Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mach3: Fact Shaving

Quick story for you. The last game of my high school basketball career, we lost on the road in a state tournament game. Our three leading scorers (myself included) combined to shoot right around 4-29 from the field (seriously). Three players that averaged anywhere from 10-17 points a game, probably shooting 40-50% from the field during the season, came up extremely short on that night. How to explain it? Great defense? Maybe. Just an off night? Probably. Big game nerves? Possible. Bottom line, it was out of the ordinary for us to perform like that, but things like that happen in sports, and sometimes it lasts more than one or two games.

Scoop finally had something to smile about on Wednesday (AP)
Fast forward 12 years (gulp, I feel old). Syracuse's basketball team starts the season 18-0 and ends up being ranked number three in the country. Two weeks later, the Cuse loses 4 games in a row; 2 of them to legitimate top 10 teams (at Pitt, vs. Nova), one of them to a solid team on the road (Marquette), and another one in an awful performance at home (Seton Hall). Four game losing streaks don't come around often at Syracuse, as this was just the third time it happened in the last 35 years. Wonder why Syracuse is losing all these games all of a sudden. Maybe they are playing good teams, or shooting poorly, or maybe they are just in a rut. Things like that happen in sports. Or...maybe something else is going on. Maybe there is something crazy going on with that team? Point shaving?

Those are the rumors that popped up on the internet Tuesday night, claiming that three Syracuse players were allegedly point shaving. The rumor first appeared on a discussion board of a poker website. Well if its on the internet, it MUST be true. In the era of information overload, the accusation spread like wildfire through blogs, discussion boards, Facebook, Twitter, and I'm sure if anyone still uses Myspace, it was on there as well. A few of the Syracuse players denied the rumors via Twitter, which may have added more fuel to the fire.

By Wednesday afternoon, even super popular website Deadspin posted an article about the accusation. They broke down a few of the player's stats over the last few games, and since they were off of their season average, they started connecting the dots and claiming that maybe the accusations could be true? There were reports that Yahoo Sports (known for bringing down Reggie Bush) was going to start an investigation. All this going on, while Syracuse was about to play on the road at #7 Connecticut, trying to avoid their first five game losing streak of the Jim Boeheim era.

Just a few hours before game time on Wednesday night, the person that posted the initial rumor came out and apologized for starting it. He said he overheard it from a few people at a bar, including the claim that ESPN was going to release a story about it on Wednesday.

Unfortunately, that's what our reporting/journalism standards have come to in 2011. We want as much information as quickly as possible. Things like Twitter and other social media give us that opportunity. Instant access is great, but credibility and truthfulness is suffering. Talk at a bar between buddies ends up spreading to a national forum which wrongly accuses a few kids of one of the worst things you could do in sports. What happened wasn't players shaving points, they were just playing poorly. What we got was the internet "media" playing poorly, and shaving facts.

For those of you interested in what exactly happened in the Syracuse - UConn game on the court? The Orange snapped their losing streak with a 66-58 win. They held Kemba Walker to 8 points, his first single digit scoring game of the season (see, Daily Onions told you we weren't sold on him way back when). The Big East now has seven teams with at least 6 conference wins, and that isn't even including UConn, a team ranked #7 in the country. Let's put all the crap aside, sit back and enjoy the rest of the Big East season because on any given night, any team can win. And that, is a fact.

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