Monday, June 16, 2008

NBA Referee Scandal

Here’s my take on this NBA referee scandal:

I’m a fan of the game of basketball. I like all levels – from high school to professional. I enjoy the beauty and grace of the game, the highly competitive atmosphere, and the natural drama and suspense that comes with the sport. When it comes to referees, I lean toward what the football referees say – that a well-reffed game is one where you don’t even know they’re there. Well, in basketball, that’s a harder objective to achieve. Many plays end with a referee making a call. The ref takes center stage as all eyes waiting for the decision to be made fall on the guy in the black and white stripes. It’s a thankless job and a foregone conclusion – the ref will be scrutinized no matter what. And when the games themselves take a greater stage and come to mean that much more, the role of referee is one that I, for one, would never want to play. These refs are doomed from the start.

And so it comes down to the big games, where a call either way will bring much criticism. And to think a ref could be safe in the land of no-calldom. They’re not. In basketball, the two teams are not the only players in this game. The referees serve as the tippers of the scales of judgment. They’re a necessary evil. They have to be there.

Now, the Tim Donaghey scandal is one thing. There is evidence that he was involved in schemes to affect games beyond his occupational duties. It’s a no-brainer that this is wrong. I’m not arguing this. What I am arguing is that we leave the refs alone. Queue the Brittany guy of YouTube fame. Leave the refs alone! But, seriously – it’s extremely difficult to ref a high school game, let alone an NBA one. There are two, maybe three, refs in charge of following 10 guys at all times. It’s impossible to see everything at all times. The job of a ref is to make sure no one team is getting a distinct advantage. But a game is made of numerous plays. Numerous instances. And numerous scenarios. Refs aren’t there to see the big picture. They’re there to see what’s happening in front of them when it happens. A ref has to make a decision in a split-second’s time. And when this decision may seem wrong, it’s the only thing a ref has to go on at that time.

All refs make bad calls. And all games take on infinite paths to infinite outcomes. There are stories to be written about all of them. The NBA is one big choose-your-own-adventure. And the refs' calls, unfortunately and perhaps unfairly, help to carve out these paths.

I try to stay a fan through all of the B.S. I try not to get involved with the business of the game so I can maintain my standpoint of pure enjoyment. It’s a game, people. When outside forces like gambling take control, of course that’s wrong. But human error is a natural, inside force that must be dealt with and not made a major player. I find it hard to believe that the monopolous NBA would try to manipulate outcomes in favor of better matchups and hence more money. They may have that to lose, but no one else is gaining as a result. Certainly no other leagues out there are gaining on the NBA. Owners are making a ton of money. Merchandising will always be there. There is indeed work to be done, but there will always be challenges to this league. But it’s not a league that’s even remotely close to failing.

Yes, people are arguing that the NBA is not trying to leave this money on the table. And I think this is a ridiculous argument. So leave these refs out of it. They’re merely doing their jobs amidst an ever increasingly critical environment. It’s time to find blame elsewhere, if blame is to be found at all.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Phenomenal Phillies

Tonight the Phillies scored 20 runs in a game for the second time this season. In fact, they did it for the second time in a 17-game span, with the first time being on May 26. Throw in the 15-run game they had on May 25, and the Phillies have scored a whopping 128 runs in 18 games. That's an incredible average of 7.11 runs per game (and they've only given up 3.33 runs per game), and they've gone 14-4 in that span.

Prior to May 25, the Phils averaged 4.80 runs per game. They now average 5.41 runs per game. That's an amazing increase of .61 runs per game.

If you only take the 4 double-digit run games over this 18 game span (15, 20, 12, 20), the Phils would average 3.72 runs per game. That's still more than the 3.33 runs per game they've given up!

I'm curious to know the last time a team scored 20 or more runs twice in one season. During the telecast, they informed us the last time the Phillies performed this feat was in 1900, when they actually did it 3 times.

Truly a Friday the 13th to remember!