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Despite the fact that I subscribe to some of them, I hate conspiracy theories. I hate them mainly because it takes a world class level of cynicism to believe in them in the first place - secret society, Big Brother shit requires a lot of paranoia, and the ability to project like crazy - though I have seen enough bullshit get waved under our noses that I have to subscribe to some of them. Kennedy Assassination? I blame Hoover. Dirty links between the White House and Haliburton? You don't say! And if anything, the Bush administration has made me at least give some consideration to the ideal of the Illuminati.

Sports fans have believed that the NBA is one large conspiracy, going back to when David Stern took over; they point to the 1985 Draft (where Patrick Ewing - the consensus #1 - went to the large market New York Knicks and immediately resurrected that franchise; he was Lebron when Lebron was in diapers), the amount of lee-way that big stars get with fouls and infractions, and most recently, some officiating in specific games - games that could have either given a big market team a victory or extended a lucrative series - as examples that Stern either directly or indirectly influences the games that are played to maximize exposure and revenue for his league and/or it's big market teams. The Tim Donaghy scandal just adds more fuel to their fire.

I have to say this much: I don't there's any NBA conspiracy, but I have to admit that the NBA isn't doing a very good job of convincing us otherwise.

For some people, the conduct and impartiality of certain officials has been a running joke for a long time. Even way back in 2002, ESPN's Bill Simmons remarked about some shoddy officiating and noted that every game he mentioned - from the mid-90s all the way up to 2002 - was done by Dick Bavetta. That same writer remarked after Game 2 that the biggest upset in basketball history would occur if Bennett Salvatore didn't officiate Game 3 of the Finals. Other people - usually anonymous chaos mongers who feed on nothing more than making life miserable for other people - are convinced that the NBA is completely rigged, and will let everyone that will listen know about it, and even a few that won't. It's gotten to the point where it's overshadowing the Finals, with everyone preferring to talk about the calls and non-calls instead of the fact that the Celtics can finish the motherfucker tonight.

It became a huge issue after Game 2, when the Celtics shot 38 free throws to the Celtics 10; Leon Powe himself shot three more free throws than the entire Lakers team. Well, there goes the idea that star players get preferential treatment. It was after that game that Simmons made his Salvatore remark, and even in the back of my head, I had a hunch that two things were going to happen: 1) the Lakers would have a significant free throw edge over Boston in Game 3, and 2) they were going to win. Later that night, I checked the box score, and sure enough, the Lakers had a 34-22 edge in free throws. Even more shocking, however, was who did the game: Bennett Salvatore, Mark Wunderlich, and Joey Fucking Crawford. Crawford, for those unaware, was suspended last year for offering to FISTFIGHT TIM DUNCAN, yet not only did he do a critical Game 3, he also did a critical game in the Lakers-Spurs series, which is indefensible considering his history with Duncan.

In short, at a time when his league is under attack from the press, from his own fans, with one official being a convicted felon and another (Dick Bavetta) coming under increasing federal scrutiny, with said felon conveniently mentioning games that were "altered" (probably while reading old Simmons articles), and even Congress - never a group to miss an opportunity to grandstand - threatening to get involved (I didn't know the 76ers were in any of the "altered" games, Arlen!), David Stern has basically sent a "fuck you" to all involved parties. It's like he's DARING everyone to foam at the mouth!

As an ice hockey official, there's nothing worse than when things beyond your control affect you doing a game or not; I've been pulled from games after complaints from other teams, who were doing nothing more than waving money around and saying "he works, you lose this!", and I left my old referee organization because the scheduler pussied out after a complaint from a coach and stopped scheduling me. That said, I've never had Congress threatening to investigate my work. So to be honest, I have to question David Stern's and Stu Jackson's policy in this regard. It reminds me of how my grandparents used to handle my mother and her siblings when they didn't want to eat a particular dish for dinner; they would sit at the table and pout and essentially wait it out until bedtime, figuring that they would be able to eat no problem at breakfast. They would then wake up in the morning... to see the exact same dish sitting there for breakfast. That works fine on nine year olds, but they don't have millions upon millions of dollars invested in whether or not their lima beans get eaten, nor will they have federal investigators asking if they chewed properly, which has a more legitimate sting than a few thousand sports fans accusing the league of bias on some shitty message boards.

Anything a desperate shitbag like Tim Donaghy has to say is automatically null and void; he's a dumpster, and anything coming out of a dumpster is trash. And I have enough faith in the NBA to not be fixing their games; the very idea that they are is insane. However, this is now bigger than Donaghy; he will happily facilitate this as long as he can to try to avoid jail time, but he's just a punchline to a bigger story at this point. While I'm not usually an advocate of backing down to avoid a maelstrom, I'd at least advocate not throwing kerosene treated wood to the fire if I were David Stern.

That said, if I were Bennett Salvatore, Dick Bavetta or Bob Delaney, I'd be in awe that the league had my back to that extent. You wouldn't see Gutless Bud Selig doing this.

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One last thing: if the NBA was such a conspiracy, would we really have seen the San Antonio Spurs facing the Detroit Pistons in an NBA Finals? That series was like Kryptonite to the casual basketball fan that the NBA's been trying to bring back since Jordan retired.