Did Tim Donaghy Affect the Wizards-Grizzlies Game? You Betcha.
Last week, the good folks at We Rite Goode put some of us Wizards bloggers on alert about the freshly unsealed letter from the Department of Justice to US District Court Judge, the Honorable Carol Bagley Amon, in regard to the US v. Timothy Donaghy, a criminal case against the disgraced former NBA referee. That now seems like years ago as Donaghy’s lawyer found the opportune time to drop a new bombshell on the same day as Game 3 of the 2008 NBA Finals. An NBA fix? Stet Sports has the word on that.
While the DoJ’s Donaghy letter [via thesmokinggun.com] reads like a episode of the Sopranos, in real life, the story of Tim Donaghy is as trivial and dysfunctional as Growing Up Gotti.
Donaghy began dealing with James Battista and Thomas Martine, both of whom Donaghy knew from high school….[The trio met in December of ’06 in Philly]….Donaghy indicated that although he would meet with Martino, Donaghy did not want to meet with Battista because Donaghy knew that Battista was a professional gambler…..When Martino arrived, Donaghy noticed that Battista was also in Martino’s car…..Battista then told Donaghy that he should provide his picks to Battista and Martino, and not to [Jack] Concannon [a prior gambling associate of Tim Donaghy]. Battista also told Donaghy that Battista “didn’t want the NBA to find out” about what Donaghy was doing…..At a later meeting back at Donaghy’s hotel……Battista told Donaghy that “you don’t want anyone from New York visiting your wife and kids.”
It’s your classic case of worse gets worser as Donaghy took the entertainment aspect out of gambling and towards a downward spiral gone overboard like Goldie Hawn in a thong (20-year-old movie reference kids).
The heart of this story started long ago at Cardinal O’Hara High School in the privileged white township of Springfield, Pennsylvania; about a dozen miles from the heart of Philadelphia. Why do I say privileged and white? Well, because the census [via wikipedia] says that Springfield is 96.6% white and only 1.9% of families are below the poverty line. But remember, if Mexico is America’s beard, then Philly (and it’s suburbs) is New Jersey’s dingle-berry…..not to mention that the Garden State is already America’s arm-pit. Confused? I don’t know how a dingle-berry got into your armpit either.
Donaghy, being a Kenny Rogers (not the pitcher) wanna-be, was associated with other wise guys from O’Hara High….such as James Battista (the Charles Barkley of Donaghy’s world, with mob ties, whose nickname is “Sheep”) and Thomas Martino. Martino by most accounts was not a mobster, rather your run-of-the-mill 42 year old douche-bag with a mullet, Lotus, and a MySpace page. Oh, did I mention that he co-owns(ed) a hair salon?
Being overtaken by the possessive Gamblor, Donaghy got in deep with his debts and was essentially forced not only down a slippery-slope, but a damn near 90 degree decline. The worst part is that Donoghy was only making about 10-30K per year (in dealings with his initial gambling partner, Jack Concannon). What did Kevin Garnett make this season? $22 million? So you’re telling me that the Big Ticket makes Donaghy’s dirty refereeing peanuts in the amount of time he spends cussing each day? As much fanfare as this case has received, and justifiably so, I am still not exactly wowed by this dollar amount.
But the part of note to Wizards fans from around the nation is the excerpt below from the DoJ’s letter:
For example, on December 26, 2006, Donaghy refereed a game in which the Washington Wizards hosted the Memphis Grizzlies. Donaghy originally informed Martino that he thought the Grizzlies would win. Just before the start of the game, however, an official NBA scorer entered the referees’ locker room and said that the Grizzlies were “all banged up.” Armed with this inside information concerning the physical condition of the Grizzlies, Donaghy called Martino and changed his pick to the Wizards. According to NBA records, the Wizards won 116-101
JakeTheSnake from Bullets Forever and Gilbertology had a good post on this subject, Referees, Gambling, Tim Donaghy, and how the Wizards fit in.
Thankfully, it doesn’t look like Donaghy’s bet made much of an impact on how he called the game. The Wizards roared out to 45-18 lead after the first quarter and they took a 77-51 lead into halftime. The 15 point closing margin was a byproduct of Chucky Atkins hot shooting in the 4th quarter that took the game from being a blowout to being just an ugly loss, so the game was never close enough for Dongahy’s subconscious to have an impact on the game. In fact if you check out the box score from the game, you’ll see that the Grizz actually got the free throw line 13 more times than the Wizards did.
While I agree with Jake’s assessment, I think you will be very hard pressed to find any empirical data which could be obtained from a box score that would indicate Tim Donaghy having an affect on the outcome of the game, subconsciously or not. And this would probably hold true for any of the NBA games in which Donaghy was involved on both a refereeing and insider information level.
Of course, this post could turn into a thesis on the power of the subconscious and the role of e
nvironmental conditioning. To circumvent, I’ll go ahead and suggest that you read ‘Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking’ by Malcolm Gladwell (it’s not the bible on the subject, just a great book….and it’s not like you haven’t heard of it, or perhaps read it by now — go read it again). So, the assumption is that referees are trained to instinctively make decisions within the blink of an eye. But the conclusion is that calls are not only the result of years of honing an expertise, but also a side effect of personal biases, which varies by individual at an immeasurable percent; the lower the percent, the better the referee……in theory.
The art of refereeing a sporting competition can be a highly subjective act, seemingly even more so in the game of basketball. That’s one reason why I agree with Jeff Van Gundy on eliminating disqualifications after six fouls in the NBA (or five in college and FIBA)…but I’m digressing as that’s neither here nor there and best be saved for a future post.
The available surface evidence does not point to Tim Donaghy having an impact on that December ’06 match-up between the Grizzlies and the Wizards. And if I had a copy of the game tape to analyze, I’m not sure if I would find anything there either. Maybe the Wizards were just on fire (going 10-18 from 3-point land), and the Grizzlies just sucked (turning the ball over 25 times). Which made me curious as to why the hell Donaghy initially chose the Grizzlies to win in the first place? As Jake pointed out, at the time the Wizards were eight greater in the win column and 10 fewer in the loss column than Memphis, and had won 10 of their previous 13 games.
Who knows? Perhaps after the Wizards jumped out to a 45-18 lead after one quarter, and then kept up the drumming to the tune of a 26 point lead at the half, Donaghy felt that it was getting a little two obvious as the Wizards were favored by seven. After all, the halftime FT discrepancy was in favor of the Wizards, 16-14. Only in the second half did the Grizzlies gain the FT lead by attempting 23 free throws to eight for Washington. A tactic to keep the game close? I don’t know who made the calls.
My point is that while I don’t believe Donaghy had a significant impact on the game, he certainly had an affect, even if he himself was not aware. The human subconscious is a powerful tool. When factoring in threats to his family, aside from his personal financial interests, it’s virtually impossible that Donaghy’s inner biases were not an exponentially greater factor than the normal subjectiveness of NBA referees. Wanna bet?