Dang it, NBA. Why'd you have to ruin my weekend like this? C'mon!!
Now he'll be ribbing me from Ann Arbor to Milwaukee, then from Milwaukee to Chicago, and all the way back to Ann Arbor.
I won't hear the end of this. And I won't be able to fight back. Especially if this turns out to be true.
This, of course, is the news that an NBA official is being investigated by the FBI for fixing games during the past two seasons. Apparently, the official is aware of the investigation and will turn himself over to officials (that is, federal officials) next week.
As if the NBA doesn't have enough issues as it is.
Terrible NBA Finals ratings.
The fallout from the suspensiona of Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw.
The awfulness of the East Coast's big market teams.
Kobe complaining. K.G. staying. Rasheed arguing.
This is far worse. In fact, this is about as bad as it gets.
He is my friend, Tick, who is accompanying me on a four-day baseball trip beginning early tomorrow morning. We're going to see Barry Bonds play in Milwaukee (maybe — the aging star might take the day off), but even though he'll be booed, his vices don't match up to those of this official if the allegations are true.
And I do need to take a few seconds to reinforce that these are just allegations. Nothing has been proven. Nothing's in stone. But the fact that the FBI's looking into this and that there are reports that the official — who is said to have a gambling problem — was associated with organized crime, doesn't bode well for the guy or for the NBA.
Fans are already asking for refunds to games they attended. Already! By Monday, they could be blowing up arenas! You thought TV ratings were poor during the '07 NBA Finals? Just wait until next year, when re-runs of "Family Matters" on Nickelodeon fare better.
Tick has been trying to convince me for two years now that NBA games are fixed, that the league is a joke. I've never believed him. I'm a basketball purist. I have never imagined that an official of all people would intentionally affect the outcome of a game. Never.
Even when Dwyane Wade went to the free throw line 1,649 times in the Finals in '06, I credited him for taking it strong and drawing the contact. I didn't listen to Tick's rants about the the Miami superstar getting ridiculous star treatment.
Now I'll have to listen. For four days, I'm sure, we won't just talk about baseball. Tick will be in my ear about this mess, about how if a veteran official — as the reports assert — bet and fixed games, who else might he have influenced?
It will be miserable. Bad timing, NBA.
Things were actually looking up for the league after the best draft since 2003. Greg Oden, Kevin Durant & Co. are supposed to help save the league. They're very personable, young stars who should boost its image. At least its players' image.
But now — if the allegations are true, and probably (I must admit) even if they're false — the league has much bigger issues than its players' marketability.
It has to reprove to its viewers — if there are any left besides myself and a few clinger-ons — that it's a legitimate entity. It has to reprove that's it's not just another WWE, where everything is fixed. Of course this isn't the case — we're talking about a single official here — but people will be sure to blow this out of proportion (the whole league is one big conspiracy theory!!), and I can't say I really blame them.
In this iPod, iPhone and iEverything society, there is plenty of entertainment available that normal basketball fans — basically, everyone but the purists — don't need to attend NBA games or watch NBA games to live satisfactorily.
Now it appears they've received a gigantic excuse to complete disregard the NBA as nothing more than a soap opera with a predictable ending to each episode.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Friday, 7/20/07's main point: A potential black eye for the NBA