By MICHAEL DAY
Depending on the day, fans of the NBA vacillate between “the NBA is rigged” to “all is well” when the topic of officiating is discussed. The league is sensitive to this as it has done its best to provide transparency when evaluating its referees’ performance; however, this does not stop people from drawing their own conclusions regarding the integrity of the league. Enforcing the rules during NBA games is a difficult task, so let’s breakdown four ways to frame the NBA officiating.
The pragmatic view
The NBA players are elite athletes who routinely collide with each other while trying to put a ball in a hoop. It is impossible to call every single infraction as defined by the rulebook due to the sheer number of violations that occur on the court. Not only that, but all of the starting players would routinely commit the limit of fouls allowed and find themselves on the bench, leaving the lesser skilled players deciding games. For the sake of the game, officials only penalize players for the most obvious fouls committed, and this is where ambiguity arrives on the scene.
The fans’ bias view
All fouls called against my team are a devious plot to keep them from winning, depriving me of my right as a sports fan to experience unadulterated joy, because the league hates my team. No matter that the referee didn’t call the possible twenty fouls against my team, it only matters that the referee happened to call the foul that completely turned the game around to my hated enemy’s favor. (Enemies I’ve never met, by the way.)
The star struck view
Life favors the talented, beautiful, athletic, physically imposing people – the superstars, so why would sports cut against the grain of real life? Of course, infractions committed by superstars are ignored to ensure that the best players are on the court during the deciding minutes of the game. Fans are hooked by the drama of larger than life athletes performing at the highest level; therefore, the NBA is giving the people what they want. Also, corruption exists in every organization of society, why would a sports league not bend a little to ensure the best drama is on display?
Conspiracy by numbers view
Since all things in life are driven by net revenue, the scenarios that bring the most money for the league will drive the referees whistle. For example, more playoff games yield more cash; therefore, the referees shape their foul calling strategy to prolong the playoff series; especially, the NBA Finals – the marquee matchup. When one team is on the brink of getting eliminated, the referees suddenly see more fouls that favor the team facing elimination. Also, the teams possessing the richest treasure chests will usually have the most stars. The rich have always ruled and sports are not an exception to this life’s reality.
Which view is yours?