Off Topic: On Bad Broadcasters and Bad Officials

Since the Blazers package is on Comcast and we have the dish, there are times I do not get to see their games. Some other games I will watch, some I won't. The ones I won't are typically those dominated by dull, plodding players who are engaged in the wrong sport. Teams I will watch almost anytime tend to be those that run, score a lot, and are entertaining...I would include the Suns, Mavericks, Warriors in that group for sure, and some other teams are getting there.

So when ESPN had the Suns and Mavericks game it seemed like a good time to watch. Two talented teams that play a more open style, have the flash on offense and the ability to provide the occasional spectacular play on defense, this is my type of game.

Unfortunately, the broadcasters were no Statler and Waldorf. Since I tuned in at half-time and the first few minutes of watching were sporadic, I did not catch their names. That is probably a good thing or they might find themselves consigned to the "O 'Neal" list...that is, players I dislike watching for whatever reason.

It was the color commentator in particular who repeatedly made the comment(s) that just gets under my skin and points out a problem with the NBA game today. He was going off against "floppers" such as he was accusing Devin Harris of being.

Now, flopping is an art that we can pretty much do without. Laimbeer was really good at it and got under people's skins. That habit existed pre-Laimbeer and will exist long after Harris is retired. At the same time, it is a necessary tool because the NBA refuses to enforce its own rules.

If the defensive player establishes position and the offensive player initiates contact to move him from that position it is, by rule, an offensive foul. It is a charge and should be called as such. However, some players...yes, I am looking in the direction of Shaquille O'Neal here, a rugby player I have complained about before...are so strong that the referees would not call it.

Actually, to be fair, that "non-call" was around before O'Neal and it is not his fault he took advantage of how calls were being made. A lot of post players do the same thing. Not as talented as a Hakeem Olajuwon with his "Dream Shake" or a David Robinson with his smooth moves or even...Laker-hater that I am, it is hard to admit this...the sky-hooking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, these post players don't bother to deke their opponent to get open, they simply run over him using their size/strength.

And commit uncalled offensive fouls.

Virtually every time he touched the ball Shaquille O'Neal ran over people and the poor sap on the receiving end got called for the foul. It was horrible, horrible basketball and just no fun to watch. When I want to watch big strong guys pushing and shoving I watch the NFL or wrestling. When I want to watch an athletic competition, I watch basketball.

But since the referees often do not call that charge, the defenders have to find other tools. One such tool is the flop. Sure, players fall more than necessary...but if they don't then officials don't call the charge.

This color commentator was so incensed about the second Harris flop that he said something along the lines of, "I hate floppers so much that even if they deserved the call I would not give it to them.". Guess we are all glad YOU aren't the ref then, aren't we? Picking and choosing which rules to follow and which ones not to follow is a recipe for disaster. It has led to the 90-84 snoozefests that have blotted the NBA schedule for a few years now. Gone are the free-flowing, up and down high scoring affairs. In their place we have walk the ball down the floor, have two guys play sumo for a few seconds until one throws up a shot, rinse, repeat.

Seriously, what NBA Finals has compared, in the last couple decades, to the year the Bulls and Suns combined for something like 3 million points in 6 games? Barkely, Jordan, that was a finals worth watching! Contrast that with the yawners produced by the Pistons, Heat, so bad, so unwatchable that most of us didn't. And a lot of it goes back to the referees refusing to make the correct call.

If a guy moves a set defensive player by sheer strength and gains an advantage it is a charge and should be called as such. Let's open the game up a bit and make it the athletic contest that makes for entertainment and put the kibosh on the pushing and shoving that replaces skill and lets the strongman competition winners dominate the game.

Last night was a good example. Stoudemire got called for a couple of fouls for running over his defender. So the Suns shifted their offense a bit and soon, instead of him standing there with his back to the basket, waiting for the entry, then running over a guy, they started moving, passing, driving to the bucket...and yes, he was throwing down some ferocious cuts as the movement got him open. Instead of strength he was using speed and agility, showing some tremendous skill.

At the other end of the floor you saw much the same thing from Dirk Nowitski. When he did post up, he used speed, agility, and a great fake to unleash his Purvis-Short reminiscent shot. Beautiful. That is basketball as it should be played.

You can have skilled post play. For all his whining about foul calls, Duncan is a great post player. He gets his shot off with slick moves, not Gorilla Bench Presses. Portland's own LaMarcus Aldridge is another one who works a variety of fade-aways to score from the post. It does not have to be a war zone. It is more entertaining to watch when it isn't just big guys pushing and shoving. And when the commentators aren't blowing out your eardrums with their backwards comments praising boring, illegal basketball.

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