Posted: Monday May 15, 2006 11:52AM; Updated: Monday May 15, 2006 1:25PM
As increasingly more officials wash themselves of personality, Dick Bavetta isn't afraid to ham it up for the crowd.
Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images
"The thing about Dick is that he makes an effort," says an NBA team executive. "He's not as closed-minded as a lot of the younger guys are. He'll talk to you and is generally more willing to offer an explanation than most referees. The other thing about Dick is that he doesn't come into games with a vendetta or an attitude. I can name you five guys off the top of my head who come out just waiting for you to give them a reason to call something against you. Dick doesn't carry grudges, and that goes a long way."
Lately, the NBA has made a concerted effort to stamp out individuality among the refereeing core. Their physiques, demeanors, even their haircuts are all the same. Where guys like Earl Strom or Jack Madden used to make calls with panache, these days the calls are all expected to be made without personality, with a minimum of flair. But grandfathered -- literally -- into the new rules, Bavetta still whistles with style. Bavetta is the Red Cashen of the NBA, not afraid to stamp his personality on things. My friend Russ noted that Bavetta is similar to Roberto Benigni, a gifted physical performer with a knack for the comedic: At least once a game, he'll make a quick call in transition and then sprint upcourt against the flow of traffic, silently announcing that his call is final and that it's time to move on to the next possession. And it cracks me up every time.
For fans in arenas, Bavetta is a lightning rod, a wildly gesticulating, wrinkled master of the game. His presence at a big game is a signal to some that something must be up, and he still seems to make twice as many calls as anyone else on the floor. He's been involved in so many big games and made so many reviled calls that sooner or later, almost every team's fan base has some sort of beef with him.
Whatever, I say. I used to harbor ideas of grand conspiracies concocted by the league office, but the longer I've covered the NBA and been around the refs and the players, the clearer it's become to me that there's no way that things are fixed. NBA action is way too fast and way too unpredictable for the refs to have that kind of effect on things. That's not to say Bavetta is perfect. He may not nail every single call, but who does?
What is indisputable is that as the longest-tenured referee in NBA history, and as a 66-year-old man who collects doo-wop records, Bavetta remains an anomaly.
At least we're sure he's not stagnating.
Game of the Week
Our entertainers at Tea Games over in the U.K. have returned with a new driving game, where you run from virtual cops while trying to accumulate riches. Although if one was actually on the run from the 5-0, you'd probably have better luck on foot than in the slow car they give you here.
Expert Interview of the Week
Occasionally, the experts we see interviewed on TV aren't all they're purported to be. Recently, the BBC rushed onto the air Guy Kewney, an expert in online music, to talk about the ruling in the court case between the Beatles and Apple. Only problem is that they accidentally interviewed his cab driver. The real Guy Kewney explains the whole thing here and links to the video of the interview here. The look on the cabbie's face when he realizes he's been mistaken for the expert is incredible. Even better are his attempts to actually answer the questions.