I used to be a huge basketball fan. Mostly pro hoops. Had season tickets for years when I lived in Phoenix and I still have a soft spot on my head for the Suns. And even then I had problems with the refs. But back in those days the game was more physical than it is today (not more athletic but more physical) and, as happens in paintball too, the refs favored the aggressor. Nowadays pro ball is too often star driven isolation offense and zone defense.And has, if possible, lousier officiating than ever. Case in point: Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic. The NBA's star system extends to fouls called--can you say Micheal Jordan?--but Orlando's coach recently complained in print that not only did Howard not get any slack he routinely got called for all manner of ticky-tack fouls. I'm not a Magic fan but I've seen them play and Coach Van Gundy had a point. So what happened today? Fouls were called on Howard, early and often, as the refs made sure the Magic know who's in charge. That's why I don't watch much anymore. Even at the professional level with millions of dollars at stake the league seems less interested in consistent quality officiating than they are in covering up problems and selling their stars.
So what's the point? Only that no sport is immune from reffing issues but how you handle them is the measure of how seriously you take your sport. (And the NBA made the mistake of turning a team game into a showcase of stars a long time ago.) I was talking to a friend today after practice. He has been a PSP/NPPL ref for a few years but in some instances found it both political and hard to justify in terms of time off work, etc. In part I was sounding him out to see if he had any remaining interest in reffing major league paintball. (Besides being an old teammate he's also an excellent ref with the ideal temperament and personality for the job--and has never once cut me a break.)
That conversation and this post weren't just idle chat. I have an idea or two for improving the NPPL's reffing. (I'm not going to say it sucked, cause it didn't, but it needs to be better.) It needs to be better because it's one of the positive and proactive things the league (and owners) can do to prove they are a players league. I'll be passing my ideas along to Rich (Telford) and we'll see. I don't know if it's a realistic option or not--but it won't be hugely cost intensive. (And, hey, I've got a couple of ideas for the PSP too but the programs are in two different places.) Players don't need to be athletes or pros to appreciate and deserve the best officiating possible. I guess the real question is--in the current environment what really is possible.