A Band Aid on a Gaping Wound

It’s Just a “Perception” Problem … Really, These are the BEST REFS in the WHOLE WORLD !

NBA Commissioner David Stern has brought in Retired Army Maj. Gen. Ronald L. Johnson to “oversee” the referees.

A couple of quotes tell us all we need to know about this hire. Here’s Commissioner Stern:

“Our referees are the best in the world,” Stern said in a statement, “but they never stop striving to improve and Ron has made a career out of getting the very best out of people.”

And Joel Litvin, president for league and basketball operations:

“We don’t want to make him a star, insofar as the point of an officiating program is be as invisible as possible. But we do understand we have a perception problem and to that extent, we hope to put a better face on the program. It deserves that much.”

Um, OK.

Well, one reason they might have a perception problem is because they rarely call traveling, double dribble, or hanging on the rim anymore, and they often play to the home crowd on foul calls. And so, the perception is that they don’t enforce rules and are too compliant to the home crowd.

In other words, the perception is true. Perception is reality, in this case. In fact, this is the norm; whenever you hear somebody in a position of power talk about a perception problem, it’s actually a reality problem. Almost always.

Because it’s harder to fix reality than to fix perception, of course. Especially when your refs have a union, and some of them have egos the size of an airplane hangar.

And with all of these things that they consistently don’t call, the most obvious violations, that any junior high school ref would call in a heartbeat … these are the best refs in the world? That’s pretty brazen. False, too. NCAA refs seem to call the rulebook more closely, for one thing. High school refs are even more stringent. Rules are rules, and ignoring them does nothing useful for the game itself, but it does empower the officials too much, by giving them excessive influence over the game.

So let’s be frank here — first, it is more than just a perception problem, and second, I don’t suspect that addressing just the perception problem is going to make them blow the whistle to call traveling anytime soon.

Hence, not much will change. Except maybe the perception, which fools only the easily fooled, but is the preferred method of dealing with just about any PR crisis these days.

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