With the NBA Playoffs in full bloom – and with all the blowout games so far, that full bloom is polluting the air with tons of pollen indeed – there have been more than a couple of games that were decided in the final minutes when the officials “swallowed their whistles”. After issuing pabulum comments in the wake of the first couple of these events, the NBA did acknowledge that officials ignored 5 different fouls in the final moments of a Spurs/Thunder contest. The prevailing narrative in support of the “swallow the whistle philosophy” has been:
The referees do not want to be the ones to decide the game outcome; that should be done by the players.
Here is my problem with that narrative:
By not making those calls in the final moments of a game that should be called because the on-court actions are fouls, the referees are in fact deciding the outcome of the game by not enforcing the rules in the book.
Let me be clear here. I am not suggesting that we are looking at a 2016 outbreak of “Tim Donaghy Influenza”; if long-term NBA conspiracy theorists want to include these recent events into their decades-long narrative about Front Office edicts over who wins and loses specific playoff games, so be it. Nonetheless, the recent spate of “no-calls” or “missed calls” has been so widespread that I have begun to wonder if the NBA has sent its officials to some sort of joint training program with WWE referees.
I do not agree with the idea that officials should change the way they call a basketball game in the final moments with only one exception:
If there are two minutes to play in any game – regular season or playoffs – and one team is winning by 35 points, the only time I would blow a whistle would be if the ball went out of bounds or if a foul occurred that was so egregious that it might draw a personal foul penalty in the NFL.
In the circumstance above, the idea is to get the game over with. The only calls that need to be made there are ones that maintain order. However, if the score difference is 3 points and there are 30 seconds left on the clock, every foul and every violation may be critical calls with regard to the outcome. If the “players are to decide the outcome” then the officials have to make all of the proper calls to enable the players to do so.
Speaking of the NBA Playoffs, there is a story that I find uplifting in and among the stories about poor officiating. Chris Bosh has a blood clot on one of his lungs and clots in his leg. The pulmonary condition was diagnosed more than a year ago and he has missed a lot of playing time last year; the leg clots were detected this year and he has been out of action for a couple of months. These conditions are not like a blown-out knee when can be rehabbed with a lot of work; blood clots may be treated and controlled, but when/if they break loose, they can be fatal. He has a condition that could kill him – not “kill his career”; I mean kill his body.
Chris Bosh is on medication and he wants to play for the Heat in the playoffs. The team can obviously benefit from having his talent available to them in the playoffs, but the team has refused to put him on the active roster. The Miami Heat is acting contrary to its short-term interests and in favor of Bosh’s long-term interests and the team’s long-term interests too. That sort of behavior is not prevalent in the world of professional sports and I find it laudatory.
Well, I am on an NBA track today, so let me tell you about another story that came out earlier this week. Recall that the NBA decided on a “trial program” to allow teams to sport a 2.5-inch by 2.5-inch patch on their uniforms bearing a sponsor’s logo. Well, earlier this week, the league informed the teams about what sorts of sponsors were permissible and what sorts of sponsors were impermissible. According to a report on CBSSports.com, here are the ones that are not going to be allowed:
Alcohol: An interesting banishment here – teams can sell beer in the arenas but cannot wear a 6.25 square inch patch that has a beer brand logo on it. Hmmm…
Tobacco: Perfectly understandable. Some will decry this as overly politically correct; I think those pronouncements are silly.
Politics: Perfectly understandable. Might someone take this to the Supreme Court claiming the patch is “protected political expression”? I hope not.
Media company: Understandable. They do not want patches for “Network X” on players while the games are on “Network Y”.
Nike competitors: Understandable. Nike has the contract to make all the uniforms and display the Swoosh; they do not need mixed messages there.
Gambling: Another interesting banishment. FanDuel has “partnerships” with about half the teams in the NBA so will Fan Duel – and or Draft Kings – be allowed to buy a team’s patch?
As is always the case, making a list of things that are not allowed opens the door to things that are not on the list but might be out of line with the sort of image that the league might want to maintain. For example:
Westboro Baptist Church – – I could go on here but you get the idea…
Finally, let me close with a comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News regarding an NBA player from times past:
“Astronaut Scott Kelly has returned from a year in space only to learn he is two inches taller than when he left.
“Somewhere Muggsy Bogues is saying, ‘Now they tell me.’”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………