Thursday, May 24, 2012


During the second quarter of the Heat-Pacers playoff game tonight, a game 6, the Pacer fans broke out in the cheer/jeer "He's a flopper, He's a flopper."

 The reference was directed at Dwyane Wade, a player for the Miami Heat who was shooting foul shots. The fans, apparently, felt that Wade had earned the foul shots by flopping.

A flopper, for the uninitiated is not someone who fails, i.e. is a flop. In that sense, even the Pacer fans would have to agree, that Wade is no flopper. He made some baskets in the second quarter of the game that looked like optical illusions and ended the 12 minute period with 20 points--a decent output for an entire game, let alone one fourth of it. No, in the sense of a failure, Dwyane Wade is no flopper. (And, despite the chants from the crowd on the play that was the catalyst for the chant, Wade did not flop--he was, in fact, hit on the play).

A flopper in basketball--and in other sports like hockey and soccer--is someone who pretends to be whacked so hard by an opponent that he falls, flops, down. A player will flop in basketball because then the referee might award a free throw to the person who has fallen. In soccer, the players are notorious for flopping because two fouls can eliminate you from competition not only in a single game but for future games in a tournament.

 There are some terrific floppers. Manu Ginobli on the Spurs is world class. Former Detroit Piston, Bill Laimbeer, was a great flopper. A guy I played freshman basketball with at Albany deserves to be in the flopper hall of fame.This guy would flail back like he had been hit by a truck when someone sneezed near him, often earning offensive fouls to the incredulous fury of our opponents.

Hockey is ahead of the other sports when it comes to punishing floppers, but basketball, based on some recent rhetoric, is considering taking steps as well. Flopping makes a referee's job more difficult. Did a player really get hit hard, or did you just go to acting school? And if it makes the referee's job harder, then the game can be decided by the acting capabilities of the players as opposed to athletic skill.

 The question I have is, in the long run, does it benefit you to be a flopper. I don't think so. Ginobli is a great player and I don't think his game has been negatively affected by his flopping, though his reputation might be. I think, however, that Ginobli is an exception. The great players did not flop and I think that is because they concentrated on playing the game well.

A flopper might figure while driving to the hoop that he doesn't have to make the basket, he can probably sell the foul. A great player doesn't rely on the referee to bail him out. A flopper figures he does not have to get set on defense to earn the charge. A flopper is considering an alternative to beating the opponent to the spot.

 Readers of this blog know that I like to draw some comparisons between sports and daily human interaction. I think that those who flop in life, that is rely on pretending to do what needs to be done, can advance only so long. Sure, some people may make a career out of pretending, but I wonder if that does not create an infection elsewhere in their systems. The people who are genuinely successful do what they do to the best of their ability and don't hope to pass as competent by flopping. I know personally that when I have flopped, I have been more likely to flop in the conventional sense of the word, and when I have worked hard to do something the way I thought was the right way to do it, I have been more successful.

Someone like Larry Bird never flopped. Had he flopped in game 4 of the 85 Finals against the Lakers in the last second when he was whacked by James Worthy, he might have gotten the foul shots to tie the game. He was whacked and could have taken a tumble into the bench.  But he did not flop, no foul was called, the Celtics lost the game to go down 3-1 and eventually lost the series in 6.  But would he have been Larry Bird, the great player that he was, if flopping was part of his repertoire. Did Russell flop? West? Havlicek? Reed?  Frazier?  No, they did not.  Did FDR flop or did he stick his nose right into the great depression.  Did Churchill flop? King?

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