Ahh, the trials and tribulations of the NBA. Even in one of their most successful seasons since the hey day of Jordan, something pesky is in the air. Scientists have identified it as a new species of a black and white canary. It is being called Canaris Donaghy Painintheassis. Here is a photo of this rare creature making it's traditional whistle:
Why is this canary causing so much agita among the NBA?? Well, because he is now beginning to talk about further corruption with games possibly being fixed. Should anyone believe a man who is going to be locked up? I don't know. What I do know is that he's bringing up things that were quite evident when they happened as being suspicious. But before I go any further, let me tell you a story........
Here's a Little Story About a Man Named Jed:
OK, it isn't about Jed. It is about a younger FatMan. A FatMan who lived and breathed the NBA right behind the NFL. He had more Knicks gear than Giants gear. He would painfully tape his fingers together like Bernard King and shoot baskets. He worshipped Patrick Ewing. Since he was bulky and couldn't jump high (or really even jump at all), he fashioned his game as if he were Charles Oakley. After the Knicks made the playoffs in the late 90's, he and a fraternity brother made the declaration that if the Knicks didn't win the Championship, he'd shave his head. Let's just say that Charles Smith's arms weren't the only things hacked at the disappointing end to that season.
So we had a bald FatMan who bled orange and blue. But soon, he bled less and less, until one day he skids while going up for a layup and looks down to see only red flowing from his knee. It's now 2002 and the big guy has regrown his hair and hasn't watched a second of an NBA game since 2000. Why?? Simply put, he felt that the league favored star players, that their refs were the biggest bunch of corrupt egomaniacs around, and that his Knicks had been given the shaft far too often. He didn't believe in a league-wide scandal, just a case of reffing gone bad combined with a liliputian-like commissioner who dreamt of himself as a Giant. So he decides to turn back on the game he once loved so much. It was game 6 of the 2002 playoffs, Kings vs. Lakers.
He watches in disbelief that the Lakers spend more time shooting free throws in the 4th quarter than they did shooting from the field. 26 FT's in the quarter alone. Vlade Divac's chest fouls Shaq's elbow. Another King's face fouls Kobe's elbow. There are fouls off the ball. Fouls on the ball. But strangely enough, hardly any fouls from the purple and gold. The Kings were watching a robbery. FatMan was watching a robbery. The whole country was watching a robbery. And maybe right there is the point at which David Stern's greed got the best of him. I don't know if that game was fixed by the NBA. I'm pretty sure it was fixed by the refs. Regardless of the reason, Stern didn't realize that he just lost a tremendous amount of viewers and fans to the sport because of that game. Including FatMan. Before this game, he went two years without watching a minute of play. After that game, it would be over 5 years later that he'd see even a few seconds of play.
But you know what? David Stern didn't seem to care. He had International exposure and a World-wide talent base coming to play in his league. But who was watching?? A league that once was #2 in TV viewership had slipped to #4 behind NASCAR!! But the man with a Napoleanic complex didn't surrender. Frankly, he didn't give a shit. He let rogue officials operate for years without doing much. Remember the scandal where the refs were making thousands of dollars on plane tickets? How about when they would scalp game tickets? How about guys like Joey Crawford who held personal grudges against several players and coaches? Was he banned from reffing certain games? No. In fact, Crawford worked a Spurs playoff game just this year after being in a ridiculous feud with Tim Duncan last year. Stern demands no accountability. Is that bad?
On the surface, it isn't bad, but the man can't have his cake and eat it too. He can't claim to be the Czar over the league (of course this is different from the Czar of the Telestrator, Mike Fratello), and then claim ignorance about a "rogue official" like the Canaris Donaghy. He hired this man. This man conducted his fraud wearing an NBA-issued uniform. This man was an active referee who altered the outcome of games. Stern can't just come on air and wash his hands of responsibility. Afterall, this is a man who claims to be intimately involved in all aspects of the league. He's quick to tell us that this is just one renegade, but history shows us otherwise. There were a dozen refs involved in the tickets-for-cash scandal. Ever since Bennett Salvadore trolled the floor, there have been refs who have made themselves larger than the game at times. Knowing this ego base, is it really that far of a stretch to think that some tried to profit on the side?? And, if refs were actually told to alter outcomes, an accusation that is far from proven, wouldn't it also lower their inhibition to alter games on the own and make money doing so?
So what is this whole thing boiling down to? It is the Barry Bonds Effect.
The Barry Bonds Effect?? What the hell is that! It is where a party goes so profusely over the top in maintaining that nothing is wrong, that it actually begins to look like something is wrong. Let's see - for years, players were given preferential treatment by the NBA. This isn't a new revelation. I feared Michael Jordan more when he had 5 fouls than any other time because the man was going to have to kill somebody to get disqualified. He knew it too, so he started hacking off arms. For years, refs were able to dictate the flow of games using the whistles. The league tried to blame this on the Pistons plodding style of play, but the fact was, the refs used it in cases where teams even had the flow. See the Lakers vs. the Kings above. For years, people compared the NBA to the WWF. Now, younger people will admonish us who have stopped watching by telling us the players are bigger, faster and better than before and the quality of play is up. Oddly enough, I hear the same things about today's professional wrestlers and it doesn't do a damn bit of good to get me back watching that sham.
So what's the bottom line. I don't know. I also don't think any of us normal sports fans know. David stern knows and won't tell us. I also think the Canaris Donaghy Painintheassis knows a little bit, but we won't believe him. All I know is that I stopped watching basketball after that fateful Game 6. And it hasn't really bothered me one bit or no more so than missing the last 85 Wrestlemanias. I just wonder sometimes that we are so quick to dismiss the words of a disgraced person. Whether it be the Canaris Donaghy Painintheassis or a Jose Canseco, do we assume all is not true simply because they aren't good people? I don't know how good a person David Stern is, other than he looks better dressed up in public. A lot of things Jose Canseco has said are true. A lot of things are false. And above all he is an asshole. But it seems to me that sometimes we don't want the truth. We just want the conflict of good vs. bad. Don't for one minute think David Stern doesn't realize this, too. And you know what? The black and white canary will be made black and blue by the NBA to keep it that way.
We've probably been cheated, but we'll never know the truth. Next year, you can plan on hearing how great the NBA is and see the usual egomaniacs blowing whistles again. And we'll be told with a calm voice, "Move along. There's nothing to see here". I've moved along. I wonder how long it will take for the rest of the dupes to join me?
The FatMan is a periodic contributor to armchairgm.com. To see his other works, please visit http://fatmanstake.blogspot.com