Odds and ends

Yeah, I’m still out here.  Not too much has happened in the world of refereeing since my own season ended, and the birth of boy #2 a couple of weeks after my playoff games has occupied a lot of my mind. But here are a couple of things I’m thinking of.

–NBA ref Bill Spooner is suing an AP reporter for claiming he promised Timberwolf coach Kurt Rambis a “makeup call” during a January game.  The reporter tweeted that, after a Timberwolf foul, Spooner promised Rambis that he would “get it back.”  Spooner is vehemently denying saying this…and good for him.  The NBA investigated and found no wrongdoing…but the NBA also suggested to Spooner’s attorney that suing a reporter for an inaccurate tweet might not be fruitful.

I’ll be interested to follow this one.  I’m not sure it will go anywhere.  Not surprisingly, I’m sympathetic to Spooner, mostly because he’s fighting the whole “makeup call” myth.  A makeup call falls under the “getting  it wrong on purpose” category, so to accuse a ref of that is pretty severe.  The idea that Spooner would get it wrong on purpose when he is evaluated on every call in every game (except the easy ones, which are ignored), and the only criterion for evaluating those calls is their correctness, is flat-out ludicrous.  It suggests that Spooner would risk his playoff assignments, reputation, and even his livelihood because he feels bad for a coach.  Yeah, I feel bad when I get one wrong…but not enough to get another one wrong.  If anything, it makes me bear down harder to get the next one right, no matter who the call is for or against.  I don’t give a crap about either team…only about right and wrong calls.

The point behind all of this is that, even though fans seem to think it’s a part of officiating culture, we as officials are never, ever taught, at any level, to do such a thing.  The closest I’ve ever heard is “if you call a bang-bang call [a block/charge, for instance] one way at one end, and something similar happens at the other end soon thereafter, you’d better call it the same way.”  But that’s not a makeup call, as it is not getting it wrong on purpose.  It’s giving similar results to similar plays, which I don’t think anybody could argue with.

So if this lawsuit airs out the intense NBA evaluation procedures, the result can only be good.

–WAAAAY back, Sports Illustrated suggested that home-field or home-court advantage is exclusively a product of officials being unconsciously biased towards the home team.  The study is interesting to me because of the specificity of the numbers it uses.  Some are quite compelling, but some seem to me to have other,  more sensible explanations than unconscious referee bias.  The study is interesting enough that it requires a bigger response than I can give here.  I’m much more interested in a study with numbers and data than the usual idiot fan’s idea of “Well, all referees always do makeup calls/star treatment/hate my team…”, and I’d like to give this a solid response.  So consider this a rain check.  With summer vacation just around the corner for this teacher, I’ll get to it.


About Paul Hamann
I am a basketball referee in Washington State, working mostly high school games.

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