Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Reactions to Game 6 Fix Allegations

Much to his dismay, the smirk of arrogance on David Stern's face wasn't enough to keep the media from offering its commentary on the allegations that Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference finals was fixed.

Some samples:

Sacramento Bee (story)

Los Angeles Times

Sports Illustrated

The Guardian

The Kansas City Star

Sacramento Bee (Ailene Voisin column)

The Voisin column is particularly good, and probably comes closest to expressing how I feel about the whole matter:

For the record: I thought Game 6 was the poorest officiated playoff game I have seen in almost three decades of covering the NBA. Dick Bavetta, Ted Bernhardt and particularly Bob Delaney had a miserable night at the office. Later that evening, I applauded Rick Adelman, a notorious whiner, for praising his players and then immediately ripping into the officials for basically stealing his club's trip to the championship series.

I have chatted on several occasions with Geoff Petrie, and never once has he subscribed to the conspiracy theory. I also watched replays of Game 6 – just to refresh the memory and provide perspective – and saw the same game. Many of the calls still stunk, the refs still flunked, the Lakers still won.

But there was no fix.

"I broadcast that game, and, no, I don't there is anything to it," Bill Walton said of Donaghy's allegations while standing in the Staples Center corridor, shaking his head.

"No, no. I don't buy it," Magic Johnson said. "I just don't buy it."

The consensus Tuesday mirrored the reaction of that night in 2002, when the national media collectively bolstered Sac's back. This was incompetence, not a lack of integrity. And let's be honest here: Subconciously, emotional, partisan crowds in every home building affect players, coaches and, yes, the officials. They're human. They botch calls. They have human failings, which ultimately, is why the Donaghy matter remains such a cause of concern.

What's a scumbag doing in the league? And how many more of him are out there? No, you don't have to believe anything he says to realize the league has some serious cleaning up to do.

In fairness to Stern, he did offer this comment, which I can't deny is reasonable:

"The only concern I have,'' said Stern, "is that when a letter gets filed on behalf of a convicted felon, my concern is that news media run with it as a major blockbuster series of allegations, when, in fact, this guy is dancing as fast as he can to throw as much against the wall so his sentence won't be as hard. But then everyone runs around and says, 'What about the newest allegations?' But pretty much he's a singing, cooperating witness who's trying to get as light a sentence as he can. He turned on basically all of his colleagues in an attempt to demonstrate that he was not the only one who engaged in criminal activity.''

But on the other hand, Stern cannot publicly insist that there's nothing there, when he expressed such surprise (as he did last year when the Donaghy mess surfaced) that there was a problem in the first place. Show us what you've learned, and what you're going to do about it. That's all we ask.

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