When the world discovered that Tim Donaghy was involved in fixing games it put a major stain on the integrity of professional sports.  America prides itself on upholding the highest standards and ensuring that the best team wins when the rules are implemented fairly. For the first time, it appeared the public was going to uncover a massive scandal that would change major sports throughout the country.  Except that never happened. Most people today probably don’t even know who Tim Donaghy is. The NBA worked so hard to cover up this story that it is practically already forgotten despite it happening only 13 years ago. The ex-NBA referee and current professional NBA handicapper Donaghy joined hosts Sharp and Shapiro on November 13th, 2019 to discuss his movie “Inside Game”.

 

Shapiro brings up an interesting fact in regard to movies “based on a true story” such as Rudy:

“The real Rudy Ruettiger lives here in Las Vegas.  I’ve talked to him time and time again about the movie.  He says, ‘Yeah some of those scenes didn’t happen. It’s not all true.  Some of its true. Some of its not true. It’s made for Hollywood.’ I want to get your take on this movie.  Is this largely true to life or not?”

 

Donaghy responds:

“I’ll say it’s 70-80% true.  There is a lot of things in the movie that didn’t happen.  They have me smoking out of a bong. They have me drinking a lot of scotch.  I would be sick for a month if I drank scotch. A lot of little things. The crux of the story is the three of us who got together and started to do things we shouldn’t have been doing is really what the story is about.”

 

This is a really important statement to remember.  According to Tim Donaghy the most important thing about the movie is the that the main plot elements of this movie are true.  That means that outside the nuanced scenes, everything you see happened. If he stands by this statement that means the remaining answers from him should not oppose the idea of the movie being mostly true.  We will see if that is the case. It is interesting that his movie “Inside Game” basically doesn’t exist anymore. The movie trailer doesn’t even have 100,000 views and supposedly was released in November. It does not exist on any streaming service and a full plot synopsis cannot be found on the internet.  As of right now, there is no way to watch it.

 

Shapiro gauges Donaghy’s opinion on the controversial Daryl Morey tweet that caused an uproar in China:

“You have to have an opinion on what transpired with Daryl Morey/ Houston Rockets and the issue between China and the NBA. The way players handled it, the way the NBA handled it.  What did you make of that whole scenario?”

 

He responds:

“You know I think it’s really strange.  I think he should have kept his mouth shut and kept their opinions to themselves.  There is a lot of revenue that is coming in from China. The bottom line is that everyone wants to be able to prosper from that revenue.  I think they would have been better off having that opinion and keeping it to themselves.

 

His answer is pretty on par with who Donaghy is as a person.  He cares about maximizing his profits and I can’t criticize him for that.  Whether it is morally okay to be silent against something you disagree with is another question.  Is it a GM’s place to give his political opinions against a government that has deep ties to his league? NBA players’ responses were equally as mixed.  Lebron cautioned on the safe side of things and was ultimately criticized for essentially defending China. With that being said I am sure it helped his business brand overall.

 

Shapiro continues the conversation:

“So I have to ask you this.  Perhaps the biggest misconception of your situation that people say, ‘Oh that guy Tim Donaghy he fixed NBA basketball games.’  And I know you always said that was not the case. You gave them (Baba Battista and Tommy Martino) information based on the officials you were working with, so on and so forth. Can you understand why people would think that you did fix games. The reason why is there was a lot of money involved.  You were hanging out with the wrong people. When you’re working a game, you know you are going to get paid a certain amount of money if one side comes in rather than the other I think most logical people would say of course Tim it has to influence some of the calls you made in a game. How can it not? How can you say that you refed this game totally square knowing everything that was going on behind the scenes?  I think that’s a fair question don’t you think?

 

He responds:

“Oh absolutely and it’s a very valid question.  If I was on the other side, I would be asking the same thing.   The bottom line is we wanted 80-85% percent correct. I was never put in a box to do that.  The NBA and even the FBI thorough investigation said that I never went out and made a call in a game to make sure a bet won.  Phil Scala, the super visor special agent for the FBI wrote for my book and said I said the truth at every turn but I get it. I get that people will say you had the whistle in your mouth and I get something if the team won.  To be honest with you, there were times where I hoped we lost so much I was afraid red flags were going to pop up all over the place.”

 

I don’t believe Donaghy about this at all for two reasons, one of which can be found in the trailer for his own movie.  First, he says that he never depended on the outcome of certain games so that never came to mind. Well in the trailer it is depicted that a Chinese Mafia member puts a gun to his friend’s head and tells him he has to win a certain amount of money or he would kill his entire family.  That definitely sounds to me like he would be a little pressured to make calls go a certain way and that it influenced the way he refereed. Secondly, I have to believe he bet on games he referred as well. He admitted to a severe gambling addiction in court. If he was officiating a game that he had money on, does he expect me to believe that wasn’t going to influence the game from his standpoint the best he could?  “Inside information” about injuries or referee relationships is not enough to win at such a high rate. That kind of information already exists on the internet. I don’t know why he would pardon himself from that but say that other referees did it. It honestly makes no sense for a guy who pleaded guilty. 

 

Shapiro asks professional NBA handicapper Tim Donaghy about his betting tendency with refs:

“I don’t want you to give me too much information you have at Ref Picks but this is a fair question to ask.  Give me an official that you would lean towards the over on and another official working today that you would towards an under?”

 

He responds: 

“In general, you look at a guy like Kenny Mauer.  One of the top referees in the league who likes to create a flow to the game with an up and down atmosphere.  He really doesn’t like to get involved in slowing the game down. You would go with the over a lot of the time.  There are other guys who like to blow the whistle and slow the games down. There’s free throws and stoppages in games.  It’s not a good flow to games. You want to go against them if there is another referee on the court with that crew to where they are going to do the same thing.  It’s really just seeing what the matchups are crew wise in order to do that. It’s not any one referee. It’s when there are two together or even three together.”

There is a fair point to this.  It goes without say that referees officiate games differently as he said.  That can influence the over under tremendously. He would later go on to say that he doesn’t believe NBA refs are fixing games anymore.  I find this hard to believe. On January 3rd, 2019 Kevin Durant had the blatant out of bounds play that went unnoticed with a score that was tied at 132 a piece in overtime when the Warriors played the Rockets.  Am I supposed to believe that it was a small detail overlooked? His whole body was out of bounds. Daryl Morey was not the first and is certainly not the last referee to influence games.  With that being said, I don’t think all of American sports is rigged. I just think there are some officials who have gotten caught up in huge gambling schemes that go unnoticed because of how many games there are per year.  The real truth lies somewhere between Tim Donaghy and the NBA.

Spencer Ostrovsky

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