Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What game was that.

I didn't even bother to watch "One Shining Moment."

After a great tournament, with terrific play and clutch players, the final game last night was beyond disappointing. And this had little to do with the play of the players.  

It is true that there were some players who underperformed. The big guy from Poland, Karnowsky, couldn't dunk a doughnut into a cup of coffee.  The foul shooting from both teams was atrocious.  North Carolina could not stick a three.

All this is true. But what made this game a drag--appropriate word here--were the men in stripes.  

I typically find post game accusations about poor officiating to be nonsense. The refs may miss calls, but these few likely even out over the course of a game or season.  And besides, any errors are unlikely to be made because of incompetence or a hidden agenda.

Last night was different. The referees decided to call touch fouls on both sides of the ball.  Two big guys for Gonzaga had four fouls apiece. The third big guy who was playing better than any of the other bigs fouled out.  Similarly, North Carolina's inside force had to sit for a chunk of the game with four fouls.  

The flow of the game was undermined by this unnecessary whistle blowing.  Sure, you want to make sure that violations are identified, but in basketball if you follow the letter of the law (it is officially a non contact sport) then there never would be any action.  And last night there was next to no action. Just fouls and foul shooting.  The score at the end of the game did not reflect a basketball contest.  A touch foul against Collins (the 7 footer who was effective) essentially put the end to his night.  It was his fourth. He came back in for just a few moments before getting his fifth. The fourth on UNC's big was also one that should have been let go.  He was bumping for position. That happens on every play.

The perspective that the result of the game is meaningful--because the referees called it the same for both teams--is meaningless. If a game is supposed to be played one way, and you change the rules or how the rules are enforced, then the game becomes a different game, and the victor therefore is not the winner of the game as it has been, but rather this new entity.  And the better team therefore has not been identified, because the team that is deemed the better team is the better team of the different game, and you never know who would have been the better team of the original game.

A UNC stud made a terrific play in the last minute and perhaps that is enough to argue that UNC deserved the victory because Gonzaga did not respond. But who knows what would have transpired before the last minute had the contest not been marred by officious officials who just did not get it.  I think these teams were physical, but so have been a lot of teams and consequently games in the tournament.  

Put another way, if all March Madness games were officiated this way, there would be no phenomenon called March Madness. College basketball would not have the allure it has earned when the officials understand that the game is not about them.

I was pulling for Gonzaga and I have wondered if I would have felt so offended if Gonzaga had prevailed.  I think I would have felt less insulted but still upset. I wrote a short blog when the score was about even at the 8 minute mark registering my disdain.

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