01/06/10 — Opinion: Consistency lacking among basketball referees' calls, judgment of plays

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Opinion: Consistency lacking among basketball referees' calls, judgment of plays

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on January 6, 2010 1:46 PM

The following column is written on the premise that sometimes it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission for what I'm about to say.

In four years as a sports writer I've learned to accept the fact that to be honest and polite as possible, high school officials regardless of the sport, are generally high school quality.

It has come to my attention recently that among high school officials basketball referees are the most notoriously inconsistent.

It is common knowledge and widely accepted that baseball umpires, regardless of the level of baseball on which they work, interpret the strike zone differently. Football referees from Pop Warner to the NFL miss a holding call or a pass interference penalty from time to time. Soccer officials occasionally overlook a handball or fail to hand out a necessary yellow card.

However, these same officials are typically consistent with their inadequacies throughout the course of a ballgame. It is difficult to say the same thing about high school basketball referees.

In recent weeks I have witnessed the strictness, or lack thereof, in which high school basketball games are officiated fluctuate not just from a varsity girls' contest followed by a boys' game, but from quarter to quarter within the same game. Most coaches, fans and players -- when honest -- would probably admit they would rather an official be strict or lenient from start to finish in a game but not both.

Also lacking in high school basketball referees is a clear interpretation of the rules. Rarely do all three officials on the floor have the same understanding of basic rules such as traveling, carrying the basketball, charging, blocking, over the back and I'll stop there, but could go on for quite a while.

In a game I covered in recent days, I witnessed one officiating crew call seven charges in the same game.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing is the majority of those plays weren't remotely close to actually being charges. There shouldn't be seven charges called in one game if you're playing in Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium, let alone in former Blue Devil Shane Battier's driveway.

Possibly the most head-scratching downfall of high school basketball referees is the make-up call. I've never been able to grasp if an official feels compelled to level the playing field after realizing he or she blatantly missed a call or made one that was clearly inaccurate. Two wrongs don't make a right in life and they definitely don't in basketball, either.

Almost every facet of life from the workplace, to the classroom and to the highway centers around a set of rules. Those rules provide structure and knowing those rules is just as important as following them and enforcing them consistently.

I've never claimed to be perfect and those who know me well could attest to my countless imperfections.

Nobody expects high school basketball officials to be perfect ... just consistent. If they're not capable of providing consistency perhaps they should consider hanging up their whistle.