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That's A Foul!
February 6, 2004

by Bill Hogan



I've watched my share of NBA basketball games over the years – though I confess not as many recently. I have to say, I agree with Shaq and the rest of the players, coaches and owners that criticize the sub-par performance turned in night after night by the guys in the striped shirts.

What's wrong with these referees? Why can't they make the right call? Do they need glasses? Heck, even the fans in the stands can see that was/wasn't a foul (depending on which team you play for, root for, coach or own).


Los Angeles Lakers star center Shaquille O'Neal received a one game suspension without pay – that's $295,000, or a three bedroom house, if you were wondering - Monday by the NBA league office for "using obscene language and publicly criticizing the officials during a television interview," according to a SI.com article posted on February 2.

Owners and coaches are routinely fined by the league for their public condemnation of the officials. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban as donated hundreds of thousands of dollars due to what NBA commissioner David Stern calls "outrageous behavior."

Cuban, and many others are often outraged by what can only be described as an epidemic of lousy officiating. This phenomenon is not exclusive to the NBA. Basketball referees at all levels are equally as bad. Just ask Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight.

Or ask the coach of the Galena High School freshman basketball team. I've been to just about every hoops contest they've had this season and it's evident by the crowd's reaction - from the opening tip to the final buzzer - that the referees have blown every single call.

Every loss the team has experienced this season can be directly attributed to the referees; and, of course, every win has been well earned despite the blatant one-sidedness of the deaf, dumb and blind boobs calling the game.

If the parents of 14-year old boys refuse to tolerate incompetent officiating, then how can we expect a super star like Shaq to remain silent? Isn't it the right – or duty – of every coach and owner to point out the many shortcomings of the men who control the game's outcome?

In the NBA, three people, supposedly the tops in their field, are paid to watch 10 men, also the tops in their field, play basketball; and blow the whistle when they see an infraction of the rules. Doesn't seem like a difficult task.

Ten guys, one ball and 94 feet of hardwood to cover. So why is it that every time they blow the whistle, fifty percent of the people watching the very same game disagree with the call? It all shouldn't be so confusing. Thankfully, there have been a few rules changes since Dr. James Naismith first came up with the idea of tossing a ball into a basket.

Changes that make the task of refereeing even easier than it was in the early 1890's. Naismith's original game was played nine-on-nine. Eighteen players on the court at the same time – you can imagine the chaos.

Modern officials don't have a clue how good they have it. How many different fouls do you think were committed every time eighteen guys went up for a rebound? A ball handler couldn't go two feet in any direction without bumping into another player.

Add a couple of players to each side and you've got a football game; but a football field is almost nine times the size of a basketball court. Back then, referees probably spent most of the game just trying to get the heck out of the way. Try calling a double dribble when eighteen large men are stampeding from one basket to the other.

On January 16, 1896, the University of Chicago beat a YMCA team 15-12 in the first five-on-five basketball game. It wouldn't surprise me if it was a referee that suggested pulling the other eight guys off the court.

With less clutter on the court, it's no wonder that Shaq gets a little miffed when he is mugged under the basket and nobody with a whistle sees it (that is, nobody with a whistle sees it his way).

I'm not sure the officiating would be any better even if there were only three players on each side. The referees are going to be criticized by players, coaches, owners and fans as long as they continue to shamelessly favor the other team.


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