2022, Basketball, Movies, Sports, TV

Untold: Operation Flagrant Foul (2022, David Terry Fine)

This is an interesting, compelling and entertaining documentary about Tim Donaghy for most of its run, and then it runs into conspiracy territory at the end and becomes rather frustrating.

I quite like this series and I’m glad we get to hear Tim Donaghy’s side of this particular sports gambling scandal. Some of the interviewees are quite entertaining (others are notable for other reasons, such as their personal self-regard). And the whole thing is pretty well told. For most of its run, it was another enjoyable entry in the Untold series, giving me new perspective into a story I had mostly forgotten about.

But things go off the rails near the end, when multiple different interviewees allege multiple different conspiracies on the part of the NBA. A better film would have framed these better or investigated them more.

Somewhere between “Tim Donaghy acted completely alone” and “The NBA fixes all or most games and also controls the FBI and the courts” is a middle ground that is likely true. But this film doesn’t appear interested in that middle ground most of the time. Its content to let these guys spout their theories and only occasionally does the film counter their ravings with data.

Here’s the thing: if the NBA rigs its games, this could be established because the game logs are publicly available on the internet. If there’s a pattern, someone could, you know, look for it. (If Tim Donaghy wants to alleged that most games are rigged – and not just mention the most controversial series in recent NBA history – he can do the legwork to prove it, or pay someone to do it for him.)

Another thing: there is a big different between gambling on cards, going to the casino or forcing the ref who called the first foul to pay for dinner and fixing the outcome of games for the mob. I don’t know why the people in this film can’t see that.

Moreover, if you’re going to accuse the NBA of pressuring the FBI to bend to its will, you should do a better job than “The NBA probably leaded the FBI investigation.” I mean, no shit. That doesn’t mean the NBA is in cahoots with the FBI or the Department of Justice, or has any control over what they do.

I do not for a second dispute the NBA looked after its own interests here. Of course it did. But that’s different than what the film is allowing these interviewees to allege.

6/10

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