Sports

Dick Bavetta's streak is impressive, but he's no Cal Ripken Jr.

Referee Dick Bavetta is such great fun whether he's holding a ball as part of a skit with a team mascot, racing Charles Barkley or casually yukking it up with a superstar that you wish he could work another 2,633 consecutive games.

The 74-year-old has not missed a game since making his NBA debut on Dec. 2, 1975, giving the league nearly 39 seasons of uninterrupted service.

It's an amazing streak that is a tribute to Bavetta's health, determination and logistical wherewithal, the veteran referee having somehow conquered badly rerouted flights and closed airports to make every scheduled appearance.

But let's please stop it with all the comparisons between Bavetta's streak and that of Cal Ripken Jr., the shortstop who played in a record 2,632 consecutive games for the Baltimore Orioles. Several news organizations reported that Bavetta "broke" Ripken's streak of participation in the most consecutive professional sports games in history Wednesday when he worked the game between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets.

Bavetta did no such thing. He is not a participant in any game.

Bavetta is a referee who runs several miles over the course of a game in a controlled indoor environment. He never had to man the infield for more than three hours in the 100-degree heat and 90% humidity of Arlington, Texas, or face being popped in the ribs by a 100-mph Randy Johnson fastball.

Bavetta did once take a wayward Jalen Rose punch to the nose during a dust-up between Rose and Patrick Ewing. The referee finished the game with a bandage across his broken nose, had microsurgery the next morning and worked a Nets game the following night.

It was hardly heroic to the son of a New York cop who had slogged his way to the NBA after nine years in professional basketball's minor leagues and countless high school and college games before that.

"My upbringing was, you didn't miss days of school and you went to work, regardless of the circumstances," Bavetta told NBA.com.

Stranger than fiction

Reality TV executives should be banging themselves in the head with champagne bottles after failing to secure rights to the life and trying times of one Larry Sanders.

The Milwaukee Bucks center was suspended five games this week for violating the league's anti-drug policy for smoking marijuana … at a time when he had already been sidelined the rest of the season with a broken orbital bone.

Triggering the suspension required Sanders to have failed three separate drug tests. But the suspension probably qualified as the least dramatic episode this season for someone who tore a ligament in his right thumb during a bar brawl in which he reportedly hurled champagne bottles; had two previous cruelty to animals citations revealed publicly; got into a shouting match with teammate Gary Neal; griped about playing time; played well only in spurts after signing a four-year, $44-million extension; and had his season end when Houston's James Harden elbowed him in the eye.

"I take full responsibility for my actions," Sanders, who will serve his suspension at the start of next season, said in a statement.

Sounds like a good opening dialogue sequence for what could be called "The Larry Sanders Show."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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