Basketball officiating a guessing game

Some changes need to be made in basketball officiating, the sooner the better at all levels. The deficiencies are magnified at tournament time. So many games, so many questionable calls.

The game is, as often as not, a frustrating experience for coaches, players and fans. The quality of whistle-blowing and the interpretations of the rules vary significantly from game to game. What’s really telling is that often nobody knows what the violation is until the official gives the signal.

Whether the guy in the striped shirt is right depends on whether it goes for or against one’s own team. If one’s team is on the road, one can count on more questionable calls. Objectivity gives way to subjectivity because the standards are lax at best.

All participants deserve higher levels of consistency. For starters, the rules committees could get to work on some of the worst examples:

  • Blocking vs. charging. Almost impossible for the average fan to recognize the difference, and the rule is interpreted widely with no predictability. Coaches on both teams never agree on the call. Small wonder fans don’t have a clue.
  • Fouling a three-point shooter. Rarely does a defender actually make contact with the player taking the shot. Everybody but the officials know it. The shooter falls down, almost automatically, backwards at that for these finely-tuned athletes
  • Shooters jumping into defenders. The player who initiates the contact is too often rewarded for aggressive behavior. The observer used to think it was an optical illusion for the officials. That was being kind.
  • Over the Back. A player blocked out should have a chance to go after a rebound. There should no automatic calls. A player should not be penalized just for going for the ball but they are, whether there is significant contact or not.
  • Traveling:  Some players with the ball move their pivot foot a fraction of an inch and get a whistle, others get three or four running giant steps with the ball and never get noticed. Happens every game at every level.

Some of these examples defy common sense, indicating low levels of intelligence from people making the calls. That or they think people watching games aren’t very bright. They see other officials make ridiculous calls and pretty soon everybody’s doing it.

If there is no quality, consistency or common sense, there are no standards. Officials can call the games any way they choose, and it seems that is what many of them are doing much of the time.

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Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

3 thoughts on “Basketball officiating a guessing game

  • March 10, 2011 at 8:47 am
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    Add traveling while inbounding the ball to your list. Except after a made basket, players have to be set while inbounding the ball. Watch though, and you’ll see how much shuffling and actual walking takes place.

  • March 10, 2011 at 9:05 am
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    Time for instant replay in basketball. Last night was a perfect example for it.

  • March 10, 2011 at 5:11 pm
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    I think there is one thing very consistent in officiating. That would be that Tim Higgins has a lousy game.

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