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Review of the magazine article

"Take Another Look: The 1972 Olympic men's basketball final may not have been as controversial as you think", published in the February, 2000 issue of Referee Magazine.

By Bob Fulton

Here is the reviewed article.

The article's main theme is the change of mind of the American referee Jim Bain, who happened to be a spectator of that game. Initially he believed that the Americans "were robbed". But later, after watching some Australian video with different footage, he started thinking otherwise.

Let's review the facts and arguments in the article. Before I start, I should note that the author of the article wrote it to prove a point, so he conveniently forgets to include arguments supporting the opposite view. Point, that the author is trying to prove, is that there was no plot against americans.

I'll skip everything from the article that is not directly related to the game.

  1. I'll start with the paragraph that contains some facts about the game and also lists events that happened between Collins' first free throw and William Jones's intervention. It describes Kondrashin's asking for a time-out using an electronic device, the horn sounding during Collins' second free throw, and the referee's whistle to stop the game a few seconds later.

    The paragraph is missing some conveniently omitted facts:

    1. The ball was alive when the horn sounded. In that situation, the sound has no importance to the referees; and
    2. The Soviets must have been charged with a technical foul for leaving a designated area.

    Also, the author is still thinking that a time-out was given, while in fact it wasn't.

  2. The next paragraph is intended to prove that Jones' intervention was legal. FIBA Executive Director Borislav Stankovic provides proof of that: "The intervention of Mr. Jones at that time was absolutely legal because he was the president of the technical commission, and the table made mistakes. His intervention is to correct the mistakes of the table."

    Before I start, I want to clarify some confusion: "Technical Commission" and "Technical Committee" are different bodies with different responsibilities. Technical Commission is a permanent part of FIBA that is responsible for basketball rules changes and interpretations. Technical Committee a temporary body that is responsible for a tournament organization. Stankovic is obviously talking about Technical Committee here.

    Here is my argumentation:

    1. The author's logic is flawed: he depicts a situation caused by malfunctioning device and efforts of the table to correct that; then he tries to justify Mr. Jones' intervention by table's mistake, that, according to the author, wasn't made.
    2. The rules clearly state that "The referee shall have power to make decisions on any point not specifically covered in the rules.". Until another document is presented stating otherwise, this is the rule.
    3. Mr. Jones himself "... admitted he had no authority to intervene.". That is a citation from this article.
    4. FIBA's Basketball glossary says:

      Technical Committee Official body responsible for:

      1. Supervision and approval of playing installations and technical equipment,

      2. Establishing the competition schedule,

      3. Appointment of referees and approval of Table Officials (Timekeeper, Scorer, Assistant Scorer and 24 second Operator)

      There is nothing said about any intervention during the game.

    5. Author's (and Stankovich's) argument implies that

      The president of the Technical Committee can intervene at any time if the table makes a mistake.

      That's exactly the duty of the referees. The people behind the table are the referees' helpers. They are under the referees' command. No one can intervene and correct the table's mistakes over the referees' head.

    6. Another argument, though not the strongest, is that if Technical Committee's duty was to watch the table and correct the table worker's mistakes, they would be sitting directly behind the table -- not about 5 meters away, behind the gap between the table and Soviet bench, where they were actually sitting.
    7. Finally, let's imagine that Mr. Stancovic's words are true and William Jones stepped in to correct a mistake. The mistake that needed a correction was a time-out that was not given to the Soviets. Did Mr. Jones correct that? No, because the time-out was not given even after his intervention! Mr. Stancovic's logical construction falls apart - Jones intervened to correct a mistake, but he didn't.
  3. Next paragraph depicts the Soviet's second attempt and contains the only official's mistake found by the author - game was started before the game clock was properly set.
  4. Several of the following paragraphs do not contain much to discuss.
  5. The following are several paragraphs depicting events that occurred during the last attack. The first one describes strange referee gestures to Tom McMillen. The author tries to convince the reader that he was simply showing the "plane of baseline".

    Conveniently omitted facts:

    1. The unexplained first gesture - stretched hand towards McMillen;
    2. All of these gestures do not exist in the rules, so the referee could not expect a player to understand him;
    3. McMillen, only a minute earlier, stayed in the very same position and was obviously aware of the "plane of baseline" rule;
    4. The referee clearly saw that McMillen interpreted his gestures incorrectly, but didn't try to explain himself better.
  6. The next three paragraphs refute one allegation each: Edeshko stepped on the baseline; Belov committed a three-second rule infraction; Belov charged one or both American defenders.

    The author is right, and he refers to the Australian video as proof. The reader of this article can find evidence here.

Then, the author concludes that there was no plot against the Americans, only a series of mistakes made by the officials (though the author managed to find only one - when one of referees ordered to start the game while the game clock was not set yet).

While I happen to agree with that conclusion, I want to note that it is more important to establish whether the american team has grounds for appeal or not.

At the end, the author again praises the Australian video for changing the mind of referee Jim Bain.



Resume:

The author's approach is prejudicial, the argumentation is weak, and the important arguments disproving the author's position are ignored. The only more or less well-argued subjects are Edeshko's and Belov's alleged infractions during the last attack, although in order to be fully convinced, the reader would have to obtain that video in addition to reading the author's argumentation.

The author is unaware of important facts, namely, that goaltending was missed by the referees; time-out was not given to Soviet team; the referee has the power over the game until it ends; and Edeshko had no right to enter the court.

The author misspelled the Soviet coach's name: it is Kondrashin, not Kondrashkin. He also confused the referees of the game - wherever you read "Arabadjan", that means "Righetto" and vice versa.

There is no way this article contains an ultimate truth about the game. The only reason I spent the time to review it is that several visitors to my site pointed to that article as containing a full review of the game's key events and argued conclusions.

Review of the video

Finally, I received that "Story Of A Game" VHS tape and had it converted.

Approximately 12 minutes and 40 seconds of the video is devoted to the Munich final. Both American and Soviet camera views are used. The video depicts some events around the game and also gives a short description of the game itself. Of course, most of the time is devoted to the last-minute events. Covered subjects are: Secretary General William Jones's intervention, an interrupted Soviets' second attempt, strange referee gestures just before the last Soviet attack, and three infractions allegedly committed by Soviet players during that last attack. All of these subjects are covered in my article review. My arguments remain the same, and you can find them in the article review above.

I was heavily disappointed by the fact that the video provides almost no footage from Soviet cameras of the events that happened between the Soviets' first and second attempts. I expected to see how Mr. Jones was approached by the Soviets' Yury Ozerov and how Kondrashin made an illegal substitution. However, the video only has Soviet footage from before and after this episode. For this time frame, the authors used American footage.

There are a couple of errors:

The video claims that the time-out was given to Kondrashin, which is not true.

Also, the tape says that Alexander Belov died in 1976 in a prison, while the fact was that he had never been in prison and died on October 03, 1978 in a civic hospital.


Now you can see that video yourselves: