Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Case for Special Pleading

Besides politics, sports creates the most opportunities for man to engage in Special Pleading.

Those who fall prey to the Special Pleading often defend actions committed by members of their party while condemning members of the other party for those same actions.

Yesterday, the Bulls lost a tough game to the Celtics. With the Bulls losing by 2 and a few seconds remaining, Brad Miller received an in-bounds pass and lumbered to the basket for a game tying shot. While en route, Rajon Rondo of the Celts swung and hacked him across the face, opening up a cut and knocking Miller down. It took several minutes for play to resume and a clearly woozy Miller short-armed the first free throw pretty much ensuring the Bulls loss. The foul probably should have been called a flagrant foul.

After the goonish behavior of some teams (mainly the Pistons and Knicks) in the late 80's and early 90's, the NBA instituted the flagrant foul to distinguish between hard contact fouls and attempts to strike the player to stop them from scoring. Rondo intent was to strike Miller to stop him from scoring. It was not a play on the ball, it was not a hustle play with incidental yet forceful contact but a wild swing of the arm with a deliberate intent. The so-called 'no easy lay-ups in the playoffs'.

But, in comes the Special Pleading by Celtic fans. To wit: Rondo's smaller than Miller! The refs called Ray Allen for bogus fouls, this (non) call makes up for them. Miller is dirty so this is justice. Bulls fans are cry-babies. Kevin Garnett is classy!

I don't blame referees for calls (unless they actually commit a crime) as they have an extremely difficult job. However, it is why I favor instant replay as an aid to getting calls correct.

Of course, the ironic thing is, Boston fans and the Boston Globe recently hyped a referee/Bulls conspiracy. Of course, crying conspiracy now allows the Celtics fans to angrily denounce the non-flagrant call as sweet, sweet revenge. And it also affords them the mental gymnastics to never face the proposition the Bulls are the better team in this series and should have won. But, the Bulls lost and might not have the energy to pull out the series in 7.

Listening to 670 The Score on the day after the Flagrant game was interesting. The key overlooked position is the NBA assumed unwritten policy of make-up calls during a game. Perhaps the Ray Allen foul out call was wrong, so the refs made up for that by not calling a flagrant on Rondo to "even" the score. Sports blogs are full of Celtic fans espousing the two wrong calls make a right and citing earlier "examples" of refs missing calls as a defense for the non-flagrant call.

Being an NBA referee sucks. I wouldn't want the job. They immediately anger 50+% of the fans who watch the game for human mistakes. Rondo's head chopping call was an obvious foul call but much of what they do is interept fast paced action involving incredibly gifted men (but not women since they shouldn't play basketball). They are going to make mistakes, they are going to miss minute details. It fucking happens. They should not be derided for that, but any intentional direction to even out missed calls by missing future ones is unacceptable.

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