Several months after I refereed Super Bowl XI on Jan. 9, 1977, I happened to meet up with Oakland Raiders head coach John Madden. The Raiders had defeated the Minnesota Vikings in that Super Bowl 32-14. Madden was wearing the imposing Super Bowl XI ring given to him along with the Raiders players and personnel as a symbol of their victory.
I had known Madden on and off the field for several years and felt comfortable kidding with him. So, I said, “John, that’s a beautiful ring, but I don’t understand. You and I were on that Rose Bowl field for the same three hours and 15 minutes yet you received that beautiful ring and the NFL gave me this Timex. Why the difference?”
Madden retorted, “‘Cause you don’t care who wins!” Wow! That’s a startling, but very true, response. As an NFL official responsible for the precise operation of the game, who won was never important to me. Officiating the game without prejudice was.
I recently read a newspaper article with the headline “NBA conspiracy theories: Long shot or layups.” The tenor of the story (I’ve seen several on the same topic) was that the National Basketball Association covertly controls which teams get to the finals by influencing the officiating. Ridiculous! I know many of its current officials and have known many over the years. Bashing the integrity of officiating is uncalled for.
Having officiated football and basketball for more than 40 years, it is apparent that officiating basketball in today’s style
of play is incredibly difficult. With 7-foot, 250-pound players charging, blocking, dunking and rebounding it is often a contest more suited to the NFL field.
How NBA officials determine who is responsible for the foul is beyond the casual observer’s judgment. To suggest that the NBA attempts to subvert rule enforcement so that certain teams progress through to the finals carries the word “theory” all the way to “surrealism.”
The days of “Donaghygate” are over. ( Tim Donaghy was a 13-year NBA official who served a 15-month prison sentence following his conviction on federal gambling and conspiracy charges). Today’s NBA officials have only one interest in mind: to call the game impartially using their best judgment. To suggest otherwise is farcical.
Will you make your decisions based on your honest appraisal of the situation?
To contact Jim go to JimTunney.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.