The Guys in The Stripes

Basketball is not a sport. Well – it is a sport for the guys in the stripes.

On average, according to NCAA statistics in the 2015 basketball season, 20.2 fouls were called per team per game. Thus in a game with two teams – all of them – a total of 40.4 fouls were called in the entire game between the two sides.

There are 40 minutes in a basketball game.

This is a problem, a major problem for the “sport” of basketball.

Here is Wikipedia’s definition of a sport:

Sport (UK) or sports (US) are all usually forms of competitive physical activity or games which,[1] through casual or organized participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical ability and skills while providing enjoyment to participants, and in some cases, entertainment for spectators.[2] Usually the contest or game is between two sides, each attempting to exceed the other. Some sports allow a tie game; others provide tie-breaking methods, to ensure one winner and one loser.

Nowhere in that definition does it include the word “referees” or even “rules.” However, all sports (that I can think of) have a set of rules and regulations by which the goal is to achieve as fair as a competition that can take place between the two sides. Someone must enforce those rules – the guys in the stripes.

The guys in the stripes in the sport of basketball simply have too much input. We are at a point in the sport’s history where it is unclear most times of what the rules even are.

Who actually knows the rule for taking a charge? Blocking foul? Or Offensive foul? I have heard arguments that the player’s feet must be set in order to get the charge call. How can one keep his or her feet still playing defense? The offender would just go right around them. Some say it is about beating the other person to the “spot.” Where is this magical spot, until they eventually collide? Who has the right to the spot first? Does it have to do with the offender putting his or her head down and plowing through the defender? Or how about all of the flops that have been going on in basketball today? So long as the defender flies backwards on his butt and hits the deck, it’s a charge? Referees are simply blind to what is actually happening, and so are the rules.

What say you to this clip? Blocking foul or offensive foul?

The rules seem to essentially change from official to official. I have been told many times by my coach from my high school days to “see how the ref is going to call the game.” Why do I, as the player, have to see that and adjust to the referees’ interpretations of the rules? NO.

The game/sport has a set of definite rules, and it is up to every referee to consistently enforce those rules to the best of their ability.

How many of these outbursts have you said or heard during a basketball game?

“That wasn’t a foul!”
“That was a travel. He took three steps!”
“C’mon these refs are horrible.” *other team’s fan says* “Good call Mr. Ref.”

The list goes on and on, and depending on your fandom and colored glasses you may wear, we all will see things differently. That is the nature of being a fan of a team. However, we hope that referees are officiating the game objectively – which after all is their job.

But let us entertain the hypothetical idea for a moment that 100 percent of the calls that all referees make are correct. Let us assume that they are without flaw or error like that of a robot. Let us assume that they make every call correctly…and still –

Are you satisfied with the results of having 40 fouls called per game in a 40-minute game? One foul per minute. This isn’t even counting the number of times the whistle is blown for turnovers that go out of bounds or for the number of TV timeouts there are or team timeouts between both teams. Unfortunately, there are no statistics kept on how many times an official’s whistle is blown per game nor how many turnovers go out of bounds warranting the referee to blow his whistle.

Let’s take a look at this in comparison to football.

Can you imagine 60 penalties being called in a 60-minute football game? The most penalized team in the FBS this past season was Baylor who averaged 9.8 penalties per game. Give or take certain teams in basketball, but most do not even come close to using the entirety of the shot clock.

As a diehard Ohio State fan, I was pleased to have seen Curtis Samuel scamper into the endzone in double overtime to defeat our arch rivals, but just about the entire Wolverine fanbase concluded – “But JT Barrett was short. That play never should have happened. The refs cost us the game.” It was certainly possible that Barrett was short, certainly possible that he wasn’t. But football games do not ride on one call, at least not at the rate of calls officials make in each football game. I saw two Michigan turnovers while they were leading and a fumble on the one yard line. There are no more excuses but to blame themselves, not the officials.

We can’t say either that an entire basketball game rides on one call either. However, what we can conclude is that at such a rate that college basketball referees blow their whistle per game for any and all infractions, those calls can easily add up and could actually cost a team the game no matter what that team does. It also adds to the total of wrong calls that they actually make. With football, there might be some wrong calls every now and then, but it does not ultimately determine the outcome of the game.

Even in a perfect world where every call is correct (which in reality, a lot of them are not), the referees still have too much input in the outcome of the game.

Just look at the egregious traveling violations missed in the NBA. LeBron James gets away with five step travels every night. And who could forget the infamous nine step by Kendrick Perkins?

When it all boils down to the final score, the referees be them right or wrong on the calls they made, were essentially responsible for half of the outcome.

From a player’s perspective, would you like to play a sport where you didn’t have control over the game entirely? You would at least want 90 percent of it in your control and realize the refs make up the other ten. But to surrender 50 percent of a basketball game over to the referees is simply not a sport. No wonder players, coaches, and fans alike are always fuming at referees in basketball. They are too involved in the outcome.

I love the sport of basketball. I played it in high school and continue to do so today for fun whenever I can. But I would be wrong if I said the players controlled the outcomes of the games anymore.

Right now at this point in basketball’s history, the outcomes may as well be determined by the guys in the stripes.


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