vote was 29 to 1 to approve it." with a ton of emphasis on the one. He's that one vote, but in baseball, it'll carry a lot more weight.

NA said...

Peter King in his column today:

f. Next time you see me, ask me about my extraordinarily fun time in a 10-and-under girls softball game in Saddle Brook, N.J., on Friday night. Space limitations, and legal reasons, prevent me from spilling here. But human beings under pressure can sure react in some strange ways.

This just sounds really gross, especially when you think about Peter King saying it.

Anonymous said...

Boston College>Virgina Tech,Dan.Why? BC has an experienced senior quarterback in Matt Ryan.Believe his hype.

Anonymous said...

Anothing thing,Dan.Virgina will continue to under achieve until Al Groh is fired.period.I can't believe the talent he's had with the Cavaliers,yet his game planing sucks.(way too conservative.)

College Football in Mid-July=Brilliant

verbal97 said...

first, a soccer referee has the most influence of a team sport.

second, as a BC alum, I would never get my hopes up that they'd win the ACC. They should have last season, but choked a couple games away.

Not A Gunslinger said...

Congrats on getting your essay over there, but it was weak.

Calvealier said...

The NBA knew TD had a gambling problem (on other sports) and told him to stop. It will be interesting to see how much attention that aspect gets.

Kobe is not the difference on this team USA. It is Jason Kidd. The man is undefeated in international ball. Kobe is just another gunner playing in a format not totally suited for his game.

Chris Savory said...

Verbal97, it is interesting that soccer is the other major team sport that's experienced match-fixing problems with its referees. Check out this link for details:

pv845 said...

MLB Stud: Royals - series wins against the top two teams in baseball.

NBA Ref: I think it is interesting that no one picked up on how this guy was completely affecting the line in many games. ESPN was saying this morning that he would change it drastically, but no one caught on.

rukrusher said...

I agree the Soccer ref has as much influence as the NBA ref if not more. In a game where one goal can be the difference and a foul in the penalty area real or imagined can result in a n almost automatic goal, the power is huge. Further, two yellows on a key player gets him out of the game and the team plays down a man. Finally it is just him, in the NBA there are two others to monitor your work. Plus while Vegas is not taking a lot of action on MLS, the Euro leagues are all tied into betting, in fact I think two EPL teams are sponsored by betting web sights.

Danny from Milwaukee said...

I think you're overstating what Cuban would bring to the sport of baseball. He'd be great for the north side of Chicago to be sure, but do you really think that what baseball needs is another Yankees team? What baseball needs is a likable team to come along and win a championship through developing young players and making a few select trades to fill in gaps. People want to see David beat Goliath, not a league with another Goliath in it.

The heroin sheik said...

There are three refs in soccer. Granted the two assistant refs really only deal with offsides and corners and whatnot but I am pretty sure that during the world cup the three of them conferred on the Zidane red card. I think NBA refs have the most outcome on a game as they could call a travel on every play. Someone like Kobe is going to travel whereas a great soccer player like Ronaldhino might not even get touched when he is making a run toward the goal.

Since Im from the bay area I wonder if Donaghy used a bookie with the same outfit I used to use back home. Of course why would he use a bookie with the availability of websites devoted to gambling. I figure he just thought he wouldn't get caught this way whereas with an online bookie you have to give up a credit card number to bet. All the bookies I have ever dealt with made me put my money down for the bet up front and if I won I got my cash a week later. If I lost I had already paid. What a dumbass.

Unknown said...

There's so many reasons why basketball is easier to manipulate than any other sport. At the end of a game 1 call = 2 shots. Being that the average margin of victory in the NBA is 3.5 points, that's a pretty big deal. Add fouling out, the pure subjectivity of the carry or travel, and as Donaghy showed with the Suns/Spurs game 3 th technical foul can be used as well.

If an umpire wants team to win, he can't help it if that team's pitcher keeps hanging curveballs.

Melbye said...

I shook my head at first, how can a home plate umpire change a game that much? But I had an instant flash back to the 1997 NLCS--Levian Hernandez was Cy Young for a night...Thanks to Eric Gregg and his equally big strike zone.

Allen Wedge said...

Can we all agree that this is a stupid thing to debate. All officials in all sports have the ability to screw with things just as equally within their sport.

All sports officials can award teams easy potential points: Soccer, Hockey & Basketball all have penalty shots. Baseball can not call outs or strikes to get guys on base or home. Football has pass interference (and give second chances)

Darklawdog said...

Yet a batter can adjust to a large strike zone.

I think basketball officials do have the most influence on a game.

pv845 said...

I think that first base ump can do a lot. Check swings are his domain. There seem to be a lot of those these days. In addition, you can call a guy safe on a throw to first and cost a team the World Series. Just ask the Cardinals.

Anonymous said...

I just saw this article on the Denver Post (link:','231). According to the Post the NBA was aware of the FBI investigation since January.

That means that they let a referee suspected of gambling on games continue to ref games - including playoff games! How can you let that happen?! It makes no sense.

Boomhauertjs said...

Hey Mellbye, don't forget Game 6 of the 95 World Series, when Tom Glavine was getting the outside corner plus 3 inches.

MLT said...

the difference with Glavine (and as a lifelong Braves fan, I'm still not fond of him) is it's not like that was one instance or one ump. Glav got that call every start from 1992-2002 with Atlanta. The hitters knew it was coming.

Eric Gregg was an isolated instance. That game was epically ridiculous. Braves hitters were watching things inside, outside, high, and low be called. it was like Gregg expected the Braves to come up to the plate with a tennis raquet.

Joey said...

Alan Webb broke a 25 year old record in running 3:46.91 in the mile. I don't get why this hasn't gotten any coverage at all. Even if you don't follow track you know that is insanely fast and he is still just 24 years old.

RevScottDeMangeMD said...

I might be in the minority here...but did anyone see John Senden's shot in the 3rd round of the British Open? I am looking all over for it and can't find a clip anywhere. It was the luckiest shot I've ever seen!

Perks said...

Is anyone else somewhat "giddy" about all of this. Like, this is a serious news story, and the lines this will run through might be insane. The Sopranos shit is for real, and this is a great example of how the "inner veins" of society work.

It's sad, definately. But it's also enticing to read/watch. As always, great job with the linking to articles, Dan. I'm going to keep checking here, True Hoop and the Armchair GM for the updates.

Melbye said...

Boomhauertjs: listen to what MLT said, there was stretch of the 90's that if Javy Lopez caught the ball it was a strike. Remember when they made a big stink about Braves' catchers setting up within the catcher's box? Glavine and Maddox immediately went to shit for a couple years.

Unknown said...


I think it's a big deal if the guy breaks a world record for the mile. American records don't cut it.