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Not Taking Heed of Tim But Intrigued By Public Reaction


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"Donaghy may be telling the truth. but it's been said before this, and by him saying it now, he thinks people will support him.  The fact of the matter is this - Tim Donaghy is a despicable, dishonest person, and he should go down for a long time...Trying to throw as many people under the bus as he can just sums [him] up.

Having said that, if he can prove it, that's a different story." -- CelticsBlog member celticmaestro

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The latest installment of the Tim Donaghy saga has had an unprecedented effect on me.

I can't ever remember being more intrigued by the public reaction to a big NBA story than by the story itself.

For someone who loves to eat up NBA content, it's been an odd selection of material for me this week.  I haven't bothered to read Donaghy's actual letter to the court.  I took a cursory trip through the New York Daily News article on Donaghy's allegations that NBA officials fixed a playoff series in 2002.  Listened to a bit of talk radio, caught a few minutes of chatter on the four-lettered network, the usual.  But I have yet to really immerse myself in what could be one of the league's biggest stories in years.

That seems like it would most likely be a result of some combination of two critical factors.  The first is directly related to the comment from CM referenced atop this piece. 

Yes, Jose Canseco's name comes to mind immediately as that of someone who had been outed as a liar and cheater but one who was ultimately correct in many of his assertions about those who had been around him.  Also, reporter friend Bill Powell is probably right in saying that "The view that all cheaters and crooks are liars who can't be trusted is a bit uninformed."

But the guess here is that Jose Canseco tends to be the exception rather than the rule.  I don't know how to get into Tim Donaghy's head, so I don't purport to know whether he has motivation to lie or not.  What I do know is that he has already been found to be a crook, cheater, liar and whatever other analogous description suits your fancy.  He has yet to pay his pennance, and he has yet to viably re-establish any credibility for himself.  Sure, as CM says, if what Donaghy said were to be true, it turns into an excruciatingly compelling story for virtually any NBA fans -- or the few that will still be left ater that.

That being the case, if and when Donaghy's claim is somehow substantiated by a source that hasn't been stripped of all credibility, perhaps he'll gain some of his back.    The old adage is that trust takes years to build up but just seconds to shatter.  Last summer's proceedings made it clear that Tim Donaghy had completely decimated any trust built up in him, and that makes it difficult to trust as of yet unsupported claims that just happened to be made public at the most inconvenient time for the NBA: during the highly popular Lakers-Celtics Finals.

So the first count for my lack of compulsion with Donaghy's words comes not from the belief that he necessarily isn't correct (how would I know?) but from the fact that it's hard to take this particular crook seriously.  He simply comes off like the Boy Who Cried Wolf.  He lied for years, and now, whether he's telling the truth or not, rather than judging his accuracy, I'll choose not to take him seriously.  If we learn after the fact that he was indeed right, fine.  But it won't hurt me to learn that later -- from a credible source -- rather than to devote the energy to getting worked up over his comments now.

But for someone so sure that he won't isn't going to "devote the energy to getting worked up over his comments now," I'm spending an awfully sizable chunk of time and word space musing about this guy.  That brings me to the second factor: denial.

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No bones about it: No matter his level of credibility, I don't want to believe Tim Donaghy's story, because I'm desperately hoping that it is inaccurate.

For better or for worse, I am an NBA diehard.  I eat, sleep and breathe Celtics basketball, and the rest of the NBA certainly isn't far behind.  On a recent survey, just for the heck of it, I answered the "Political Views" inquiry with "Rondo and the Rondettes."  It's a scary thought to imagine the virtues of the sport being compromised to such an unacceptable degree.  I love this team, this game and this league, and it seems natural to want it all to be real.  Even considering merit in Donaghy's words allows the possibility that this league has been a sham for some years now, and for those who love the league, that isn't a comforting idea.  In fact, it's downright a disturbing one. 

I've come to live with the rampant star treatment, with the constant home cooking of officials, with the idea that the league often *silently* 'roots' for certain teams, and with watching basketball that is often poorly officiated.  But if that poor officiating is simply due to human error and the inherent difficulty of the profession, that can be tolerable.  But the reality of fixed games crosses that magic line for me into the unbearable, into the "It's time to re-evaluate some of my priorities" realm.  Thus, it becomes easy to hear about Donaghy's claims and respond that yep, there was a poorly officiated game in which the zebras seemed to lean the way of the team with the home-court advantage, the two biggest stars on the floor and one of the greatest interior presences of all time. All grudgingly accepted evils at this point.  Nothing all that far out of the ordinary except for the fact that the actual calls made and ignored were more egregious than usual.  Blah, blah, blah.

The point is that it is reflexive to conjure the defense mechanism of blowing off Donaghy's words as meaningless sans substantiation.

Maybe my piggy-backing off of CM's sentiments gives me a fair point regarding Dongahy's credibility.  Or maybe I really am in denial.  I can't tell, and I'd welcome your thoughts on it.  In the meantime, I'll continue to stay as aloof as possible with regard to this story until the claims made gain some reasonable support.

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By contrast, the urge to look at the reactions of others to the Donaghy story has proved irresistible.  I found myself looking with surprise at RealGM's poll, in which 70 percent of those surveyed said they believed Donaghy.  And I've read every word of the pertinent forum thread here at CelticsBlog.  In this great community, we've had the pleasure to see many eloquent voices weigh in on the subject already, and more are on the way.

There have been fun comments to read about what the NBA needs to do in order to alleviate any backlash.  Suggestions for changes in officiating structure.  Personal rants against Donaghy and David Stern. 

But what intrigues me most are the comments on both sides of the conspiracy wire.  It makes me curious to think about how many people felt that Donaghy gave us some 'new' information and found a reason to take him at his word as compared to how many folks would have held the same notions whether or not the Donaghy information had ever come to light. 

Did Tim Donaghy tell us something new, or did he just voice -- in an (falsely?) authoritative 'insider' tone --  what many had long been theorizing in the first place?  What about those who don't buy what he's saying one bit?  Is it for one of the two reasons I've experienced in my soul-search of my own reaction to the situation, or is there something else to be considerd against his story?

Please, this time around, you tell me.

Because I'm quite curious, and at this point, it's these questions that are nagging at me far more than are those about the accuracy of one crooked ref's full-court heaves.

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