As per usual, blogs are at least a few days ahead of national story lines. The story line this week is the officiating. Today, it's because of Rondo's foul on Brad Miller (watch it here) and whether it should have been a flagrant.
I'm officially sick of the topic. Here's what I know to be true.
- In any given game, the losing team's fans have a legitimate beef that they didn't get calls.
- In any given game, a foul that is called early won't be called late… and vice versa
- Certain players get the benefit of the doubt, and certain players are more likely to get fouls
None of this is going to change. We can keep making it a topic if you guys want, but we're at a point where we're all saying the same thing. Just like we know some of the Game 4 fouls on Perk were bogus, we know there's no way in hell he didn't foul anyone last night.
There are issues with NBA officiating, and they'll still need to be discussed. But I'd like to live by a little creed around here if we could for a while: If the game is close enough to be decided by a blown call, you probably should have done more to avoid that situation earlier in the game.
All that said. I'm going to put up a guest post by DRJ, perhaps the most vocal anti-official fan on the web. Remember, this is a guest column, and guest columns reflect the opinion of the writer, not necessarily RedsArmy.com. It's a forum we provide for you passionate fans. You can email a guest column to us: firstname.lastname@example.org. Just because you send it, doesn't mean it will be published.
REFEREEING IN THE NBA
The March Of History Demands Change
In every city, fans complain about NBA refs. In almost every game,
there are several atrociously bad calls. Fans everywhere are disgusted,
and some are losing interest in pro basketball altogether. I understand
that… hell, I agree with it. If not for the Celtics, I would ignore
the entire rotten NBA mess.
Are the refs worse now that in decades past? Why are there so many more
complaints these days? Is there illegality involved, i.e., fixing of
The answer to that last question has to be: “Yes, sometimes.” Donaghy
could not have been an isolated case. And we have all seen it. There
are games where the calls are so incredibly one-sided, nothing short of
corruption could explain it.
But that is the exception, not the rule. Mostly, it's apparent
incompetence we're seeing. So what about that? Are the refs less
competent now than in years past? Why have things gotten so bad?
The problem for the NBA is that they are now fighting the march of
history. Human history is largely determined by technological change.
Everything from the discovery of fire, to the wheel, gunpowder, the
Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Age, modern medicine, and now
the Digital Age. The NBA's problem is that it has not yet realized that
it is facing a new DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGY which threatens its existence.
Like every enterprise that does not bend to the winds of change… it
will break if it does not adapt.
The disruptive technology is digital video. It started with instant
replays on TV. But now, many people have DVRs at home, giving most fans
the power to see EXACTLY what occurred on EVERY play.
The refs are no worse now than they have been since the start of the
NBA. It's a hard job. You have to see things that happen in literally
hundredths of a second. Often, it's IMPOSSIBLE to see what actually
happened with the naked eye. So the refs go by the REACTIONS they see
to the events in question (think flops, etc.) Which of course leads to
errors. It's inevitable. It's part of the game.
The problem is: WE SEE EVERYTHING NOW. Right there on our TV screens –
in slow motion, no less. The refs are not worse, it's just that our
vision is so much better. EVERY mistake they make is seen by everybody.
So of course, every fan complains.
Now, it must be said that the Celtics get it worse than anybody. (Of
course!) But all fans think that about their team. I've seen the Lakers
get the shaft many times too. No, the problem is system-wide.
The NBA must change. Fans will not stand for the ineptitude they see on
their screens for long. The decision must be made – do we want a league
where referee error is an ACCEPTED PART OF THE GAME? Or do we want
every call to be as correct as possible? I believe virtually every fan
wants the latter, not the former. (It's unimaginable that anyone would
think referee errors are systemically ok.) And since the NBA exists for
the fans, it must change, or risk losing us. If they lose us, they
cease to exist.
This is what could be done:
(1)- Add 2 video-booth refs. Give them the power to override any
on-court call. Both video refs must agree for an override to occur.
Such an override must come before the next play occurs. Also give them
the power to call a brief timeout if the review is difficult. (To save
manpower, they could reduce the number of on-court refs back to 2.)
(Note: There may be other ideas for incorporating video technology into the solution. This is one way.)
(2)- Institute new rules regarding technical fouls. Refs must not have
the power to call it whenever they feel like it. There must be a
specific, identifiable transgression. Are there words you don't like?
Fine, give us a list. You can't call a tech just because somebody talks
to you. That is ridiculous. That crap from Kennedy when he threw Doc
out of the game was absolutely unacceptable, and that kind of thing
happens too often.
(3)- Institute new rules regarding fouls, using the advantage/disadvantage model. No harm, no foul.
With these changes (especially #1), the NBA would instantly pull itself
into the 21st century. Fan complaints would mostly disappear. Almost
every play would be accurately called. Even referee bias (and
occasional corruption?) would improve, because the refs would know that
someone is always watching over them. Yes, it sounds like an impossible
dream – but with these few changes, it could happen. If the NBA instead
foolishly clings to its current antiquated system of relying on human
eyes only – and let's face it, some of those humans belong in a
geriatric ward, not running around on a basketball court – they must
The problem is: I don't think they yet realize that they're facing the
challenge of a disruptive technology, and how serious that is. David
Stern: please read.