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NBA

There’s Only One Solution To Bad Refereeing

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Right next to the sensible rule that nobody ever wants to hear about your fantasy team is this new one: Nobody ever wants to hear your take on NBA officials.

And not just your take, but everyone’s. It’s not that NBA officials are necessarily good, mind you; that will always be an individual standard set by you for your own needs, and we don’t want to rob you of your reason for hate-watching games. We understand that in many cases if you can’t scream incoherently at amalgamated pixels forming Miscellaneous Gray Shirt 58 for not giving you what you wanted at a specific moment, you’d have nothing to say at all, which makes you a bad viewing companion. And if you are watching by yourself, who cares why you’re yelling?

But after receiving several phone calls from friends, acquaintances, and in one case the son I had a minimal role in raising, all grousing about the unmet officiating standard in the Game 2 of the first-round series between Portland and Denver, it occurred to me that rather than explain why the game went the way it did, I have seized upon the only answer that satisfies me.

Yeah. So?

I used to try and explain angles and areas of responsibility, advantage/disadvantage, the difficulties of trying to militantly standardize something that can’t be competently standardized, and a bunch of other arcane things that whizzed past the heads of my companions. Trust me, nothing is more soul-draining than saying the sentence, “Oh, David Guthrie isn’t that bad,” only to realize that that nobody knows who the hell David Guthrie is or is interested in ever learning.

And that’s your problem with officials, and therefore our problem with you shouting about officials. Not knowing who they are definitely takes away a lot of the expertise you want in a quality rant, and the NBA has worked hard to make them all look, act, and be the same, a total fool’s errand for which the league office is exceedingly well qualified.

The fact is, and it cannot be disputed no matter how often Mark Cuban tried to back in the day, it is important to know the people who are crushing your spleens by name so your complaint has the benefit of seeming like you know what the hell you’re looking at, even if, as is usually the case, you don’t.

People used to know who NBA officials were, and it helped their powers of invective. It didn’t change your level of disgust, but it allowed you the vanity of faux-expertise. You could pretend to make cogent observations like “Joey Crawford has a temper,” or “Danny Crawford is a good player’s ref,” or “Broderick Crawford was a character actor who died 35 years ago,” even though the only one you would ever need to verify was the last one. It mattered that you could put a name to the omnibus cry of “_______ Sucks.” You got the ego stroke of knowing something your friends didn’t know, or at least you could impress strangers at the other end of the bar. Maybe once in a thousand times you got a free drink out of it, and who are you to turn down a tumbler full of McVagrant’s Stormdrain Select on someone else’s dime?

The point is, you could yell at Dick Bavetta because you recognized Dick Bavetta, and you could fume about Mike Callahan because he looked like a video game character you once saw, or flip double birds at Bob Delaney because he was part of the Lacquered Hair Brigade that always gave you the creeps. Now, who have you got? Ed Malloy because he is nine feet tall and weight 78 pounds? Scott Foster because he looks and acts like your elementary school principal? Tony Brothers because he has enough eyebrows to cover Anthony Davis and still have enough left over for Groucho Marx 2.0?

No. You probably don’t bother even to that extent, so your anger dies in impotence. And if you’re going invest enough time to bark out meaningless statistics like “They’ve called 52 fouls tonight,” like that’s a thing, at least be able to direct your bile.

And in the alternative, just shut up about it. You’re always going to hate them, whether they’re good or awful because it’s not about them, it’s about you. And only you. Remember that. This is clearly a you problem, your own valueless two-minute report, because the NBA has, is, and will always be quite untroubled by it.

Hope that helps. But in either event, just keep it to yourself.