I wanted to write a fun post that would pander to all the conspiracy theorists out there, by painting a wild scenario of Stu Jackson (the NBA vice president, if you will) as the brilliant but evil mastermind behind all the suspicious suspensions, referee calls, and team relocations we have been enduring as of late. But after thinking about this issue for a day (and seeing some poor sap get -38 recs for his post on this subject) I decided to go in another, more rational direction. So I came up with 5 “statements of opinion” that helped to organize my thoughts on this whole refereeing scandal and hopefully lends some clarity to the issue.
1) Refereeing is a tough job. The game is fast, there is unrealistic pressure and scrutiny, and I bet that what all these guys really want at the end of the day is to have the game go smoothly and to go unnoticed. I don’t envy those guys’ positions for one second and a certain amount of human error should be expected no matter how clearly you think you see it on the super slo-mo instant replay.
2) With #1 in mind, there is no doubt in my mind that popular players are…how shall I put this…allowed to move more freely on the court compared to other players of a lesser stature. But keep in mind that most fans are just as guilty if not worse than the referees in regarding their star players as superior to other lesser knowns and should be allowed more “respect” from the refs (no way should Brandon Roy be getting called for a foul on 2nd round rookie player X, right?)
3) Again, remember “a certain amount of human error should be expected” from #1? Well, unfortunately, there are some games (most recently famous game 2 of this year’s finals, and game 6 of the 2002 western conference finals) that are flat out suspicious. I’m not jumping on the conspiracy bandwagon here or making excuses (I’ll get to that), but most rational human beings would agree that there are some called games that seem to go beyond the normal expectations of human error.
4) My opinion of David Stern is that he comes across as arrogant and condescending (especially when he responds to these sorts of accusations as if it were impossible for corruption to exist in his organization), and that showing some transparency in regards to referees, discipline, and the inner workings of the league would really go a long way in the opinions of NBA fans. But despite my dislike of the man and many of his policies, I trust that he takes his position very seriously and honestly believe that he (personally) is in no way connected to any sort of “rigging” or fixing of games.
5) In accordance with #4, there will be no smoking gun. There will be no lost memos, no coded phone recordings, no connection linking high ranked league officials to referees on the court. And although there will be plenty of people who disagree with me here, again, I do not believe that there ever has been an improper relationship between these entities. But what is most important to note here, is that just because a connection does not exist, does not mean that there is no room for corruption or some truth to the accusations of one felon/ex-referee.
Now in the last few years, the small market San Antonio Spurs have been dominant, New York has barely fielded an NBA level team, and the NBA is still battling with hockey to firmly take the place of America’s 3rd favorite sport (well behind the NFL and just behind MLB)*. As a whole, I don’t think the league is in the business of rigging games (or they must REALLY suck at it). What’s far more likely here is that referees do in fact show preferential treatment, there may be a few bad apples with gambling problems, and/or that its time for the NBA to improve their refereeing (again, the NBA does not release much information in regards to their referees but I would suggest better training, more accountability, the use of instant replay, and/or flat out new staff). But what makes this whole issue so BLAH to me is the fact that my team is about to be good. Like, really good. And to be honest, I’ve waited so long for this that even if I did believe the league was rigged, I would still be just as excited to watch my blazers next season. The question is, would the rest of America?
*I don't consider NASCAR a sport.