After writing about NBA player-referee discord last week, I received a torrent of pushback – well, 13 or 14 emails – insisting that I do not understand the scope of bad officiating plaguing pro basketball of late.
No, no, no, you folks don’t understand, you Philistines, or “Trust The Process” Philadelphians.
Let me start this week with a recollection.
Note: This remembrance is actually better heard than read, so I invite any of you to stop perusing this column right now, call me at home and I will tell you my recollection.
When I was in college – well, the University of Maryland – I went to most Washington Capitals and Washington Bullets games at Capital Centre in Landover, Md. I was working for a company that transmitted sportswriters’ stories back to their newspapers.
That’s right, young ’uns, in the pre-Internet era, sportswriters wrote their stories on portable typewriters; they then handed me each page as they finished it, and, with a telecopier – a Stone Age-era fax machine – I’d send it to the newspaper.
It was a great job: I got to drink beer in the press room – well, Tuborg Gold; no Yuengling on hand – and I got to watch games from press row, which, back then, meant courtside for the NBA.
I learned two things:
1. I always was cold at hockey games and knew I would never return as a paying customer.
2. NBA players sweat a lot and bang bodies a lot.
Man, it was physical. And it still is, especially under the basket. Players get clobbered; every inch of real estate is contested. Getting through an NBA game unscathed is as daunting as making it through the Fire Swamp unscratched, minus the Rodents of Unusual Size.
So I can tell you without hesitation that if they called half the fouls committed during an NBA game, they would foul out entire rosters by halftime.
(Column Intermission: I am firmly opposed to this business of North and South Korea sending a unified delegation to the Winter Olympics. I don’t care about their history, I don’t care about the long-term peace implications, THEY’RE SEPARATE NATIONS. What if Great Britain decided to reach out to one of its former colonies – say, the United States – for a joint Olympic presence? That would be unfair, not to mention we’d be eating shepherd’s pies again, like, three days a week.)
You want to completely ruin the NBA experience for yourself? Just focus on the paint and count how many times a three-second violation could be called.
The game is next-to-impossible to officiate, like a “Duck Dynasty” potato sack race.
As I have stated many, many times – including on my second honeymoon – we need to pay less attention to officiating, not more. We need to enjoy the artistry and athleticism of the competition and ignore the missed calls and the fact that LeBron James hasn’t been whistled for traveling since his AAU days.
Yet some people believe the solution here is to add a fourth or even fifth official on the court. Why stop there? To get it right, let’s add polygraphs! DNA testing! Magnetic resonance imaging!
The game has too many stoppages as it is.
And, of course, it goes without saying that replay-as-an-officiating-tool remains the worst post-Industrial Revolution innovation since the advent of the pay toilet.
Note: My New Year’s resolution was not to publicly bemoan the descent into the abyss that replay has caused more than 37 times. This is my third offense this year.
Where does it all end? It doesn’t. At youth games, parents constantly harangue referees and umpires. There are web sites tracking teams’ records with various officials or pitchers’ history with different home-plate umpires.
NFL telecasts regularly cite coaches’ success-failure rates on challenges, which reminds me that this whole demoniacal New England Patriots 21st-century empire began on Walt Coleman’s unholy tuck-rule replay reversal 16 years and 3 days ago.
Note: My New Year’s resolution was not to publicly bemoan the descent into the abyss that replay has caused more than 37 times. This is my fourth offense this year.
Ask The Slouch
Q. When deciding close calls, do NFL replay officials have to toss a special league coin or can they just use whatever spare change they have leftover from brunch? (William Murray; Chicago)
A. Usually, they just ask Tom Brady.
Q. When a player fouls out in basketball, why does a coach get essentially a timeout to make a substitution? Is it rocket science? (Tom Ponton; Columbia, Md.)
A. It is rocket science.
Q. With inflation, shouldn’t you now be paying $1.50 for the well-thought-out questions? (Jayne Mikat; Loudonville, N.Y.)
A. Send me a quarter and I’ll send you $1.50.
Q. Is President Trump planning to rename his initiative the “NFL Border Wall” to ensure public funding regardless of cost? (Terry Golden; Vienna, Va.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!
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