I Love Bill Simmons

The officiating in the NBA is getting worse, and it seems that this years playoffs have highlighted the problems. Adding fuel to the fire, Bill Simmons wrote an article that appeared today on ESPN (link). It's all about how shitty referees have become, and how they're ruining the playoffs this year. He brings up a lot of really good points, like usual.

First, the NBA can't seem to replenish its officiating ranks. 1937, 1939, 1943, 1944, 1947, 1948, 1950, 1951, 1951, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1955 ... those are the actual birth years of 13 current referees. In professional sports, athletes slip from the ages of 34 to 39 unless they extend their stay with PEDs. In the NBA, in which officials are required to run or jog for 150 minutes and make split-second decisions on hundreds of plays, we're expected to believe that the aging process doesn't apply.
I knew Dick Bavetta could be my great-grandfather, but I didn't realize just how many of these guys are AARP card-holders, or at least close to it. Obviously they won't be able to keep up with freakishly-athletic players playing one of the faster paced professional sports out there. Sure, they would be fine officiating baseball, where there is an umpire on each corner of the field and there's basically no movement required. Some new, fresh officiating talent is needed to make the NBA great just as much as exciting, young players like Rondo are.

My favorite game ever (and not just because Boston won) was Game 4 of the 1984 Finals, the ultimate example of stacked teams battling with an extra edge. I rewatched it last summer and couldn't get over how it would have been wrecked today. McHale gets tossed for the Rambis clothesline. Bird gets T'd for nudging Cooper out of bounds. Kareem gets tossed for nearly slicing off Bird's wispy mustache with an elbow. Maxwell gets T'd for walking across the lane and choking himself after Worthy's missed free throw. On the crucial play of OT, when Magic gets switched onto Bird and they fight for position down low -- with Bird finally draining a turnaround over Magic's mug -- the officials would have called Magic for a foul before Bird's shot happened. Six of the iconic moments of the game ... ruined. Could they have competed as hard with the current rules? No.
Today, these would all be Flagrant-2's, or Flagrant-7's, or whatever. Those numbers are ridiculous anyway. I don't even really know how to react to this.

In that respect, Jordan was both the best and worst thing ever to happen to the league. You know the good things he did, but he also paved the way for a generation of one-on-one players who careen toward the basket in big moments, create some form of contact and hope officials will bail them out.
Completely true. LeBron did it two nights ago, hitting two free throws with less than a second left. Sometimes players do draw actual contact, but other times, they don't, and fouls are called anyway because, well, who knows why. Referees like to please the stars.

Another underrated problem: The three referees are constantly in flux during games. Joey Crawford might end up under Cleveland's basket on one side and standing at midcourt on Orlando's side.
This is something I have never thought of, but it makes perfect sense. In the NFL, the referees have certain positions assigned, like the Head Linesman, who stands at one end of the line of scrimmage, or the Field Judge, who stands down field to watch the secondary (read on Wiki). In the NBA, the refs just kinda run and try and follow the play the best they can, but don't really seem to have assigned spots. I think this is one of the key points in Simmons' argument and something that is very overlooked. With this in my mind, while watching the game tonight, I'll be focusing more on the positioning of the refs.

(The following is absolutely true: Last week, the NBA sent out a memo for its Development League Referee Tryout Camp, which is scheduled for June 19-21 in Los Angeles. Participants officiate two games with prospective D-League players and need a minimum of two years experience at the high school level or higher. Not only do the participants have to pay their own way to get there, but the NBA charges them a $550 fee that covers "lodging for two nights at the camp headquarters, transportation to and from the games, and a camp officiating jersey." YOU HAVE TO PAY TO TRY OUT! The NBA, where amazingly dumb happens.

I doubt that the people who attend this camp even get a second look by the NBA. Simmons suggests paying the D-League refs more money to attract young talent that the NBA can groom. This seems like a great idea, especially as the NBA is in a pretty solid financial situation and could afford a small bump in salaries.

I love Bill Simmons because he is just like me and you, but instead of spending all his time bitching and complaining to friends, he writes excellent articles about pertinent sports issues. This article is no exception.

Oh, and Ortiz just struck out again. They just showed a clip of him in the dugout breaking his bat over his knee. Sad to see his fall.

Here's some Passion Pit to piss off Julian (this song's pretty good, but I really don't like the rest of their new album, 'Manners.')

And here's a really good Atlas Sound song:

The whole album that this comes from, Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel, is better when listened through as a whole, rather than a song at a time. Just keep that in mind when listening.