Different topics require different writing styles. Sometimes I basically have to just tell you what’s going on and comment on it. Here I have a few different timely issues that I would like to address. A more typical column is on the way this weekend or early next week.
NCAA Rule Changes
College basketball is introducing some new interpretations of rules this season. The first will prompt officials to call hand-checks more quickly. The second discourages defenders from moving in front of offensive players as they gather to takeoff towards the basket. Many fouls that were charges last year will be blocks this year.
The first change is one that I’m wary of. While ideally hand-checking should be illegal, it’s such a natural part of playing defense. To make up for my slight build and average quickness, I hand check the crap out of my opponent in pickup ball, and I don’t feel badly for it in the least. Coaches are worried this rule change will make for fragmented free-throw contests and eliminate full-court press. I share this concern. No one wants to watch a game with so many fouls called. However, the college game is too physical and offenses suffer for it. In the long run, this rule should help, even if players are slow to adjust and coaches are stubborn to change their strategy of “foul until you get called on it.”
As for the charge rule, this is a terrific change. Making yourself an obstruction isn’t playing defense. When an offensive player goes hurtling towards the basket, if a defender continues to play defense, even if they are moving, I think the officials should rule no-calls. Standing still underneath the basket isn’t playing defense, just like jumping at the hoop through your defender isn’t offense. It will be great to see those close calls where a defender slides over into the path of an airborne offensive player eliminated.
I get tired (ever so tired) of the insistence of some basketball “fans” that the NBA is an inferior brand of basketball, especially when they also esteem the college game. If someone likes college basketball better than the NBA, I have no problem than that. But there are so many false perceptions of each that just baffle me as a basketball enthusiast. Let’s take a look at some common fallacies. Note: I prefer the NBA, but Marquette is my favorite team in any sport.
NBA Regular Season is Boring – Somewhere people got the idea that regular season NBA games are just 48 minutes of three point shots, easy dunks, no defense, and jogging. What’s true is that NBA regular season is much less exciting than the playoffs, but to say it is boring and bad basketball makes no sense to me. A regular season game ebbs and flows as it build towards the final quarter that hopefully showcases a close contest until the end. Teams go back and forth in a chess match as they find what works and who is playing well. Now and then a play explodes in a terrific pass, alley-oop dunk, or big-time block. I used to not be able to see the more intricate workings of an NBA game, but now I do, and I love watching it. You understand why a shot is good now and bad then. And you can see the steady supply of bad basketball and think about why its happening and what the team needs to do differently. Then, when the team starts playing well, you smile and feel good about knowing what needed to happen and seeing pros work to adjust. I think lots of people hate isolation basketball and look at a few good crossover dribbles leading into a stepback jumper as “fake” or “unfair” basketball. Those people need to do three things: appreciate the skill of the offensive player, consider the work put in by the defensive player, and watch more than SportsCenter highlights, because plenty of great passing goes on in an NBA game.
College Basketball is True Basketball – Unless a three point shooting contest is the highest form of basketball, this is false. Players today take more 3’s than ever and convert them at historically low rates. I agree that sometimes college basketball looks faster than pro basketball, but a lot of the time this is a case of guys being out of control and going nowhere fast. I think a lot of fans are tricked into thinking college basketball is more exciting because the arena atmosphere is usually (usually) better at college games than it is at NBA regular season games. That doesn’t make the game on the court any more well-played.
NBA Players Don’t Care – Yes I’m sure the best basketball players got to be the best by not caring. True, some players take nights off. Some are in the league when they shouldn’t be. But to say they don’t care is plain silly. And let’s see you go all-out for 82 games. Actually watch a game and see the emotion players give and then talk about who doesn’t care.
College Basketball Has Better Rivalries – Are the traditions of rivalry better in college basketball? Sure. But does the rivalry really extend to the players? Not so much. Can you tell me that J.P. Tokoto really has a beef with Jabari Parker? On the other hand, how about Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol vs. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan? I contend that player rivalries in the NBA are more intriguing than school rivalries in college.
March Madness is the Best Basketball of the Year – Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. The NCAA tournament is a gratuitous spectacle that showcases the weakness of good teams, the ability of any team to win via the three point shot, too many “upsets”, and a lot of mediocre basketball. Is it exciting? I guess. Best basketball? Lol. The NBA Playoffs are the best basketball on earth. Watch it and escape the mob mentality of March Madness.
Miami Dolphins Issue
You gotta love the NFL, right? Maybe this is why we don’t have an openly gay NFL player yet. Why did Richie Incognito think this was acceptable behavior? Why did no one stop it? Why didn’t Martin come forward with the issue? Why aren’t all players, past and present, defending Martin? Where does hazing culture even get a foothold anyway? How can a team possibly be better with this kind of thing going on? How is it that Incognito appeared to be such a nice guy?
These are all troubling questions. I think the tough thing for a lot of fans is the fact that this probably goes on in a lot of locker rooms at all levels. Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to think Martin’s best course of action would have been to fight Incognito. Yeah, sure, great idea. Let’s encourage players with disturbing rates of suicide and violence to be more violent and hurtful. How does the NFL survive? How do we watch a sport where Aaron Rodgers can prance about with that strange little touchdown celebration on Sunday and players can act in totally unacceptably unkind ways involving hatred and violence during the weekdays? These things cannot coexist. You can’t have big hits and no concussions. You can’t have warrior culture and friendly locker rooms. Athletes everywhere need to step up and act like real men, not bullies. Just because people like Martin should go to authorities, and have full power to do so, does not mean that they are safe because authority figures sometimes fail their charges and the bullied cannot be blamed for not speaking up. It’s the bystander’s responsibility to do something.
What do you think? Will the new rules work? Is college basketball the best thing ever? Does the NFL have a serious problem? Like, comment, subscribe/follow, post to Facebook and Twitter, email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading!
Soli Deo Gloria