I worry about the state of the NBA sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’ll survive no matter what (almost), but when I see what looks like five hundred fans sitting in an NBA arena in Milwaukee to watch the thing that so many here have reverence for, each in our way – the game – I am bothered. Then Friday night, I saw the lower bowl in the ACC one-third or more empty and I broke out the bottle of JD that usually just sits on the shelf, splashed it over some agua and ice and settled in, wondering if the troubles I sensed in the NBA were more my own unconscious exaggerations just ‘cause I worry about it … or if it’s only just another sign-of-the-economic-times, seeing fan interest, or at least attendance, on the decline. I don’t know how the attendance stats stack-up, but the numbers this year are obviously down, from what I’m seeing.
But then, there is something else that may or may not be related that pesters me of late. It’s that there’s not much really being said out there, anywhere, about former NBA referee, Tim Donaghy and his – to me – shocking recent confirmations of the allegations that he wrote about, but had not yet sat in front of TV cameras and clearly spoken about, regarding the personal vendettas carried out in the past by referees against players on many different teams ... as well as other similar stomach-turning and unseemly allegations.
When I see the empty seats, I can’t help but wonder if this largely shied-away-from topic – and the 60 Minutes interview with Donaghy was aired only two weeks ago - is affecting attendance figures as much as the economy is? I don’t know but it's not as unlikely as some might think.
Those millions of us who love pro sports count on – ABSOLUTELY COUNT ON – seeing each and every professional sporting contest taking place in a bullshit-free zone ... mostly, at the very least. Part of why we spend the money to watch a competition live and in person is to be able to do so, knowing that ONLY the players will decide the outcome. If we had inklings of any kind that there were elements of professional big-time wrestling involved in the contest that we were shelling out to see, it’s not very likely we’d be so willing to pay those not-inconsequential amounts of money that it takes to watch them.
So … why is it not being talked about as much as what it must be affecting the psyche of NBA fans everywhere, I wonder to myself? After all, if you happened to see the two segments of Tim Donaghy on the 60 Minutes episode, you probably feel that Donaghy appeared at least, to be believable. He was for me, more so certainly than I had been ready for. (I do caution myself, however, as I humbly recount that I also believed Roger Clemens when HE was on 60 Minutes that last time a couple years ago. But, that lesson absorbed and filed, Donaghy still appeared to me to be without guile during those minutes of the interview.) Whatever percentage of all that he claims that there is, is actually true – and I can’t imagine there are many who don’t believe that at least SOME of it is true – it’s far too much by half.
Maybe, it’s just too scary in its way to really wrap one’s head around. Again, I don’t know. But what I do know … or, at least, very strongly suspect, is that the NBA is doing itself a disservice every day that it doesn’t ‘open the books’ on the whole cheating-referee thing – and make no mistake: it is no less than cheating and maybe even the very worst kind of cheating that there can be in professional sports. The subject matter needs to be dealt with openly and honestly and every little bit of muck that there is to be found in regards to this issue needs to be cleansed, with no exceptions whatsoever.
And then, heal. For the long-term health of the league, it needs to happen.
What inspired this was reading a blog entry (link below) I happened to run across in ‘hoopshype.com’, which addressed the issue straight on as anything I’ve read yet, anywhere. I was glad to see something at least, written by somebody. The blog itself is worth a look as well.
Cheers, Raptors fans. And NBA fans.