Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The NBA Officially Has a Problem

Like the pun? Me neither.

Utah Jazz fans don't need to be convinced of the incredibly shiddy officiating that permeates the league. From the infamous Howard Eisley 3-pointer that was called off in the 1997 finals to the obvious Jordan on Bryon Russel push-off that is hanging on posters world-wide, the David Stern conspiracy theories, true or not, abound in my home state.

This is an issue that has been out in the plain of day for years to the average NBA fan. The super-star treatment, the blatant change in officiating guidelines come playoff time (an obvious god-send to the Spurs) and the home-court cooking are all in constant conversation rotation for the NBA nation (and yes, I am the white Hip-Hop King). This does not help one bit.

So can we please do away with the mainstream media canned response to fan complaints about the game calling in the NBA? It goes something like this: "We, in professional media, with our incredibly balanced perspectives and layers of editorial review, put absolutely no stake in the swarthy spectators' allegations of Blah Blah Blah". So give it a rest, Monson, whose silence thus far is deafening.

Strangely enough, the usual local suspects really are either completely silent or in knee-jerk defense mode on this. Hence, we turn to the blogosphere. Over at Pajamas Media, they aren't above the fans perspective at all:



But even more troubling than this is the fact that hardly anyone was surprised. I know I wasn’t. To many sports fans, the question of whether NBA refs have been dirty in the past was never an issue. The question has always been how much of the horrid officiating in the NBA game was the result of incompetence and how much was due to the gamblers?

Yeah, that does come to mind, doesn't it? Bill Simmons at ESPN Page 2, commenting on the superstar thing, puts it like this:

This perpetual leeway allows gifted athletes like Wade, Gilbert Arenas and LeBron James to drive recklessly into traffic in crunch time, knowing they can either score or draw a foul. (Even when Michael Jordan won the '98 Finals on what everyone believed was his final shot ever, he famously shoved Utah's Bryon Russell to the ground before launching that jumper. No whistle.) If anything, LeBron's pre-2007 game depended on this leeway so much that he was completely ineffective in the 2006 World Championships; he kept bowling his way into the paint and waiting for calls that never came. The international refs almost seemed amused by him. The NBA refs would have been bailing him out.

So how does the NBA recover from the worst scandal in league history? My proposition is pretty simple: give each team one instant replay per game and up to two after that, with each one consuming a time out. That measure wouldn't really gum up the game any further than it already is with the incessant fouls called and disturbing instances of Manu Ginobili-style flopping, which I'm convinced is a remnant of European soccer-flopping. Each team would have to think long and hard about expending a time out. And on the Ginobili problem, assess a "one warning then technical shots" penalty for flopping.

But even these measures will do nothing to dispel the common fan laments. In particular, any measure will surely fail when it comes to fan perception of past wrong-doing. You'll never be able to fix the Jazz fan who "knows" he was wronged a decade ago. Stern, you're really screwed now.

Noah: Amen.

You've been complaining about this for as long as I've known you (about 20 years) and I can't believe it took you this long to post on the bent ref.

And everyone LOVES a pun. Never apologize! The other night Conan O'Brien told a joke about James Hetfield being detained at the airport after setting off "the heavy metal detector". The audience booed him but I laughed for about five minutes straight.

Sean: Alas, I am an ass-clown. Monson was on vacation. He hit it pretty hard today.

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