Monday, March 17, 2008

Time to Rein in the Zebras

MEMO TO THE NCAA AND ITS CONSTITUENT CONFERENCE GOVERNING BODIES:

Your basketball referees are out of control. Whatever thrills there were to be derived from some of the dramatic spectacles of this past weekend's games were completely and utterly diluted by imperialistic and buffoonish officials insinuating themselves into seemingly every play to make some absurd call.

This needs to stop.

During one conference tournament semifinal game, the refs called multiple fouls in which the infraction was little more than the defender inadvertently brushing the ball handler with his package. Now, I fully understand that men brushing other men in public with their packages is socially unacceptable outside, say, Steve Perry's Minnesota Monitor "news"room, I hardly think it rises to the level of a foul. Making matters worse, in this same game, a member of the same team that was victimized by these petty package-brushing fouls, got elbowed hard in the face by a member of the other team, knocking him to the ground and temporarily taking that player out of the play. No foul was called.

In another conference championship semifinal game (different conference), with the game still close and about 10 seconds left to play, the trailing team put up a shot that missed. A member of the leading team snared the rebound, but failed to land on his feet. To repeat the rule that I'm not sure the refs are aware of, if a player in possession of the rock falls down without maintaining a dribble, it's traveling and the ball is turned over. Or else the ref could have called a foul from the contact that went on during the scrum under the rim that led up to the rebound. This is what typically has happened in similar situations in thousands of past basketball games. Oh, but not here. Here is what happened:

1) After blowing the play dead, the ref made no call.

2) He then proceeds to hold a 5-minute-long conference at the scorer's table.

3) After this conference, the ref winds 5 valuable seconds off the clock for no discernible reason, and then presents the ball to the team whose player had just fallen down (traveled) without calling a foul or even making up some new rule.

I could not believe my eyes when I saw this, so I called noted basketball expert Noted Marquette (Kentucky is Our Bitch) Alumnus Denbo to get his take. Denbo's take was something along the lines of "WTF????" confirming my diagnosis of insipidly rancid refereeing.

I could go on with all of the ridiculous calls I witnessed this weekend, but time is short. And I'm more of a solutions oriented kind of guy. So here are my recommendations on how the NCAA can remove the suck that's so recently permeated its officiating:

1) KILL THE THIRD REF. Any improvement to the officiating has got to begin here. When you have 33% more refs on the floor, you have 33% more eyes that can see 33% more of the action. Which, if my math and experience are correct, can lead to approximately 4,598% more bad calls. You need one ref to watch the ball and one to watch the action away from the ball. That's it.

2) THE PAINT IS FOR MEN. And it thus follows that any manly activity occurring in the paint ought to be tolerated. All reasonable pushing, shoving, elbowing, foot stomping and body banging should be expected, not punished. Hacking a guy on the arm while he's shooting is a foul. Landing on him after going for the board is not.

3) ACCIDENTALLY BRUSHING ONE'S PACKAGE AGAINST THE BALL HANDLER WHILE PLAYING OTHERWISE CLEAN DEFENSE IS NOT A FOUL. I covered this one pretty well above already.

4) PUT A MUZZLE ON BILLY PACKER. This really doesn't have anything to do with officiating, but as long as we're reforming we might as well implement a change that everybody wants to see.

5) MAKE-UP CALLS SHOULD BE PUNISHABLE BY DEATH. We all understand that refs are human and will make mistakes. We'll boo you and forget about it if you go forth and sin no more. A make-up call is nothing more than a mistake on purpose, which is the most avoidable kind of mistake. Any ref caught doing this should never officiate a game above the CYO level ever again.

6) THE DOUBLE BONUS SHOULD KICK IN AT NO LESS THAN 14 FOULS: Though, if the NCAA gets its act together, this might not be necessary. The double bonus was put in place to penalize a trailing team a little more for fouling to stop the clock. However, we often see teams shooting the double bonus by the 10-minute mark of the half. Which means what is really being punished in these circumstances is aggressive play. This is unacceptable and needs to stop.

7) IF THE DEFENDER'S FEET ARE MOVING AND HE'S NOT PUSHED, IT'S NOT CHARGING. Period.

I'm sure I'll think of more later.

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