I'm a relative novice, with only five years experience working everything from youth league level girls' games to Dual County League varsity battles. But when the accusations against veteran NBA official Tim Donaghy became public knowledge recently, I was rocked as badly as the 35-year veteran whistle-tooter, never mind the diehard NBA fan.
The only thing basketball officials, or officials in any team sport competition for that matter, have in their possession when they don their zebra-patterned shirts is their integrity; their honesty.
That integrity is being tested/has been besmirched because of Donaghy, a veteran official who over the last two seasons allegedly was coerced by organized crime members into shaving points. He is also suspected of gambling on games he officiated and supplying inside information to gamblers.
If we don't have our integrity as we take the court before the game and depart from it after the final horn, we've got nothing.
We're human, so we're going to miss calls, like it or not, every time we work a game. We only pray that the ones we do miss do not influence the outcome of the game.
But there must never be any doubt that we're out there to officiate the game, not to determine the winner and loser. The players and coaches do that.
Of course, we officiate any sport at any level because we love being part of the game. No one works at any level, except the NCAA Division I and NBA summits, for the cash. Believe me.
We work hoops, the game with the least protection from an enraged fan, the only sport in which fans can reach out and touch us, let alone scream in either of our ears with unmistakable clarity, because we love being in the middle of the action, where most of us had once been players.
So like it or not, thanks to Mr. Donaghy (even as he remains innocent until proven guilty), basketball officials in many respects are starting from scratch everywhere when it comes to re-establishing their competence and integrity; no matter if it's in a city summer league, fall AAU tournament, or when the serious in-season stuff starts in November.
We'll be fine, because our pride is unbreakable and our integrity our greatest attribute.
Donaghy's former NBA colleagues? They're a different story. They surely must prove themselves all over as capable, above-reproach referees, even the best among them, i.e. Joe Crawford and Dick Bavetta.