July 24, 2007

Crooked referees?

I'm not a fan of pro basketball, so I don't know whether Bill Simmons is right here when he argues that:

Whether it's because of bad luck, poor training, measly pay or the thanklessness of the profession itself -- maybe it's all of those things -- the NBA employs a handful of good referees and an astonishing number of bad ones. In the playoffs, there never seems to be enough quality officials to go around.

Or when he argues:

And that's before factoring in the public's perception (well-earned, by the way) that superstars receive more favorable calls than nonsuperstars. It's like Chris Rock's bit about dad getting the biggest chicken leg at the dinner table -- once you reach a certain level in the NBA, the whistles will come. 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.

Well, actually, I do think he's right about that second item. Even during highlights on SportsCenter I've seen fouls made in the paint that were called on the defense rather than the (star) offensive player.

But when he says this:

Imagine being a Suns fan right now. You just spent the past two months believing that your team got screwed by the Stoudemire/Diaw suspensions, that you would have won Game 1 if Nash didn't get hurt, that you would have taken Game 3 if you hadn't been screwed by the officials, that you would have cruised in Game 5 if two of your best guys weren't suspended for running toward their best player as he lay in a crumpled heap. Now it looks like an allegedly compromised referee worked Game 3.

I can completely agree. If you can't trust the officiating, what's the point? And if you paid big dollars to see the game in person (according to the NBA, the Suns' $65 regular season ticket quoted here is at the league average), you're undoubtedly angry.

A referee is in a far better position to shave points than a player is, since he controls fouls which send players to the free throw line. He also, more subtly, can control a player's floor time by calling fouls which send the player to the bench. How often have you seen huge discrepancies in numbers of foul shots per team? I think there was a playoff game this spring in which one team had 39 free throw attempts, while its opponent had 8. That just looks fishy.

The NBA has a serious problem here, and I don't envy Commissioner David Stern.

Posted by Linkmeister at July 24, 2007 09:39 AM | TrackBack