bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Should officials call games differently in the waning moments?

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Of all the aspects of sports that cause arguments and opinions, officiating is one of the most obvious. Some people would say that the best officials are the ones that you don’t notice during a game, but I would disagree with that. Just as too much referee involvement can make a mess of a contest, too little can do the same. One specific subject on which many people disagree is whether or not officials should change their calls late in a game to avoid having a major effect on the outcome. The people who think whistles should be swallowed in the final minutes will have a lot to complain about if they watched the Richmond-Charlotte game in the opening round of the Atlantic-10 Basketball Tournament on Thursday.

Richmond was leading by three with five seconds left in the game and Charlotte had the ball. The smart play there is to foul, as it statistically less likely that the offensive team will be able to manage to get the three points they’d need to tie than if they were able to try a three-point shot, as they would need to make the first foul shot, intentionally miss the second and get the rebound, following that up with a basket. Richmond did indeed foul, and Charlotte’s Pierria Henry went to the line. He made the first shot, and that’s when an amazing turn of events began. Because this situation calls for a one-and-one (you only get a second shot if you make the first), two players began to fight for rebound position under the basket. Charlotte’s Willie Clayton grabbed Richmond’s Derrick Williams by the head, and Williams respond by shoving Clayton to the floor. As is often the case, the retaliation was the only thing the ref saw, and a foul was called on Richmond. Here’s where things got weird. Apparently, the moment after a made free-throw is a dead-ball situation. That foul was then a technical foul by rule, which meant that Richmond would be awarded two additional free throws (beyond the one they were about to shoot), and would also get the ball. Henry made all three of those shots, giving his team a one-point lead. Now, with Charlotte inbounding the ball, Richmond had to foul. They did so, but did it as Henry threw up a shot from near midcourt. The call was that he was in the act of shooting, and he was awarded three shots. At this point, Richmond coach Chris Mooney lost his mind, throwing such a fit that he was called for consecutive technical fouls and was kicked out of the game. Henry now had seven foul shots coming, and he made four of them, giving Charlotte a five point lead, which was the final margin of victory. Anyone watching, especially the people ion attendance at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, had to be absolutely flabbergasted. Richmond fans had to feel like they had been punched in the face.

What should have happened here? Should the initial foul have been called? I have heard a lot of people say that the referee should not have made that call, but I think that is not fair to say. A player got shoved to the ground with a two-handed push directly in front of him. How could he not make the call? I believe that the most important thing in officiating is consistency. Players must be able to know that a certain action will bring a certain response at all times, including the end of the game. Why would it be okay to throw a player to the ground just because there are only a few seconds left in the game? Where do you draw the line? The fact that the foul ended up being a technical foul is a separate issue. That may be a stupid rule (it is), but it is the rule as it stands currently, so once the foul was called, what followed was not the referee’s choice. Mooney’s responsibility for the loss should not be underplayed. It is a coach’s job to set an example for his team, and to remain in control under all circumstances. I am an emotional guy, and spent plenty of time grumbling at officials when my daughters were playing intramural basketball in middle school, so I can just imagine how I’d behave if I were a coach of a major college program playing in the conference tournament and was faced with the situation presented to Mooney on Thursday. Still, to do anything that guarantees that your team has no shot to win is the worst thing a coach could do. He apologized after the game, once he had a chance to cool down.

Whether the clock shows that a game is in its first two minutes or its last two minutes, the rules are the rules and the calls should be the calls. “Just let them play” never produced a well-officiated game, and is not in the best interest of fairness and competition.

Bad sports, continued:

2) Elvis Dumervil, a star defensive end for the Denver Broncos, is no longer a member of the Broncos due to a bizarre sequence of events on Friday. Dumervil had agreed to a pay cut, allowing him to remain with the team, which would have had to cut him to avoid his $12 million salary from becoming fully guaranteed once the 4:00 deadline was reached on Friday, indicating the start of the new league year. Somehow, Dumervil’s agent did not get the signed agreement to the team in time (they still use fax machines??), and the Broncos were forced to cut him anyway, making him a free agent.

3) Michael Vick had to cancel a few stops on his book tour this week due to threats against him and employees of the stores hosting the signings. The tour is to promote his autobiography.

4) A bus carrying the women’s lacrosse team from Seton Hill University, a small school near Pittsburgh, to a game on Saturday veered off the Pennsylvania Turnpike and crashed into a tree, killing the driver and the team’s coach, Kristina Quigley, who was pregnant at the time of her death. A number of others on the bus were injured.

5) Donte Stallworth, a free agent wide receiver who most recently played for the New England Patriots, was injured on Saturday after a hot air balloon in which he was flying with two others hit some power lines. He remains hospitalized in the Miami area with some serious burns.

6) Two people were killed at a race track in Northern California on Saturday during a sprint car race when a car unexpectedly careened onto pit road without slowing, hitting two people who were in one of the pits.

7) Due to an awkwardly timed conference final, which it won, and a bunch of New York-area traffic, the St. Louis University basketball team was forced to watch the NCAA Basketball Tournament Selection Show in a Best Buy in Secaucus, New Jersey. They got to the television section in time to see that they were made a number four seed in the Midwest Region.

8) Giorgos Katidis, a midfielder for AEK Athens, has been banned for life from the Greek National team after giving a Nazi salute following a goal he scored during his team’s match against Veria on Saturday.

9) Mike Cisco, a pitcher in the Philadelphia Phillies minor-league system, was traded to the Los Angeles Angels for nothing. That’s right…not even cash or future considerations. Officially, he was traded for “no compensation.”

Good sports:

1) At age 53, Mitch Seavey became the oldest musher to ever win the Iditarod on Tuesday, completing the 1000 mile course with his team of dogs in nine days, seven hours and 39 minutes. The previous oldest winner, Jeff King, won it at 50.

2) With a little over fifteen and a half minutes remaining in the final of the Big East basketball tournament, the Louisville Cardinals trailed the Syracuse Orange by sixteen points, 45-29. Not only did Louisville come back and win, but they won by seventeen points, 78-61. That is an amazing 33 point swing in less than a half.

3) A few weeks back (#8 under Bad Sports on February 18th), I wrote about a young girl who was being barred from continuing to play football in a CYO league due to the fact that she was a girl. In the interest of fairness, I want to call attention to the fact that the Archbishop has decided that she will be able to continue to play.

Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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