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 WASHINGTON (AP) -Long before the public knew he had been good friends with Tim Donaghy, NBA referee Scott Foster would hear fans routinely say to him: ``How much money you got on the game tonight?''
And now, even after he's been cleared from any wrongdoing in the Donaghy betting scandal, Foster can't help but wonder: Why are fans so suspicious of NBA refs?
``When a referee in another professional sport makes an error, it's human error,'' Foster said Friday in an interview with The Associated Press. ``When a referee in the NBA makes an error, it's some sort of preconceived notion, and that's what's so frustrating. It's almost like NBA referees are not human. I don't understand the differentiation between an NFL official who blows a call and an NBA referee.''
g game information to gamblers.
Foster was linked to Donaghy because the two called each other often on the phone over a long period of time, but an investigation by former federal prosecutor Lawrence Pedowitz found that the calls were simply two friends keeping in touch. Foster asked the NBA for permission to tell his story, and he did so starting with three interviews published Tuesday.
``I don't know that I've accomplished anything, but I do feel better that I was able to be heard,'' Foster said. ``I'm still of the opinion that no matter what story's written - good, bad or indifferent - that if you know me, you know and believe everything I've said. And if you don't, no matter what I say or you write, you're going to either think I'm a scoundrel or dirty, or you feel I'm not. After three days, nothing's really changed.''
Foster said he expected to get ``nonstop'' grief from fans over his association with Donaghy, but he said he's getting more or less the same needling he's heard for 15 years as an NBA official. Still near the top of the list: ``Why don't you call traveling?''
more so than the other way around - because these players work hard on their moves. They may look funky, but it's still a one-two step, and that's a legal move.''
Another reason NBA officials might have trouble rising above suspicion: Many of the calls are subject to interpretation.
``Let's go to baseball: either you are out or you are safe,'' Foster said. ``There's not gray there. You look at the replay, he's either out or safe. You can look at a block-charge play, though, and we could have 60 of the finest referees in the world, from every walk of refereeing, and 40 might say it's a block and 20 might say it's a charge, so there's more gray. Because of the gray area of judgment in officiating in basketball, that lends to people wondering about our motives and that sort of thing.''
Foster said his fellow officials were more conscious of the need to get the calls right last season after the Donaghy story broke. The same applies specifically this season to Foster, whose name didn't surface until July.
``Personally, for me, that's where I'm at,'' Foster said. ``I'm really trying to just continue to work hard and build up whatever credibility I feel like I've lost.''
al people calling the games.
``If you were able to talk to us, you'd find that we are average Joe guys, the guys that coach your kids' basketball teams and do work at your church and whatever else in your society,'' Foster said. ``As a group, we'd be more than willing to talk. I understand now, having gone through this process, why we've been sheltered from speaking, because you have so many ideas and opinions, but I think it wouldn't be a bad thing for us to have more contact with the media.
``It would really help alleviate a lot of the conspiracy theories that are out there, because you'd start to find out the amount of work that goes into the job and how insulting it is to be thought of that we would even consider making a call against this player but rather not that player or whatever.''
Foster said he still wonders how he missed the signs that Donaghy was betting on games, but he is convinced that former friend was the only bad apple among his NBA brethren.
``I'm absolutely 100 percent sure that he's the only one,'' Foster said, ``without question.''
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