Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Excerpts from Personal Foul

I took some time while reading Tim Donaghy's new book, to keep place of some excerpts that were especially wacky. Apparently, not only were the refs pretty loopy, but the players and coaches were regular firecrackers. Crazy.

Without further ado:

On Charles Barkley (p. 64-65):
Barkley was an awesome talent with a big mouth and a knack for finding trouble. Still, he was quite the character and a tremendous fan favorite -- at least in the city he was playing for.
I once worked a Rockets-Clippers game with my partners Duke Callahan and Bernie Fryer. Barkley was complaining about a foul I called and simply refused to let up. Up and down the court, in my ear, in my face -- he was absolutely relentless. Finally, I hit him with a technical foul.
Rudy Tomjanovich, who was coach of the Rockets at the time, jumped into the fray and decided to double-team me.
"You blew that one, Tim. Charles would never act like that unless you were wrong!" Rudy jabbed.
"Really?" I snapped back. "He acts like that every night."
Tomjanovich just shook his head and said, "You're wrong, Tim. And I'll bet you dinner on it."
After the game, I marched straight to the VCR in the referees' locker room and reviewed the game tape. I watched it several times and was convinced I made the right call. I grabbed the portable VCR off the training table, took it to Rudy T, and replayed the tape two or three times.
"Shit," he said. "You're right. I owe you an apology."
I immediately barked back, "I don't want an apology, I want my dinner!"
Rudy said he would send some coupons for McDonald's over to our locker room. Then he added with a sneer, "That fucking Barkley made me look like a fool. I'm gonna bust his balls."
I went back to the locker room to catch a quick shower. Meanwhile, Rudy was apparently ripping Charles a new one -- and Charles didn't like it. He grabbed a Gatorade container full of ice, walked right past security into the referees' locker room, and hunted me down in the shower stall. Within seconds I was doused with the bucket of ice and cold Gatorade. All of my extremities immediately went into shrink -shock and I lurched forward, banging my head on the shower nozzle. With shampoo running into my eyes, I heard Charles Barkley laughing his ass off like a little kid who just egged the principal's car. I turned to curse him out, but he quickly pranced out of the locker room like a ballerina in The Nutcracker.
Obviously, I could have made a big stink and reported Barkley to the league office. That kind of stunt is frowned upon --- even for a star like him -- and a large fine or suspension would have been likely. Before I did something rash, my crew chief Bernie Fryer raised a good point. "If you let it go," he cautioned me, "he'll owe you forever." So I shut my mouth and never notified the NBA. The next time I saw Barkley, he gave me a huge smile and whispered, "Thanks." From that day forward, I never had a another problem with the Round Mound of Rebound.

On Rasheed Wallace's temper (p. 69):

On the night of January 15, 2003, I was working a game in Portland between the Trail Blazers and the Memphis Grizzlies when a small on-court incident actually spilled over to the street. It started out like any other game, with both teams ready to go and the Rose Garden Arena rocking. At the 9:45 mark of the third quarter, referee Scott Wall called a personal foul on Trail Blazers forward Rasheed Wallace. Wallace responded by returning the ball to Wall when he wasn't looking, resulting in the ball striking Wall's leg and bouncing away. The ball wasn't thrown particularly hard, but it was clearly an act of disrespect toward the referee. I casually but pointedly told Wallace, "there's no need to throw the ball toward him when he's not looking."
"Fuck you!" Wallace screamed back at me..
I immediately gave Wallace a technical foul and the game continued without further incident. The Trail Blazers won the game and Wallace had a big night, scoring 38 points and shooting 16-of-20 from the field. I certainly had no problem giving Wallace the technical -- his profane comments were completely unacceptable. Besides, like most referees in the league, I disliked Wallace. He was incredibly difficult to get along with and we all wanted to stick it to him every chance we got. Fortunately, he gave us many opportunities. As an added bonus, Steve Javie paid me twenty bucks for winning a bet with him.
After the game, I was walking in the arena parking lot when Wallace jumped from behind a pole and confronted me. "I'm going to get my money back for that bullshit technical foul," he said.
The league assessed a fine of $1,000 for a technical foul, and despite their multimillion-dollar contracts, players don't like giving any of it back to the NBA front office.
"It wasn't bullshit," I said. "You deserved it!" I smiled and walked away, thinking he was just kidding around.
I was wrong about that. Wallace went berserk and ran toward me with his fists clenched and raised up in the fighting position. At 6' 11" and 230 pounds, Rasheed Wallace is an imposing and menacing figure.
When I realized he was completely serious, the thought crossed my mind that I was a dead man.
"You better look out you punk-ass motherfucker!" he screamed. "I'm gonna kick your fucking ass!"
After what seemed like an eternity of unbelievable screaming and tension, security personnel grabbed Wallace by the arms and restrained him. It was the longest 30 seconds of my life and I rememb er thinking, Where the hell is my backup? Where's my crew? Where's security?
We were up all night preparing a written report of the incident for the league. For his few minutes of lunacy, Wallace was suspended for seven games without pay. That's approximately $1.26 million out of his pocket. I'm sure that $1,000 fine didn't look so bad then!

On Shaq's personality (p. 62)
Shaq never gave the referees much lip. If he didn't like a call I made on him, he would just drop the ball, give me a dirty look, and head in the other direction. He has, however, been known to remind referees that the fans didn't come to see Superman sit on the bench.
Above it all, Shaq was a funny guy, quick with a joke or a prank and never a jerk. I once worked one of his games just after I received a particularly bad haircut. As I was retrieving the ball for a free-throw attempt, I sensed the enormous center looking down at me -- after all, I'm only 5' 9". I looked up to make eye contact and he wryly asked, "Who the fuck cut your hair?" I just looked at him and laughed. "I got a bad chop," I sheepishly replied. Actually it had been on my mind all day. Here we are in the second quarter of a rather intense NBA game, and I could feel my face getting flushed with embarrassment. That's Shaq.
Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs never showed much of a sense of humor; he was very serious and never appeared to be having fun on the court. Dick Bavetta and I were reffing a San Antonio game one evening when Bavetta made a call that infuriated Duncan. They argued back and forth for a couple of minutes and finally bet a hamburger on who was right and who was wrong. Getting Duncan to bet a burger on the call was Bavetta's way of getting him to calm down for the rest of the game.

(p. 112)
Stars like Shaquille O'Neal were generally liked by referees and could expect favorable treatment. Shaq was known to occasionally get in the ear of his favorite referees and convince them to let a little air out of the basketball. The league has definite rules concerning each ball's air pressure, but Shaq liked to get that soft extra bounce on his free throws and short shots around the hoop. Of course, the big guy might have scored a few more points if he actually practiced free throws during warm-ups instead of trying to collect phone numbers from pretty girls. Before one particular Lakers game in the Staples Center back in 2003, Shaq sent a ball boy in the stands to tell a woman he wanted her phone number. Only one problem -- the woman was the wife of one of the referees who was working the game that night. Oops, looks like Shaq might be in for a long night.

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