Posted by: furmanbisher | March 16, 2009

The Game That Can’t Be Officiated

Basketball has been around a long time, an accidental creation of Dr. James Naismith, designed to keep the students active during the cold wintry days at Springfield College. (Curious item: Dr. Naismith later would coach basketball at Kansas. Of all Kansas’ coaches, only one had a losing record—dear Dr. Naismith.) No one, especially Dr. Naismith, ever dreamed that this simple little game of put-the-ball-in-the peach-basket ever would develop into such an overwhelming American industry. You won’t get much of an argument when you suggest that the NCAA Tournament, with its climactic Final Four, attracts more widespread fan involvement among average Americans than this. People who wouldn’t know a double dribble from goal-tending get involved with their poop sheets.

So wouldn’t you think that after all these years, and all these many baskets, that officiating would have been moved forward with the exalted economics of the game?

What began as a game known for its sportsmanship, basketball has become a glorified street fight. It’s the inconsistency of it that confounds you. The rules keep being changed. Some officials are known for “their calls.” Seems to me, all the rules should apply in all situations, not, as in baseball, when one umpire is known for his” strike zone.” There’s one strike zone, and it should be the same for all.

Another basketball situation comes to pass when you hear broadcasters say, “They’re letting them play.” That means the men in stripes have simply abandoned the rules and common civilized behavior is ignored. When Florida State played North Carolina in the ACC semifinal, the Seminoles were allowed to beat Tyler Hansbrough to a pulp. It was a performance the officiating crew should have been required to answer to later, and sent packing.

I know it’s not a simplified, clear-cut, open-and-shut kind of game to officiate. So much is left to individual judgment. But sometimes so much should be addressed to those people assigned to maintain order and good sportsmanship. Oft times the thugs will win out because the assigned officials let them get away with common street fighting.

No, I don’t think we’ll ever see a replay function, as in football, where the decision may be determined by some guys in an upstairs booth. If that should ever come to pass, we’d have games lasting till breakfast.


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