What’s Worse? College Basketball or College Basketball Refs?

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No, this photo isn’t of the play that decided the OSU-ISU game, but it was the closest I could find to the charging call that wasn’t. I don’t care about that call, per se. Its every game I watch, the refs are amateurish. They continually call fouls when they expect a foul, not if one actually happened. They also are in no way consistent. Every close game I watch has a ridiculous call in the final minute. Or three ridiculous calls. The NBA announcers doing the games, like Reggie Miller or Charles Barkley in the studio, are all over this. (At least with NBA refs, when the calls are bad you know its because David Stern ordered it). They are used to a lot better. But the college announcers are completely uncritical. During the Indiana game, even as Indiana was losing, the announcers were just talking about how IU needs this kind of game to be a champion. How about Temple? Are they relevant here?

After a quick google search, I found this complaint a couple of years back about NCAA refs. Not surprised. They are independent contractors, they work way too many games because they need as many games as possible for the money. As the NFL learned this year, you get what you pay for.

For the record, I don’t have a team in this battle–no unrepentanthomerism going on this time. I mean, I did have a team, but they didn’t lose because of the refs, they lost because they pretty much sucked.

I also should say that I used to love college basketball. I used to watch games, then watch NBA games and think the talent wasn’t that different. I mean, NBA is always a lot of stronger guys, but I enjoyed the college game as good basketball. Not this year. I feel like I’m watching something closer to the high school game. Mistakes, missed open shots from everywhere, players losing their balance and falling down, players not being in the right position, on and on. There’s very little quality here. In fact, the shooting is so bad that the NCAA needs a rule change on end of the game free throws. In the NBA, since guys make their free throws pretty regularly, the game doesn’t bog down in constant fouling at the end. Not so here–no body can shoot so the last minute is agonizingly slow. The last minute of Cal-Syracuse last night was absurd. Actually, so was the whole game. Has Cal never seen a zone before? Does Syracuse have a single guy who can shoot? So, its hard to get too excited one way or the other even when there’s ‘madness’ going on. I think I’ve seen one well-played game–Marquette-Butler. I’ve seen all 4 one-seeds play and the only one who looks half decent is Louisville. It used to be that when a top seed lost to a bottom seed, its because the bottom seed slowed the game down and the top seed choked. Is that what happened between Harvard and New Mexico? Seemed more like New Mexico just sucked from beginning to end. They lose that game next time too. (I was bummed about that one because the New Mexico-Arizona rivalry game was going to be exciting for purely reasons of American history). Does Georgetown necessarily beat Florida Gulf Coast next time? I doubt it. And its not really that the low seeds are better, its that the high seeds just aren’t very good. Anyway….

I want to say something insightful, but haven’t figured out exactly what that is, about the fact that grantland’s recent funny “bracket” to figure out the most hated college basketball players of the last three decades ended with largely white guys being at the top. Robert Mays sort of touched on this when he commented with surprise that no one hates Patrick Ewing anymore, and that it’s partly because the kind of old-fashioned racism that led to banana peels being thrown at Ewing in games in the ’80s is arguably gone, or at least relegated to international soccer and Tea Party debates about President Obama. But there’s something racial going on with the fact that the hated players are all largely white. There’s an expectation somehow that they are not authentic basketball players. We hate Duke because it epitomizes whiteness. We don’t go there with Michigan’s Fab 5 or Georgetown or the Tark’s UNLV. I’m NOT saying we should be loving Duke and hating the others. I definitely think that the success of Georgetown and Michigan and UNLV were important advances in American racial culture (and that there’s more dislike of them than being admitted, maybe because–as Mays suggested–they are all teams that are 2 or more decades old.) But there is something else going on here that continues to create racialized categories of authenticity that may lead whites to be the hated ones when it comes to basketball, but will continue to hinder opportunities for blacks when it comes to a range of other sectors in society. We construct categories of authenticity for different spheres of life, and we racialize (and gender) those categories by suggesting that different skills are more legitimate for different groups. Are we doing that with Christian Laettner and Tyler Hansbrough? And are we more subtly doing it as well by not hating Jalen Rose and Patrick Ewing? (I don’t remember Ewing’s college career to know whether he was hate-able; Rose was punky for sure.)

And if we’re talking hated players, how are the mid to late 1990s Arizona Wildcats not higher up, with Miles Simon, Bison Dele (were they on the same team?) and our favorite Celtic, the ever-trash talking Jason Terry? He’s still trash talking even after being slammed by LeBron. That’s why we love him. But (transition moment), I assume when Terry says that a Celtics-Heat playoff matchup is inevitable, he says this with the recognition that the Celtics are now tanking for the 8th spot? It makes sense. We all want that series, so lets have it. And as a current 7 seed, they aren’t getting there by beating the 2 and 3 seeds. Drop another game to the 8th seed (since there’s no possibility they fall to 9th) and let’s get it on. Celtics are flawed, but I think they can make it a memorable series.

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