Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Grizzlies' Poor Season A Result of Refs 'Fixing' Game

Okay, maybe they were just bad...

One argument that I continually have with my father, who prefers baseball to basketball, is that referees do or do not determine the outcome of games.

I argue that refs, though they influence the game, don't ultimately decide the outcome. Sure, they blow calls. Yes, they interpret rules differently at times. (For example, they call a game close, where every touch is a foul, or they 'let them play'.) But generally, the better team wins, or at least, the team that plays better on a given night wins.

Dad argues that referees are frustrating because they are not a constant. A foul against Alexander Johnson isn't a foul against Shaq. Traveling seems to be called based on time - "How long has it been since Lebron was called for travel? He must be due." During the last play of the game, the same contact that got Greg Oden his 8th foul is a no call. During any play, a foul on Kobe Bryant is incidental contact on anyone else.

In reality it's somewhere in the middle. For the most part, refereeing is a constant during a given game. Different teams perform better given different officiating crews. Great players like Bryant learn how to draw contact (and referees may learn to expect it). Great teams, like San Antonio, learn what works (what they can get away with) and manipulate those learnings to their advantages. Some call it dirty; others call it strategy.

With the recent referee scandal, it's likely, that at least one referee has been using his authority to determine the outcome of games. However, the problem may not end there. Perhaps this is representative of a worse problem, that referees have too much control of the game.

Now would be an ideal time for the league to present solutions to this problem that will lessen (not eliminate) the subjectivity of refereeing. A combination of removing certain guidelines (that are inherently subjective) and explicitly describing others (that could be less subjective) may take some control out of referees' hands. Releasing statistics on the number of fouls called on all players, given the referee, the players involved, etc may go a long way towards demonstrating that referees are more 'accurate' than they're perceived to be.

Of course, any changes made need to done so without diminishing the excitement of the competition. That includes both allowing fans - people without insider knowledge or control of the outcome - to bet when they want to and letting the players play.


Dad said...

Thanks for bringing your old man into your blog..and for representing my thoughts so well. It seems to me the bottom line (sadly) is that the problem really can't be fixed. Short of calling all the fouls they see (which would make the game unwatchable), the refs are going to influence the outcome of the games by their calls and non-calls. Most of the time I agree with you, the better team on the floor will win. But face it, you've seen (highly questionable) calls that just stop the flow of the game and shift the momentum. The best thing I can think of to help the NBA is "give both team 75 points and let them play 5 minutes!"

Wyliemoney said...

Dad is right!

Andy said...

This blog is taking a strange turn.

And how did BJ Storyteller get represented but not Lida B? I bet she has strong feelings about this.

This is all preposterous.