A sort of nuclear winter threatens the NBA
One man's incomprehensible stupidity has put a lot of other men's livelihoods in jeopardy. If alleged facts are proven true in the Tim Donaghy/FBI gambling investigation, it could do to the legitimacy of the NBA and professional basketball what the establishment of a grassy knoll shooter would do to the legitimacy of the Warren Commission Report. Destroy it.
How could this referee be so reckless? Didn't he understand what he was, pardon the pun, gambling with? The legitimacy of the sport, that's what. And how could the Association be so careless? For God's sakes, why didn't Association security forces discover this rouge official long before the FBI did? And how did a guy with such a deficient personality and warped sense of judgment be chosen for the ultimate on-court decisonmaking role in the first place?
This is bad on so many levels. Understand that it is not just your run of the mill gambling mess. Its much more than that because of who it involves and what it might imply. There is a long held belief among a not insignificant and very virulent band of sports conspiracy nuts that the NBA is fixed. And the Kingpins of this conspiratorial theory have always been the one group of people who were best positioned to deliver the fix: NBA officials. I'm not quite sure why the NBA is so readily accused of being a fixed operation when other sports have had their own gambling issues (baseball, football), but it is. You would be surprised at how many otherwise sane people actually believe the Association head office decides who will win playoff games, and that the referees then implement these edicts from on high. The theory is illogical to the core, but it exists. And that means trouble is about to hit hard.
This Donaghy fiasco plays right into those conspiratorial beliefs, and gives them the kind of superficial credibility that helps turn a nutty belief held by a small disturbed faction into a commonly held and potentially disastrous ideavirus that could take down the entire sport.
That's why the hour of truth has arrived for David Stern's commissionership. He has to act quickly, decisively, and with the coldblooded ruthlessness of Josef Stalin if he is to remove this taint from the game. Nothing short of a purge will suffice. The competitive legitimacy of the sport, which is its lifeblood, is at stake.