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Thursday, March 19, 2009
Commissioner for a day, at least

I DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU but I have been watching way too much basketball lately -- which has the side effect for me of evoking my guy-like tendency to fix things.  (My wife says she is going to put this epitaph on my tombstone -- presuming, in a demographically accurate fashion, that I'm going to die before she does:  "I know how they could fix that.")

One good thing about American sports, with the exception of baseball (which is, I might note, not "America's sport" anymore) is that the powers that be tend to fix their problems as they arise.  (Usually arising as a result of the last fix -- but still they try to make the game meet what fans want in a game.)

So, if I were the grand commissioner of basketball, which I usually am in front of my own TV, these are some of the obviously wrong things about college basketball that I would fix.

But, first, let me describe a scenario on a basketball court, and you tell me what you are observing:  A player has the ball in his hand while a player for the other team is standing in front of him.  The first player takes the ball and throws it as hard as he can at the groin area of the second player, hitting him.  What have you just observed?   a) a flagrant and combative technical foul meriting loss of possession, two free throws and suspension from the game;  b) a felonious assault meriting active jail time;  c) Christian Laettner;  d) a great, heady basketball play, as universally noted by the media commentators.  The answer, of course, is c) and d) -- if Laettner was in the game and he was falling out of bounds.

That’s dodgeball, not basketball.  Why is such a play even legal, much less applauded?  Just because a player is about to commit a rules violation?  You got me.  Just in the last couple of seasons, calling a time out as a player falls out of bounds was ruled invalid.  Exactly why, I don't know, but perhaps because it doesn't seem like a part of the game of basketball?

Just this season in college basketball, they made throwing a raised elbow, even if no opposing player is struck, a violation -- not a foul, but a loss of possession penalty.  Likewise, I say, throwing a basketball at anyone should be illegal, even if you don't hit the player.

Officials watching TV.  How did we get to point where we spend notable amounts of time while supposedly watching basketball games, watching officials watching TV?  Now, the instant replay as it is used in football is acceptable, as long as it instituted where a coach challenges a ruling.

What on earth are we doing having officials review their own calls?  Call it a two-point shot, call it three-point shot, but don't have the officials going, "I don't know.  Do you know?  I'm not sure," then spending the next five minutes looking a TV monitor trying to decide.

Institute a coach's challenge, where within a restricted amount of time, say up to the end of the next dead-ball situation, the coach may call a timeout and challenge some rulings.  Specifically, he may challenge three-point/two-point shot calls or shots made as the shot clock or game clock expires (the things the refs tend to review now).  If the coach is right, he keeps his timeout.  Otherwise, play the game!

If I were commissioner, I would end forever, perhaps longer, scheduling basketball games in enclosed football stadia.  But, some dimwit might say, well, in a dome don't more people get to experience the game in person?  So, more people getting to have a bad experience is a good thing?  If you have never watched a basketball game in a dome, trust me, it is not a good viewing experience.  If you have, you are already giving me a high-five in your mind.

Want to know why Cameron Indoor Stadium is a really good place to watch a basketball game?  (If you are thinking, being in close confines with the Cameron Crazies, you're one sick puppy.)  A careful technical analysis of the visual and acoustical physics of the building structure and of the social psychology of the spectating audience makes the answer very clear:  it's small and crowded.  Big domes ain't.

I'll go to the special exhibit at the Museum of Life and Science if I want to see ants playing basketball.  Watching people play the sport is a lot more fun.  Know what good dome viewing experience is called?  Watching on the Jumbotron.


Gary D. Gaddy wishes there had been a coach's challenge when he made his personal-record third straight three-point shot in one intramural basketball game when  the lousy official said his toe was on the line.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday March 19, 2009.

Copyright   2009  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:03 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, June 6, 2009 2:31 PM EDT
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