Thursday, August 19, 2010

Throw in the Towel?

If you looked at yesterday's links (Throw in the Green Flag) here and here are the follow-up links. (And even if you didn't look at yesterday's links check these out.) They do a very good job of framing the Big Picture issue I want to raise today. And that's all I want to do--offer a perhaps different way of thinking about refereeing. Right now the conceptual framework underlying the rules is the law enforcement approach. You do the crime, you do the time--with built in deterrence to let the next guy know that crime doesn't pay. I understand the motives and the approach, I just don't think they result in the best game.

Rules are necessary. They give the game shape and substance. Violating those rules requires redress. So far, so good, right?

Here's where I have a couple of questions for you. What's more important, the play of the game or rules enforcement--or is there, should there be, some balance?
Which sort of basketball do you prefer; the game that is constantly being interrupted to send players to the free throw line or the sort that is fast and free flowing the majority of the time?

My gripe yesterday was the lack of consistency in officiating. That lack of consistency is exacerbated by the law enforcement attitude of the referees and the impact of any penalty call on the play of the game which I think is often disproportionate overkill. But current views of the game don't really have any other place to go so we are stuck with pulling bodies or doing nothing. There are no in-betweens, and the only result of official discretion is widely divergent outcomes. What I am advocating is taking a fresh approach to the game and re-prioritizing our goals. Ideally I would like to see the penalties more accurately reflect their impact on the game and focus on maintaining order and basic equity while allowing the game to be played and won (or lost) on the field by the players the majority of the time. (As we are unlikely to ever fully escape the officiated outcome.) We can do better. But first we have to want to improve the game instead of focusing the function of penalties on punishment; merited or otherwise.

Btw, there's no throwing in the towel. Tomorrow, a new system for regulating play of the game on the field by the officiating crew.

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