Three men have been sentenced in federal court as a result of the charges brought against them for paying college basketball recruits – or the families of those recruits – “improper payments” to assure that they attended schools sponsored by Adidas. Two men will spend 6 months in federal prison – pending appeal of course – and the third will spend nine months there. I have said all during the judicial process here that the US Government would not have wanted me on that jury because I have yet to be convinced that what these folks did was contrary to federal law. It was indeed in direct opposition to NCAA rules and regulations, but I do not think that is what the FBI and the DoJ should be out to enforce.
In other “criminally connected news”, there is an ESPN report that expands on the Tim Donaghy scandal from about 10 years ago. There is a long report at espn.com saying that the involvement of Donaghy in “gambling irregularities” was a whole lot more than was reported about 10 years ago. This report says that he not only provided info to big time gamblers but that Donaghy himself was betting on games that he personally officiated. This is a LONG piece and there are lots of internal links to other reports inside to corroborate and expand the information here. I recommend that you read it in its entirety.
Buried in that piece is an interesting sidebar. According to this report, when the FBI made David Stern aware of the results of their investigation, Stern’s major reaction was that he was angry/concerned that NBA’s Security Staff had not been the ones to make this finding. While that may seem at first to be an improper reaction, I think it is very appropriate for the NBA Commish in such a circumstance. Consider:
- The NBA says that its Security Department provides for safety for players and fans; and, in addition, it “works with federal and local authorities at the highest level to monitor any possible security issues”.
- If the FBI is in the Commish’s office telling him about a referee being associated with known gamblers, David Stern must have been thinking along the lines of “What the Hell am I paying those guys to do, anyway?”
And the current espn.com investigative report ought to send a shiver down the spinal column of current NBA Commish, Adam Silver. The Tim Donaghy mess is 10 years old; Donaghy has been tried, convicted and has already served his time in jail; he is out and about as we speak. For those intervening 10 years, the good folks in the NBA Security Department have not been able to come up with the information that is contained in the ESPN report. So, the idea that must have floated through David Stern’s head way back then should be front and center once again:
- What the Hell do these guys get paid to do, anyway?
I officiated basketball for 37 years. To be sure, I never got anywhere near the level of officiating an NBA or a college basketball game; but I probably did 3,000 games of one kind or another. Even though I never consciously sought to determine the outcome of any game I was involved with, I know for certain that I could have manipulated that outcome if I had chosen to do so. No one should read the ESPN report and think that this is some sort of fantasy world. A referee who has a direct financial interest in the outcome of games for which he is the official can win 75-80% of the bets that he makes on those games manipulating either the spread result and/or the Total Line result.
The data in the ESPN report is not probative, but it is more than mere “eyebrow raising”. And it needs to be put into the context of the NBA’s constant opposition to expansion of sports gambling up until the US Supreme Court said that the law the NBA sought to uphold at any cost was unconstitutional.
- Could it be that part of that strong opposition came from a recognition that the NBA Security Department is simply not up to the task of maintaining what the NBA likes to call “the integrity of their games”?
The NBA plays 1230 regular season games – – many of which are meaningless. The sportsbooks in Las Vegas and on the Internet do not make any distinctions about meaningfulness; they will take action on all 1230 of them.
- Do I believe that a significant fraction of those games has the outcome manipulated by referees whose motivation is financial gain from the manipulated outcome? NO! The NBA regular season is not rotten to the core.
- Do I believe that a game here and there has a manipulated outcome and that it is one or more of the officials assigned to the game that is doing the manipulating? Yes. The information in the ESPN report tells me that all the “infrastructure” is in place to effect such manipulation and that if done without getting greedy that manipulation can go undetected for a LONG time.
Shifting gears … The world’s #1 bridge player, Geir Helgemo of Norway, has been stripped of some titles he won and has been suspended from competitive bridge for about year because he failed a drug test. Evidently, he showed elevated levels of synthetic testosterone and a female fertility drug. Because the “bridge folks” have agreed to follow the World Anti-doping Agency rules about drug testing, that led to Helgemo’s suspension. If you expect me to try to explain how elevated testosterone levels – synthetic or natural – provide one with some sort of advantage in playing bridge, I am certainly going to disappoint you here. This makes little to no sense to me…
Finally, since today’s rant focused on law breaking and rule breaking and drug test failures, consider this comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“Police were called when two women, 86 and 79, came to blows over seating arrangements during Bingo night at a retirement home in Rideau Lakes, Ontario.
“Because it was Canada, both returned to action after serving five minutes for fighting.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………