Monson: Conspiracy paranoia runs wild in Jazzland

Published May 16, 2008 1:26 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Please, somebody tell them to stop.

OK, I'll tell them to stop, and take the beating for it.

To all the Jazz fans who are crying . . . and crying . . . and crying about the refereeing in the Jazz-Lakers playoff series, how about this idea: Give it a rest.

It's old and it's tired and it's predictable and it's embarrassing and it's unfounded.

Drop the persecution complex.

Nobody's out to get you.

David Stern is not a grand puppet-master.

He's not Vince McMahon.

Since the end of Game 5 I've received complaints from at least a hundred fans about the Jazz getting jobbed in one form or another, or 30 anothers, by the refs.

Most of those protestations blast straight past accusations of ineptitude on the part of a few refs, and claim rather that there's a conspiracy afoot, that the NBA wants the Lakers in the Finals, and the Jazz are an inconvenience that must be dealt with by way of a crooked whistle.

C'mon, does anybody really believe that?


If they do, and they're not just popping off on account of the disappointment that comes with a big playoff loss, think about the implications - and the ramifications - that arrive alongside.

The NBA is a billion-dollar business that relies on true competition at its core. If it were ever discovered that somebody from the league office was orchestrating or choreographing the outcomes of playoff games, that bombshell of lost credibility would explode the business and ruin the league, killing the cash cow.

The Jazz supposedly come from too small a market to make it worthwhile for the NBA to see - or allow - them to advance to the Finals, or block the Lakers' profitable road to glory. They were allowed in back in the '90s, the conspiracy concoction goes, because Michael Jordan was the other half of the equation. Meanwhile, the Spurs have gone all the way multiple times. And what about the Packers in the NFL, hailing from the metropolis of Green Bay? I know, I know, the NFL is honorable, the NBA is a bunch of scumbags.


If such accusations of institutional bastardization were true, too many people, including the referees, would know about it, and eventually the whole thing would come to light.

I've heard these charges, especially as they pertain to the Jazz, for 15 years. I've heard them from fans, broadcasters, and even a colleague in print, who wrote an entire column suspecting the NBA of foul play. But nearly all of those complainers had one thing in common: They rooted for the Jazz. Fans are fans. By nature, they're not objective. They see what they see through biased eyes.

But to claim that an entire league is fixed and fraudulent is taking it too far. Is it more than coincidence, for example, that Jazz fans who choose to hurl calls of malfeasance at the NBA, at the refs, do so only after their team loses? When the Jazz beat the Lakers in Salt Lake City, especially after Game 4, when the Jazz shot far more free throws than the Lakers, there were no accusations. After Game 5, those claims popped up like daisies.

I agree that referees have enormous power and, as John Stockton once told Larry Miller, they can influence the outcomes of games inside of five calls. But just because some of those calls go against a particular team does not mean the officials are out to get that team, even if fans disagree with the calls.

Basketball is a lot like figure skating. There are judgments made, significant judgments, every time down the floor. And there are a lot of blown calls, probably every possession. But it's not because of some sort of diabolical predetermined script. It's because basketball is impossible to impeccably officiate. Refs don't have lasers for eyes. They cannot see everything. They are human. They make mistakes.

But that doesn't make them criminals or conspirators.

They also make a lot of great calls. Some of the best calls I've seen, sitting close to the court with a fantastic vantage point, were calls that were loudly booed by an entire home crowd.

NBA officials are the best refs at any level of basketball. There may be a dubious renegade, a Tim Donaghy here or there, but, in general, they are so much better than collegiate officials, it's not even close. Most of them have a great feel for the game. Given their human limitations, they do an admirable job.

And, basically, there is no alternative. If fans love pro basketball, and want it to go on, moving forward with the best refs is the best the game can do, even if fans' jaundiced eyes see things differently than what the officials see at any given moment.

Complaining about the refs is a part of the game.

It's a privilege fans earn with their passion and their hard-earned cash dropped down for tickets. I get that. But if those fans really believe the game is rigged, that officials are making calls to expedite the success of certain teams so the NBA can make more money with marquee matchups, those fans are fools for caring so much. They should move on to another passion.

A crooked one, if that's what they truly believe the NBA is, just isn't worth the emotional toll exacted.


* GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at gmonson@sltrib.com.

To all the Jazz fans who are crying . . . and crying . . . and crying about the refereeing in the Jazz-Lakers playoff series, how about this idea: Give it a rest. It's old and it's tired and it's predictable and it's embarrassing and it's unfounded. . . . David Stern is not a grand puppet-master. He's not Vince McMahon.

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