Thursday, March 20, 2008

Comically stupid NCAA commentary

Hilariously wrong at a critical moment! Bob Wenzel embarrasses himself. Check it out:

Duke leads Belmont by one. Four seconds remain. Belmont in-bounds the ball--the game on the line. Bad pass. Duke steals and is fouled. Officials go to the table to check out how much time is left. It'll be a little under three seconds (they wind up putting 2.7 on the clock, which is what I would have done given the same video).

Wenzel states that the decision of how much to put on the clock is really, critically important, since, and I quote verbatim:

"I would guess about three [seconds] here. That's plenty of time. If it's over three, you can get a shot--and I'm speaking of Belmont. If it's under three, it has to be a tip situation."

Marvelous! He's mixed up three seconds with three tenths of a second! And the assist goes to play-by-play man Craig Bolerjack, who didn't correct this egregious error.

The only thing better would have been to watch Wenzel make this hilarious mistake as a coach. Could you imagine one of his players trying a volleyball-set-style tip to win the game, missing, and waiting two-and-a-half more seconds for the buzzer? I can. I'd love to see it.

Nice job with the color comedy--er, commentary, Wenzel.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Four weeks of a boot and two weeks of a brace later, and I'm pain free. Doctor says that I'll be fine reffing at camp at the end of May.

"Just be sure to warm up. Maybe run around the court before the game begins." They don't let us do that. It would be freakin' ideal if we had our own hoop just off to the side where we could run layup lines while the players do...a few practice thrusts of our fists into the air...but there isn't.

He suggested some squat-thrusts in the locker room. Again, doubtful. Most of the ref rooms 'round here are literally closet-sized.

So I go to my readership (all three of you). How the hell can a ref get a decent warmup? And even if I can, will it go away while I stand like a post by the side of the road for 17 minutes before tipoff? I guess I could pop up onto my tiptoes every 30 seconds or so to keep the ankles fresh, but would that be enough?

I'll be getting a personal trainer sometime in the next two weeks who might answer all this for me, but what do you do?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Obama, Clinton, and "Working The Refs"

I had CNN on in the background while I worked a little bit today, and was more than a little surprised to hear Barack Obama talk about officiating. It's the first big-time political reference to refs since John Roberts' nomination hearings nearly three years ago.

His thesis: Clinton's resurgence in Texas and Ohio this week was in part due to her campaign's complaints about what they saw as pro-Obama media coverage (best exemplified by a Saturday Night Live sketch referenced by Clinton). The media, not wanting to appear biased, responded to these allegations by going harder on Obama and softer on Clinton.

Obama, who played high school varsity basketball for the Punahou School in Hawaii, decided the best way to communicate this was through an officiating metaphor.

The kitchen sink strategy I'm sure had some impact. Particularly when many of you in the press corps felt that you had been too hard on her and too soft on me. Complaining about the refs apparently worked a little bit this week, so in addition to my call to ["Saturday Night Live" executive producer] Loren Michaels, hopefully people feel like everything's evened out and we can start covering the campaign properly.

It won't impact my vote, but I hate anything that perpetuates the myth of the makeup call. The two phrases "Complaining about the refs apparently worked" and "everything's evened out"...well, that's as troublesome to me as the Subway ad was.

I love when people insist they've seen a "makeup call" in an NBA game. I always tell them that every call in every game is reviewed by evaluators, and those evaluations could result in playoff assignments (on one end) or getting fired (on the other). To suggest a makeup call is to suggest that an official would put his or her career on the line by intentionally blowing a call because they feel bad for some poor millionaire player. That's ridiculous on its face.

At the lower levels, I suppose there are officials who can be"worked" by a coach. Of course, it can also work the opposite: an unscrupulous official who wants to show he/she cannot be impacted by a coach might actually call more against the whiner's team. This is, of course, just as morally wrong as to be successfully "worked," since what we all want is to get every call right.

So I guess the one thing that I like about Obama's comment is that it suggests that "working the refs" is out of the ordinary, as the phrase "apparently worked a little this week" indicates that successful "working" is rare and minor.

In any event, I'm more interested in whether the metaphor of press during a campaign=refs during a game holds any water.

It's not just Obama's line; I can find this metaphor in use as far back as this magazine article from a few weeks ago about the Chelsea Clinton "pimping" flap. The author says that "It's normal for campaigns, like athletes, to "work the refs" by protesting bad calls over-energetically."

I can see a lot of similarities between the campaign press and officials. Both are supposed to be impartial observers. Both are supposed to call it like they see it. Neither are supposed to care who wins.

I haven't been following press coverage of the campaign closely enough to determine whether or not they've been partial to Obama (or to Clinton since she started complaining). But I historically have felt dubious about most accusations of partiality in the popular press. I've always felt like, since both sides shout that they have been wronged, the press can't possibly be biased. I feel the same way when I ref a game. If both sides are yelling at me, I might be having a good game (or maybe a bad one), but I'm sure as hell not biased.

So I guess I buy this metaphor. I just wish it didn't add to the myth of the makeup call.

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