Monday, June 16, 2008

My Humble Opinions, June 16

Well it wasn't pretty. I stand by my Cloudy Crystal Ball and say it's the Celtics in six. Tuesday night, and we're in the off-season.

Gonna be a looooong few months.

It isn't really a developing story, because Tim Donaghy's statements are farts in the wind. What he's saying isn't confirmable. Any trial attorney will tell you testimony's crap without a second independent witness or some other form of corraberation. All he's doing is trying to get his sentence reduced, and the world would be well-advised to keep that in mind.

On the other hand, the ref-ing in basketball is . . . confusing to the uninitiated. In researching the whys and wherefores of the sport I'm dreading the part on fouls. Is the officiating 100% fair and impartial? Of course not. The refs are human, they have favorites and hates, double-standards, moments of inattention, judgement lapses. That's human error and an issue in any contest.

The accusation is that the NBA is instructing their officials to favor one team over the other in their calls. Why? Well look at the press the Finals is getting. Historic rematch and all that. They even got Their Holinesses Magic Johnson and Larry Bird to pose for one of those There Can Only Be One spots. Larger audiences, greater glory, more money . . . the motivation is there.

Not trusting the sport itself to produce a riveting spectacle, a governing body directs its officials to create artificial results irregardless of who actually wins.

Sound familiar?

I understand why the blowhards don't consider figure skating a sport. It's not because of the idea that it's not as physically demanding as "real" sports (hey, you try dancing on ice skates while hauling around ninety-five pounds of partner), or because of the artistic elements involved, or even because the athletes wear sequins. It's the corruption in the scoring. Winning in figure skating can and does have almost nothing to do with how well someone skates on that particular night. The best example I have is (of course) the 1994 ice dance competition. Gritchuk and Platov did not earn that gold medal. Their program was inferior to the other medalists', wasn't skated as well, and involved clear and obvious rule violations for which they were not penalized. The ISU didn't want to reward the team that moved ice dance's artistic focus in a more theatrical direction (Torvill and Dean), and didn't want to reward the team who had run in that direction successfully (Usova and Zhulin). They weren't particularly subtle about it, either.

I'm not saying that's what the NBA is doing. But public perception can easily swing that way because the system of fouls and penalties is hard to understand if you don't know what you're looking at. I hope Mr. Stern and the rest of the league's leadership nip this in the bud toot-sweet. A reputation for corruption and unfairness killed figure skating in the US, and don't think for a minute the NBA is too big and powerful to fall down the same cliff.

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