It’s so hard to put Christmas behind us. The gifts. The good cheer. The delicious leftovers. The officiating at the end of the Warriors-Cavaliers game.
In case you missed it in an eggnog stupor, the NBA on Tuesday released its Last Two Minute Report on the NBA Finals rematch at Oracle Arena, and it wasn’t exactly graded with an A-plus. In fact, the league noted that referees Derrick Stafford, Leon Wood and Gary Zielinski failed to call at least four fouls in the final 120 seconds of Monday’s contest.
These included contact by the Warriors’ Kevin Durant on Cleveland’s LeBron James with 1:12 remaining, a bear hug that James wrapped around Draymond Green at the 33-second mark, and two fouls by Durant as James drove to the basket at :27 and again at :25.6.
Presumably, Stafford and his crew got a few things right as that game wound down. Like, they didn’t hit the injured Stephen Curry with a technical foul for yelling from the stands, and no one was called for a late hit on the quarterback.
All in all, though, it was a poor showing by the Men in Black Pants, and their calls had a direct impact on the Warriors’ 99-92 victory.
How, a lot of basketball fans are wondering, could this have happened in one of the most highly anticipated games of the year? NBA officials can use instant replay to determine whether a last-second basket beat the shot clock or game clock, whether a shooter’s foot was on the 3-point line or behind it, whether a ball was out of bounds and whether a defender committed goaltending while swatting a shot, among other quandaries. Why not review foul calls and non-calls as well?
It’s a continual debate that spikes every time a game ends with a controversial call, and it isn’t limited to the NBA. The NFL was the pioneer in video replay, and has the most byzantine system of review. Major League Baseball is along for the ride now, too. And many coaches, writers and fans think none of it goes far enough. Humans are fallible, they argue. Cameras are not. The former should be allowed to use the latter in the execution of their duties.
I agree that we need to move the threshold on instant replay. But we should be going in the other direction. Don’t expand replay reviews; get rid of them altogether.
Are you nodding your head in agreement or scowling at my naivete? The answer might depend on how you answer another question: Are sporting events so important that they demand just outcomes? Or are they primarily entertainment?
For most of us, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. But which way do you lean? Give me the 360-reverse-jamming, chorus-line-end-zone-celebrating, bat-flipping entertainment. And I make no apologies.
Don’t get me wrong. I love sports. They hold powerful personal significance. I cried when Franco Harris made the Immaculate Reception, and ran to class to show off the autograph Kareem Abdul-Jabbar mailed me when I was in second grade. The wife and I missed half a Lamaze class to watch UCLA wrap up the 1995 men’s basketball championship, and some of my dearest memories of my oldest brother, now deceased, take place in the stands at Raiders games at the Los Angeles Coliseum.