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NBA Ref Donaghy: Is Media Focus "Over" Wrong Stat?

Tim Donaghy
Tim Donaghy

After watching much of the media look at the wrong data when considering whether NBA referee Tim Donaghy bet on the games he officiated, I've decided to let the cat out of the bag. Folks, you're not going to get anywhere by looking at the point spreads.

If Donaghy had to worry about the spreads, he would have gotten caught long before this with absolutely ridiculous calls. Plus, even if he did bet on spreads, you're not going to get very far because you don't know if he bet the underdog or the favorite.

But I'm pretty sure that if Donaghy was betting, he was betting the over on the over-under. Why would I guess this? Because, as a referee, that's the easiest thing to influence. Call more fouls–on both sides, it doesn't matter--and you're more likely to top the number and get the over.

Luckily, thanks to the tremendous work of R.J. Bell of pregame.com, I have some data that supports my point. Bell ran the numbers and found out that in games that Donaghy officiated over the last two years, the over won 57 percent of the time (79 out of 138 games). Now, if all things are equal, the over and the under should come up 50 percent of the time, right? Bell says there's only a five percent chance that the over randomly comes up that much more on that large of a sample.

Now maybe you say to yourself, Donaghy--and the crew that he's with--normally calls a lot of fouls, so that's why the data might be skewed. Except for the fact that in the games that Donaghy officiated in the two years prior (when presumably he wasn't betting), Bell says the over only won 44 percent of the time.

Now let's assume that hitting the over 44 percent of the time was Donaghy's "natural tendency" as a referee over a two-year period. What would be the odds that, in the next two years, games that Donaghy would referee would hit the over 57 percent of the time? Are you ready? 1 in 1000.

For Your Listening Pleasure
Searching for some good workout songs oniTunes yesterday, I came upon Michael Vick'sfavorites on the Nike Sport Section. The 13th song on Vick's list caught my eye. The song is called "Air It Out" and the Atlanta Falcons quarterback says he likes to listen to the song "just when I'm hanging in my backyard with my pitbulls." For those of you who don't know the song, it's on the album "Kiss of Death." Interesting.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com