By Leonardo Cervantes
“Untold: Operation Flagrant Foul”, directed by David Terry Fine, showcases and leaves the audience wondering if there’s a bigger evil than former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who was betting on games he officiated. Donaghy had a 74% win rate in games he betted on while officiating. The documentary interviews Donaghy, his best friend Tommy Mario and professional gambler James Battista who was linked to the New York mob. Donaghy and his two gambling friends pleaded guilty to fixing NBA games and each served between 10 to 18 months behind bars.
“Untold: Operation Flagrant Foul” follows the life of former NBA referee Tim Donaghy who was caught point-shaving on games he officiated. He manipulated games in order to maximize his profits along with giving the information to his friends. Donaghy once told Batista “I can influence games six points either way.” Donogahy was born and raised in Philadelphia and growing up he was a big NBA and Philadelphia 76ers fan. Donogahy had long been inspired to become a professional referee. His father was a successful college referee, along with other NBA refs being born in Philadelphia, like former NBA referees Joey Crawford and Steve Javie.
Donaghy quickly garnered the national spotlight as the first NBA game he officiated at. He made a brave call in the final seconds of the game. He called an offensive foul on a NBA superstar. Typically refs swallow their whistle in the final seconds of a game especially when the play involves a superstar. He even made a call against one of the greatest players of all time, which other refs were reluctant to make. Donogahy made it known right away that there will be no preferential treatment.
While most casual NBA fans are aware of the Donaghy scandal, this documentary provides an insight into how he went about gambling games. He maintains that he didn’t fix games so that he made educated guesses on games. Viewers should give it a chance in order to see how one man was able to swing over 40 NBA games. It’s a quick watch as the run-time is slightly over an hour.
Former NBA commisioner David Stern leaked the Donaghy story to the media, which prevented the possibility of incriminating other referees.
Perhaps Donaghy could have brought the entire league down but David Stern potentially stepped in and made a deal to make Donaghy the fall guy.
While the confession interviews from all three members are insightful, it feels like they are all deliberately holding back, especially Donaghy. His responses are snarky and don’t give a resentful attitude towards fixing games. “He fixed them like a (expletive). He was the greatest. That’s the only positive thing I could say about him. Nobody could control a whistle like Timmy D,” Battista said.
The documentary lacks creativity and it feels too bland. Donaghy, Mario and Battista were the main interviewees, but there isn’t much substance except for some brief backstories and interviews. Donaghy, with a stone-cold face, often avoids further incriminating questions and denied the involvement of other referees.
Battista clearly still has resentment toward Donaghy as he blames him for their operation getting busted. Overall, it’s a compelling watch, especially for sports fans, and it leaves you wondering just how many people were truly involved in fixing games.