Friday, May 28, 2010

Tin foil conspiracy nut!

I am always amused by the super-cynics, who always find the official explanation of what happened more plausible than any attempts at upsetting the status quo.

A super-cynic will mock, laugh and set up strawmen arguments when an official story is questioned, frequently going into super hyperbole of mocking an argument with "tin foil nutter" and "do you also believe in UFO's" attacks.

To begin with, lets see what we are actually discussing here.

1. the act of conspiring.
2. an evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons; plot.
3. a combination of persons for a secret, unlawful, or evil purpose: He joined the conspiracy to overthrow the government.
4. Law. an agreement by two or more persons to commit a crime, fraud, or other wrongful act.
5. any concurrence in action; combination in bringing about a given result.

A conspiracy is simply a plot by two or more people to accomplish some (usually nefarious) goal. By using this simple definition, anybody who claims that there are no conspiracies in our government is exposing himself (or herself) as a monumental idiot.

But, the argument may go, a high school conspiracy to beat up a nerd after work, is plausible, a conspiracy in a highest level of the government less so.

Anybody who uses such an argument can be stopped dead with one word: Nixon.

I am fascinated by conspiracies, especially in large and respectable organizations.

One such case just recently came to light, involving the National Basketball Association and one whistle blowing (pun! en fuego!) referee.

So, lets review the case of an NBA referee, Tim Donaghy.

A former NBA referee.

Excerpts from Tim Donaghy's book, 'Blowing the Whistle':

A small conspiracy:

To have a little fun at the expense of the worst troublemakers, the referees working the game would sometimes make a modest friendly wager amongst themselves: first ref to give one of the bad boys a technical foul wouldn't have to tip the ball boy that night.

After the opening tip, it was hilarious as the three of us immediately focused our full attention on the intended victim, waiting for something, anything, to justify a technical foul. If the guy so much as looked at one of us and mumbled, we rang him up. Later in the referees' locker room, we would down a couple of brews, eat some chicken wings, and laugh like hell.

A variation on the theme:

We had another variation of this gag simply referred to as the "first foul of the game" bet. While still in the locker room before tip-off, we would make a wager on which of us would call the game's first foul. That referee would either have to pay the ball boy or pick up the dinner tab for the other two referees. Sometimes, the ante would be $50 a guy. Like the technical foul bet, it was hilarious — only this time we were testing each other's nerves to see who had the guts to hold out the longest before calling a personal foul.

During one particular summer game, Duke Callahan, Mark Wunderlich, and I made it to the three-minute mark in the first quarter without calling a foul. We were running up and down the court, laughing our asses off as the players got hammered with no whistles. The players were exhausted from the nonstop running when Callahan finally called the first foul because Mikki Moore of the New Jersey Nets literally tackled an opposing player right in front of him. Too bad for Callahan — he lost the bet.

I became so good at this game that if an obvious foul was committed right in front of me, I would call a travel or a three-second violation instead. Those violations are not personal fouls, so I was still in the running to win the bet. The players would look at me with disbelief on their faces as if to say, "What the hell was that?"

This time Tim exposes another conspiracy, now not hatched by referees, but the whole NBA league itself.

Relationships between NBA players and referees were generally all over the board — love, hate, and everything in-between. Some players, even very good ones, were targeted by referees and the league because they were too talented for their own good. Raja Bell, formerly of the Phoenix Suns and now a member of the Charlotte Bobcats, was one of those players. A defensive specialist throughout his career, Bell had a reputation for being a "star stopper." His defensive skills were so razor sharp that he could shut down a superstar, or at least make him work for his points. Kobe Bryant was often frustrated by Bell's tenacity on defense.

You would think that the NBA would love a guy who plays such great defense. Think again! Star stoppers hurt the promotion of marquee players. Fans don't pay high prices to see players like Raja Bell — they pay to see superstars like Kobe Bryant score 40 points. Basketball purists like to see good defense, but the NBA wants the big names to score big points.

If a player of Kobe's stature collides with the likes of Raja Bell, the call will almost always go for Kobe and against Bell. As part of our ongoing training and game preparation, NBA referees regularly receive game-action video tape from the league office. Over the years, I have reviewed many recorded hours of video involving Raja Bell. The footage I analyzed usually illustrated fouls being called against Bell, rarely for him. The message was subtle but clear — call fouls against the star stopper because he's hurting the game.

A conspiracy happening during a game, as referees try to regain control of a physical game where players get rough:
Similarly, when games got physically rough, we would huddle up and agree to tighten the game up. So we started calling fouls on guys who didn't really matter — "ticky-tack" or "touch" fouls where one player just touched another but didn't really impede his progress. Under regular circumstances these wouldn't be fouls, but after a skirmish we wanted to regain control. We would never call these types of fouls on superstars, just on the average players who didn't have star status. It was important to keep the stars on the floor.

But these tidbits, fascinating as they are, are not the bombshell.

Sports Illustrated drops the bomb.

Donaghy knew the referees, their idiosyncrasies and agendas, as the text above implies.

Sports Illustrated article is more ominous:

Most ominously, Donaghy said he was forced to share his inside information with members of organized crime, who made millions of dollars, according to one federal agent, making bets based on Donaghy's tips.

Organized crime was involved in this scandal.

But, perhaps the biggest scandal, is this;


"Team 3 lost the first two games in the series and Team 3's owner complained to NBA officials," the letter said. "Team 3's owner alleged that referees were letting a Team 4 player get away with illegal screens. NBA Executive Y told Referee Supervisor Z that the referees for that game were to enforce the screening rules strictly against that Team 4 player. ... The referees followed the league's instructions and Team 3 came back from behind to win the series. The NBA benefited from this because it prolonged the series, resulting in more tickets sold and more televised games."

Total and complete bullshit, right?

Exercepts from the book, again:

studying under Dick Bavetta for 13 years was like pursuing a graduate degree in advanced game manipulation. He knew how to marshal the tempo and tone of a game better than any referee in the league, by far. He also knew how to take subtle — and not so subtle — cues from the NBA front office and extend a playoff series or, worse yet, change the complexion of that series.

The 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings presents a stunning example of game and series manipulation at its ugliest. As the teams prepared for Game 6 at the Staples Center, Sacramento had a 3–2 lead in the series. The referees assigned to work Game 6 were Dick Bavetta, Bob Delaney, and Ted Bernhardt. As soon as the referees for the game were chosen, the rest of us knew immediately that there would be a Game 7. A prolonged series was good for the league, good for the networks, and good for the game. Oh, and one more thing: it was great for the big-market, star-studded Los Angeles Lakers.

In the pregame meeting prior to Game 6, the league office sent down word that certain calls — calls that would have benefitted the Lakers — were being missed by the referees. This was the type of not-so-subtle information that I and other referees were left to interpret. After receiving the dispatch, Bavetta openly talked about the fact that the league wanted a Game 7.

"If we give the benefit of the calls to the team that's down in the series, nobody's going to complain. The series will be even at three apiece, and then the better team can win Game 7," Bavetta stated.

When someone tells you that conspiracies just do not happen, calls you a tin foil hat wearer, tell them the story of former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, and his stories of referees conspiring to not call fauls (or call the first faul) during the start of a game for a joke, or how the league plotted to prolong the finals series (after all, more money is made if an NBA finals series goes to 7 games than if, say, a team wins in 5 or 4).

Or just say one word: Nixon.

Either way, that should shut the moron up.


Anonymous said...

Or just say one word: Nixon.

I think Nixon is actually not a very good example. What he did was minor, and the mass media made a huge deal out of it, which gives the impression that when even small time conspiracies occur they are rapidly exposed and punished. I have not studied the case of Nixon in any detail but I suspect he was intentionally taken down by "you know who".

Better examples of conspiracies are the bombing of the USS Maine, the sinking of the Lusitania, and the Gulf of Tonkin incident. These were gigantic lies told to the public in order to start wars, and pretty much everyone now accepts that these claims were untrue. Attacks on boats appear to be one of the most common types of conspiracies used to drum up support for a war (see also Pearl Harbor and the USS Liberty, although these are not as widely accepted as conspiracies as those above).

Probably the best thing I know of to show people is the video from before Gulf War I of the crying Kuwaiti girl who claimed to have seen babies thrown from incubators:

This is a good example because it involves the wholesale fabrication of an event, including fraudulent witness testimony, as a means of manipulating public opinion via the mass media, and it's impossible to spin as a "mistake" or an "intelligence failure". It was quite obviously a *conspiracy*.

AmericanGoy said...

Great comment.

I am usually very pleasantly surprised at the quality comments I get on this blog.

Unknown said...

It is true that not all conspiracies are lies, but there are far more conspiracy theories involving large groups of people with less relation to the situation and little evidence than there are situations that warrant any trust in conspiracies. I'm not saying that the conspiracy shouldn't be checked. I just think that the critical thinking facilities that we all have should look at the possibility that there is no conspiracy as strongly as we look for the conspiracy. This rarely happens. The DaVinci Code and X-files were much more successful than the TV show Probe, in which there was a rational and usually simple explanation for everything. There were conspiracies even on that show, but they weren't global. Evolution is not a conspiracy of geologists, paleontologists and astrophysicists. Not everything is caused by Jewish conspiracy, and we don't have to worry about low frequency radio waves frying our brains. When we check the facts, the real conspiracies are supported by them.