OT - Why to me, basketball will always play second fiddle to football

Submitted by CLord on February 26th, 2013 at 4:09 AM

Not news, just a rant after 35 years of watching college basketball if I may be permitted.


Check out the blocking foul that was called on the ISU player in the last moments of regulation....

In football, I always feel like the players and coaches define the outcome (Green Bay/Seattle replacement ref game aside).  But in basketball, I feel like I'm watching a script half written by the players and coaches, and far too frequently half written by the referees.  This isn't news, but just an observation that at times the preposterous calls by basketball refs obviously meant to add poetry to a game, instead make me feel like I've suddenly been tranported to a WWE cage match at The Palace.

Understandably, in no sport do referees come in as close contact to screaming, gyrating fans, coaches and opposing coaches as they do in basketball. But with all of the technology that has advanced so many other sports, it's unfortunate basketball hasn't found a way to evolve in some manner to improve referee objectivity and accuracy.  Until that changes, the ominous poetic license employed by referees will continue to define why basketball, despite all of its beauty, will be a second rate sport to me, just a few notches on the WWE scale left of boxing.




February 26th, 2013 at 6:01 AM ^

It was a no call not a block, but should have been a charge. Not to mention minutes earlier one of Kansas best players clearly committed his 5th foul but refs gave it to another player. Blame David Stern as in an effort to recover Tom Jordan's retiring and in an effort to create stars he started allowing star calls and it has since gone to the college level where the better teams get the calls. Sad but true.

Kilgore Trout

February 26th, 2013 at 6:49 AM ^

It would be nice if the refs were made available for comment at some point. It would be interesting to hear how they saw that live. Clearly that was way too much contact to not call anything. And then they call the ticky tack reach in on the iSU player who has a kansas player laying on him and ku player has touched the ball while out of bounds. You're not "letting the players decide it" when you let them break the rules to do it.


February 26th, 2013 at 6:55 AM ^

I it normal now to run and dunk when the game is over? Oladipo does it against us, and Elijah Johnson last night. I always thought you were supposed to dribble the clock out not pad your stats.


February 26th, 2013 at 7:04 AM ^

No, it's not common. Self apologized to Hoiberg in the handshake line. Elijah Johnson (the player who dunked it) apologized in the postgame interview, explaining that Self had lectured him immediately after the game and admitting that "I've got to show better sportsmanship."

On the one hand, Johnson had struggled all year and then went off for 39. On the other, that kind of thing always has the potential to set off something really ugly. Good on Iowa State's players for not reacting to that after what must have been a really painful loss. Good on Self for confronting his player, and good on Johnson for owing up that he was wrong immediately after the game.


The Baughz

February 26th, 2013 at 7:14 AM ^

You cant officiate one way for 39 minutes and then another way for 1 minute. Im all for refs swallowing their whistles at certain times, but that was the worst officiated minute ive ever seen. Whithey clearly committed his 5th foul. The charge call was horrific. You have 3 options there: block, charge, or no call. Only call that would have been wrong was the charge, and thats what he called. Whats an even worse call was after that when both teams were fighting for the ball near the baseline and they call a ticky tack reach in foul on Iowa St. That was a very exciting game marred by horrible officiating. Let the players decide the game!


February 26th, 2013 at 7:20 AM ^

The NBA isn't even real basketball anymore. 3 or 4 steps, running like a RB to the hoop. Stars get all the calls and are never called for fouling because the league wants them in the game as much as possible. It's like the WWE now, fake even though its still unscripted.


February 26th, 2013 at 7:27 AM ^

I can't watch NBA games anymore.  Aside from all the ridiculous flopping, obnoxious refs, terrible commentating, poor salary decisions made by GMs, I just feel like games are paid for and fixed.  It stinks because I really grew up on the sport and it's falling apart because of David Stern's obsession with short term gain and superstars.


February 26th, 2013 at 7:58 AM ^

We hear this kind of thing all the time. And it's almost all wrong. The Euro step used by Ginobli, Westbrook, and Lebron is not a travel (Tom from AA can go into excruciating detail if you like). The new CBA got rid of a lot of the terrible contract structures that strangled teams in the late 90s and early 00s. The refs are calling hand checking and perimeter contact, freeing up offensive players to actually move, unlike in college ball. They've enabled postgame video review to crack down on flopping.

I don't think there's a better set of studio shows in sports right now than the NBA on TNT (though Shaq is a problem) and ESPN's show (the Simmons, Wilbon, Jalen, Magic lineup is great). About the only comparison is Gameday. Compare those to the dreck that the networks role out for the NFL, and you'll find commentators that are more insightful and more willing to call players and coaches out.

In general, the quality of the NBA right now is at it's highest level since the 1980s (and if you want to talk about star calls, watch a rebroadcast of a game from then). Ratings for finals games were at their highest levels last year since Jordan's Bulls. There are a bunch of teams running a variety of offensive and defensive sets and philosophies, and playing them well, from the slow down interior style of the Pacers to the up-tempo games being played by the Rockets, Nuggets and Warriors. And the Spurs may be playing the most attractive offensive basketball in NBA history and LeBron might be having one of the top 10 individual seasons in league history.

It's fine if you're not into the NBA anymore. Or if you're primarily a Piston's fan and can stomach watching a young team that needs two more years to develop. But very little in your post corresponds to the NBA as it actually exists.


February 26th, 2013 at 10:52 AM ^

"Euro step" my ass.  I've seen the explanation of the rule you're talking about and occasionally that's the reason for the travel.  But it's possible to find video of Lebron going from the area between the three point line and halfcourt, to the basket on the other end, somehow taking two dribbles.  We're talking about going about 60 feet in two dribbles.  That's just one of the more extreme examples.  Be a fan all you like but anyone claiming that all these extra steps are totally legit is an apologist, not a fan.


February 26th, 2013 at 12:21 PM ^

I don't deny it.  I would also just say, though, that usually when people complain about traveling in the NBA, they're not talking about the Euro step.  Personally the move that I hate the most is when a guy like Kobe cradles the ball like a football and takes three or four steps after picking up his dribble on the way to the rim.  That's the sort of traveling that really gets people.


February 26th, 2013 at 6:23 PM ^

I remember being at a basketball camp in high school in the mid-90s with some coach from UCLA showing us how to do one dribble and take it to the hole (teaching us not to dribble the ball too much).  He kept moving back and still only using one dribble.  He was able to do it all the way from half court.  So a 6'11 ridiculous athlete going 60 feet in 2 dribbles?  Sure, no problem, doesnt need to be travelling.


February 26th, 2013 at 3:42 PM ^

There's a difference between a euro step and the four steps you see in the NBA.  This goes as far back as Iverson who time and time again took a step and then a very generous hop step.  The same move is still used by the Wades and Lebrons today.  In regards to flopping, since Judge Stern implemented his flopping penalty this year (which is probably 10-15 years late) only 4 players have been penalized.  Only 4 flops this year?  You can pick out more in a single game.  

Contracts are much improved, I'll agree on that.  TNT commentators are very solid.  The ESPN commentating is pretty terrible, and that goes for the guys I liked as players including Rose and Jon Barry.  Wilbon is a fool and Simmons is probably the only guy on that show with any insightful commentating. 

The quality is definitely not improved over past years.  Parity will not be at the same level as it used to be.  Teams avoid building talent these days because they know they can save up and splurge on one or two superstars.  The Heat, Knicks, and Lakers are setting up a stupid precedent of destroying parity.  The obvious exceptions, which are probably the only teams I enjoy watching, include the Pacers, Thunder, Rockets and Spurs. 

The pistons complete ineptitude plays a significant role.  At the same time, I look back at the glory days when Hakeem, D Robinson, Stockton, Jordan, etc. played with talented teams that didn't require espn orgasm inducing offseason signings or obvious favoritism by refs in order to win games.  I think my love for the NBA took the biggest hit in that Mavs-Heat championship when wade had 25 free throws in one game.  They called flagrants if Mav players made eye contact with him.  I had never seen such a biased game in my life.  


February 26th, 2013 at 5:29 PM ^

That was a terribly officiated series, no doubt. 

But I don't get your point about no parity. LA's about to miss the playoffs. The Knicks are slumping and hardly have a collection of superstars (now, I think Tyson Chandler's one of the best 10 players in the league, but that was a heady signing after the Mavs let him walk, and Denver seems to be doing just fine in the wake of the 'melo deal). The Heat have three high priced players, but I think any team that has Lebron at this point in his career is going to be one of the league's best (if he could bring the collection of spare parts in Cleveland to the best record in the east that's certainly true now that he's figured out how to dominate from the post).

At the same time, you have a hugely competitive race in the West, with the Spurs, OKC, Clips, Denver, and Memphis all likely capable of beating each other (OK, maybe not Denver). If you look at the years you term the glory days, there was far less parody then. You knew Chicago was coming out of the east and Utah or Seattle was coming out of the West.

And the actual play is better. Teams are moving the ball more, relying less exclusively on two man games and isos, and playing less grabby defense than they did.



February 26th, 2013 at 5:00 PM ^

This comment debunks a lot of "myths" about the NBA and basketball in general that come from people that are predisposed to dislike it.

And I know, because I am sort of that kind of person now and was quite biased against basketball in the late 90s and early 00s. It was not a coincidence that the Pistons and Wolverines were both bad at the sport at the time, and that the Pistons wore horrible uniforms. But I was (and still am) a hockey fan and I actively resented basketball's attention. So I held many of these arguments, or similar ones of a more appropriate time.

The fact is, the NBA has done an excellent job of branding itself, developing good stars, exciting plotlines, and entertaining basketball. Now, nobody will argue that regular-season basketball can sometimes be a bit of a drag, but that is true of all sports that are not football. 

Complaints about things like officiating are real issues, but when someone uses those complaints to say that the sport is inherently worse or inferior, that is just an excuse. Every sport has its serious warts, and people who like other sports better will delight in pointing those out. Every sport has officiating problems. Every sport has structures built into its fabric that cause spectating headaches, like late-game fouling situations in basketball, or ties that are resolved in random shootouts in hockey, or punitive rules against regular hitting in football. It's everywhere.

Here's the thing: It's okay to like one sport over another. Just to like it. This is not something earth-shaking where you have to have a good reason--you just like it. Often it is just because your teams are successful in the sport you like most. Admit that it's random, and admit that each sport has its problems that outsiders can't stand but insiders just accept, and move on.

The NBA is pretty good right now, and it will be even better in the playoffs, even if we know who is going to win the East already. But if you're not a huge NBA fan, no problem! 

The Shredder

February 26th, 2013 at 12:21 PM ^

What would a basketball topic be without token "the NBA is terrible" posts. The NBA is rolling right now and if you don't like it that is fine. I don't like hockey but you won't see my ass in hockey threads killing it for how boring or random it is. A lot of people are watching the NBA(bulls,Thunder ect sell out every night. Finals Ratings have been better then the World Series as of late). 


February 26th, 2013 at 7:33 AM ^

He didn't call a block, first off.

Watch the baseline official. He doesn't raise his hand to signal a foul on the contact.

He raises it on the grab of the kansas player who has the ball.

I'm fine with the no-call or the charge there. (the defensive player flopped big time but did take the contact) and it was the right call on the hold of the kansas player.  The ball fell into the lap of the kansas player who tried to pass the ball out but was grabbed by the player who originally attempted to take the charge. If you don't call that and Kansas is unable to kick the ball out, aren't you deciding it there.

All that said, make your FT at the end and it's a moot point.

And come on. Pass inferference in Nat'l Title game OSU vs. UMiami? There are many, many examples of call/no-calls in football at the end of the game and the argument could be made that they are more impactful than a basketball call.

The Baughz

February 26th, 2013 at 7:36 AM ^

It was an obvious charge to me and come on, they were both fighting for the ball, that was not a foul. He didnt grab him. Sure there was contact, but not enough to warrant a foul. I would have been fine with two no calls, but the refs botched both calls, in my opinion.


February 26th, 2013 at 3:34 PM ^

Can't disagree with any of that. I would have probably called the charge - but I'm looking at it in a vaccuum since I didn't see the rest of the game, so I don't have all the info (i.e. how did they call block/charge throughout the game). The flop makes it harder, though, to call the charge.  The view we get is tough to see how he took the contact and if/when he started leaning backwards.

From that bad, wide angle, I saw the ISU player reach around the Kansas player to grab at the ball. It's kind of an unwritten rule that you cannot tie-up the ball from behind a player. In this case they were both on the floor and the ISU player reached around. I thought it was enough for the call.  It would have been very tough to call nothing there.  If you have nothing and that ball doesn't get kicked out to the perimeter, it's a huge miss - just as bad as the "charge," if you think it was a missed call.

Two tough calls.  It happens. I think the first was probably wrong and the second was probably right. But I think there's room for arguments for each possibility.


February 26th, 2013 at 7:29 AM ^

Sitting in the end zone when a certain pass interference penalty was not called against msu vs Desmond Howard. That seemed to be similarly determinative, no?


February 26th, 2013 at 7:30 AM ^

to a certain extent, but to me it is no different than the pass interference call in football.  That particular penalty call / no call seems to decide a number of games during the course of the season.  Ultimately it is almost a complete judgment call from the official, since there are varying degrees of PI on almost every pass.  Same thing with holding.


February 26th, 2013 at 7:34 AM ^

....to remember Spartan Bob.... or Desmond getting tripped in the endzone.... or, to be fair, Michigan's win over Illinois in 2000, for example.


February 26th, 2013 at 10:15 PM ^

You mention 3 games over 30 years.  There is humanity on refereeing and errors happen.  That is fine.  But in basketball, especially college basketball, there is a real problem when you sit down expecting those errant calls almost every single night, be they your standard home cooking at any Duke or Indiana game, or terrible calls meant to keep a game interesting ala ISU/Kansas.


February 26th, 2013 at 8:20 AM ^

I've been watching college basketball and football for over 40 years.  Football has been far more popular than basketball for longer than that.  A lot more penalties get called in basketball than football, many of which are judgment calls, but that has always been the case.  The biggest change is that there are far more games televised today with more camera angles, better lighting, more replays shown, and the worst that some television commentators feel like they are the stars, to the point that they won't shut up and just let viewers just watch and enjoy the game.


February 26th, 2013 at 8:22 AM ^

When you've rooted for Josh Aselin...and you've watched what they've become...It's one of the great underdog stories in sports as far as I'm concerned. If we get a Disney ending this year someone may mess around and try to write a book.


February 26th, 2013 at 10:53 AM ^

be better than basketball because the reffing in the latter is bad? Not super-logical, but you're entitled to your opinion. I think that refs have long determined outcomes or distorted them in the major sports; the media and fans are much better positioned to scrutinize nowadays. 

I probably love both sports equally, but tire of hearing football fans rake on basketball. Different ethos, both fascinating. Hoop has arguably gotten better with big men less dominant. All the gossip and bickering that today surround both sports are tiresome. Not pointing to the OP, but there's a racist tinge to some basketball criticism. I saw some people on message boards talking about starting a white league--hilarious and embarrassing. 


February 26th, 2013 at 8:43 AM ^

My biggest complaint with college basketball these days is that I have no idea what is a charge vs. a block.  Commentators don't seem to know either.  If someone drives the lane, makes contact with a defender, we all just look at the ref to see what the call will be this time.  Seems random a lot of the time.

I notice this more when I'm watching a non-UM game where I don't have as clear of a rooting interest, and it's frustrating.  And I know the B10 is all about "toughness", but the degree that offensive players can get mugged without a call is annoying.


February 26th, 2013 at 8:58 AM ^

I agree with this. A study of last year's tournament found that refs only got 65% of block/charge calls correct, while they got 90+% of other calls correct. Given those numbers, it's time for a new rules interpretation because right now it's really a crap shoot as to whether good plays are going rewarded or punished.

I'd be fine if that particular play by the Iowa State guy was an automatic block call. If you're not making a play on the ball, but are rather sliding in front of the man, I think it's questionable if that's a basketball play. Charges would still be called for plays on the floor, particularly as primary defenders slid to maintain defensive position, but also as help defenders get over early, but I'd be fine for it to be an automatic block if the the help guy is sliding over without challenging the shot. The addendum is that refs would have to get better at respecting the "rule of verticality," that the defensive player has the right to go straight up and challenge without it being a foul.

The other thing I'd like to see is the number of TOs reduced to 2 per half. End of game situations are excruciatingly long right now (and are going to get worse in the tournament when CBS starts pumping the same two BWW commercials into the six stoppages that occur in the last minute). Fewer TOs will reward teams whose players understand the game, rather than deferring every strategic decision to the coach.  

oriental andrew

February 26th, 2013 at 9:53 AM ^

The confusion seems to come from the change to allowing the defensive player to establish position without having his feet set.  Before, if the player had good position in front of the offensive player, but his feet were still moving, it was a block.  If his feet were set with good position, it was a charge.  Feet set, but out of position is a blocking foul.  Makes it harder for me to judge what is a blocking foul and what is a charge. 

That said, there is a ton of crappy officiating that goes on in football, even with instant replay.  Before replay, though, phantom TDs (USC, notre dame), Spartan Bob, and Desmond tackled in the endzone come to mind. 

If you're a penn state fan, any football game against Michigan  ;)

Michigan Eaglet

February 26th, 2013 at 9:12 AM ^

My first love was basketball because I started playing it at a young age, but I've recently been watching more college basketball, not just Michigan, and it becomes almost unwatchable at times. The sequence at the end of that game last night was appalling and the referee that had probably the worst view on the court made a call that he couldn't even see when another had a perfect view and didn't call anything.  The charge I was ok with being a no call at first, but after they called the foul not 2 seconds later, there was no way to not call that charge. Just a terrible job all around.

UM Indy

February 26th, 2013 at 9:30 AM ^

to me about bad basketball officiating when the memory of Desmond getting tackled in the end zone on the 2 point conversion against Michigan State in 1990 still burns.


February 26th, 2013 at 9:54 AM ^

That was my first thought too after reading those. Between MSU 1990 and MSU 2001 it is pretty clear that officials (and timekeepers) do affect the outcome of games. The 5th down game between Missouri and Colorado when Colorado later won the national championship as well as the kicked ball by Nebraska against Missouri in 1997 also came to mind. There are tons of example of the officials significantly impacting who won football games.