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Hey, NBA needs to beat Bewitched in ratings

BY JOE SANTORO

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

Tim Donaghy, the Pete Rose of NBA officials, needs to dry up, blow away and disappear. Donaghy, the goofball who thought it was a good idea to jeopardize his cushy NBA ref lifestyle by betting on games, came out this week and said the 2002 Los Angeles Lakers-Sacramento Kings playoff series was fixed. Yeah, right. Yes, there were a lot of stupid calls in that series. Yes, the Lakers shot 27 free throws in the fourth quarter in one game. And, yes, it looked like a Little League game umpired by the dad of the starting pitcher. But that game was no more fixed than a NHL Stanley Cup contest when the refs traditionally swallow their whistles and a World Series that has a different strike zone every game with the change of umpires.

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The NBA protects its superstars and its glamour teams. No doubt. Michael Jordan always drew the foul when he went into the lane, Larry Bird never fouled anyone and Magic Johnson never travelled. So what? The league knows as well as anyone that the NBA without superstars and glamour teams finishes third in the Nielsen ratings behind Bewitched re-runs and the 750th showing of the third Lord of the Rings movie. Basketball, even at the middle school level, is the most difficult sport to officiate. The media needs to stop giving frauds like Donaghy so much credence.

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Who is to blame for Big Brown turning into a pre-face tattoo Mike Tyson versus Buster “Where’s the Nearest Buffet?” Douglas? Well, everyone and everything but Big Brown. Why did trainer Rick Dutrow stop giving the horse its steroid injections a month before the biggest race of its life? Why did jockey Kent Desormeaux guide Big Brown through the race as if he was a Detroit Red Wing trying to dig the puck out of the corner? Why did we bring up the sacred names of Secretariat and Affirmed when discussing a horse with a hoof injury and just five races under his saddle? When will the ESPN story break that details Tim Donaghy’s claims that David Stern fixed the Belmont?

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When Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 600th homer this week the national media was quick to point out that Griffey did it the right way. You know, without the help of Big Brown’s steroids. How do we know? How do we know that Griffey never experimented with performance enhancing (otherwise known as Roger Clemens vitamins) drugs? We don’t have proof, do we? We also don’t really have proof that Barry Bonds, Clemens and Sammy Sosa injected steroids. The bottom line is that we don’t really know who used performance enhancers over the last two decades and we’ll never know. So don’t fawn over guys just because they didn’t get caught.

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Sports Cliche We Hate: “A good piece of hitting.” What piece? And why isn’t there a good piece of pitching, fielding or throwing? Why isn’t there a good piece of shooting in basketball or a good piece of blocking in football? Also, it seems that only singles or doubles to the opposite field with two strikes are considered good pieces of hitting. Isn’t a towering home run on a 2-0 count a good piece of hitting?

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Fresno State in the College World Series this week is further proof of how close the Wolf Pack came to qualifying for a regional this year. The Pack, don’t forget, beat Fresno State three games to one only a month ago in one of the most exciting and dramatic series at Peccole Park in recent years. The Pack is drawing closer to returning to its glory days. Keep the faith, Pack fans.

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Did you see the ridiculous fight among Arizona State baseball players last week before their super regional game against Fresno State? Arizona State, according to some media reports, is now claiming the fight was staged. First of all, we don’t believe the fight was staged. Pre-game preparation for a big game should include fielding a few fly balls and ground balls, checking to see that your girlfriend isn’t sitting next to some football or basketball player in the stands, taking a few swings in the cage and making sure your cup is on straight. Hitting your teammate in the head with your fist? Not so much. But if it was staged, and the coaches knew anything about it, then somebody should lose their job. Why embarrass your school and the sport with something that Hulk Hogan would dream up?

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Tiger Woods opened the U.S. Open on Thursday with a double bogey. What’s wrong with Tiger? Is his knee bothering him? Can he knock off the rust? Did Tim Donaghy tell him to throw the tournament? The list of boring, overhyped stories is endless when it comes to fawning over Tiger and the weekend has only just begun. What we want to know is why only golf has cute little words like “bogey” when it comes to describing the efforts of players who screw up?

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Chipper Jones is not going to hit .400. Josh Hamilton is not going to win the Triple Crown. And Trevor Immelman is not going to achieve the Grand Slam. Sorry to spoil your summer. And, oh yeah, the San Francisco Giants are not going to win the World Series. Ever.

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Let’s get a few things straight. Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem are not playing for the Los Angeles Lakers this week. Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale are not playing for the Boston Celtics. Ronald Reagan is no longer president. This Lakers-Celtics series is not a classic. Get over it.

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It sure would be entertaining to be in Canton when Brett Favre, Michael Strahan and Warren Sapp are all enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the same day. The speeches could last longer than Woodstock.