“Personal Foul” by Tim Donaghy
Basketball, professional, officiating, gambling, memoir
June 9, 2010
4 of 5 stars (very good)
It was a scandal that rocked the sports world and made tabloids write some interesting headlines. When NBA referee Tim Donaghy was questioned by the FBI and later sent to prison for his involvement with organized crime while gambling on basketball games, it left the league scrambling to defend its reputation. Donaghy decided to write about his actions and how it led to his downfall after a successful career as an NBA referee. His book makes for some eye-opening reading.
What is most striking about Donaghy’s information that he passed to members of crime families is how simple it was to obtain. Donaghy didn’t pour over advanced statistics or even analyze player matchups between the teams. He simply looked at who were the referees working a particular game and knowing that one of these officials may have a grudge against one of the coaches or players, he knew that one team might have a significant advantage
It was also interesting to read about one common perception coming true. Many basketball fans, reporters, players and coaches have believed that superstar players usually receive favorable treatment and calls. Donaghy, through his years as an NBA referee, provides insight and information that confirms this belief through his interactions with players and fellow referees. He also speaks of the league directing its officials to help ensure that a playoff series goes longer and that the larger markets advance in the playoffs. As an example of the latter item, he uses the sixth game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings in 2002 to show how the way a game is officiated can affect a lot more than just the final score.
The mood of the book is not one of anger nor pity for Donaghy’s situation. He realizes his mistakes and knows that he has to pay the price through a prison term and in personal life. He doesn’t make excuses nor does he show much anger toward anyone else. While he did commit crimes, I found this memoir very interesting for the inside look at the world of basketball referees and just how much influence they have on the game. It is a book that all basketball fans will enjoy reading.
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