It’s an easy news day around the Washington State Cougars, which means it’s just as good as a moment to waste everyone’s time with a bunch of ideas that’ll probably never happen.
I watch a lot of basketball. Like a lot – especially in the month of March. It’s my favorite sport as it was my first love as a fan thanks to these guys.
At its best, basketball is a beautiful, free-flowing game that highlights the players’ grace and athleticism with minimal interruptions in the game. At its worst, it is a battle marked by stops, anti-climax and the best players who see too little of the floor thanks to the great influence of the game’s officials.
If you saw a lot of March Madness last month, you saw way too much of the latter. Here’s the first in the series of how I would try to tilt the game back towards what makes it great.
Let’s start with something we can all hopefully agree on: Game stoppage is awful.
The worst version of this is to take a long break near the end of a game to watch a couple of old guys squint at a computer screen to find out if a ball on its way out of the court touched a player’s fingernail before tried to determine if the clock should say 7.2 seconds or 7.5 seconds. It does not matter if the game is tight or a blowout – a repeat review is without a doubt the least interesting thing that can happen at that moment.
Replay came about in almost every sport due to windy calls that got overall attention. But if you are honest with yourself, replay has hardly been the panacea that was promised. When I balance the unusually rare instances where it corrects a violent error that actually affects the outcome of a game against the amount of time wasted on trivial reviews without significant impact, I can only conclude that replay is a net negative for the sport. . I tune into a match to watch basketball, and do not listen to talking heads mindlessly filling dead air for minutes in a row while the referees try to analyze what happened and how much time should be on the clock.
Incidentally, it is not the fault of the officials. They are doing what they have been asked to do, which is to “get it right”, and it will of course take ETERNITY to “get it right”, as what is “right” is often unclear because even in 2022, there are limits to angles and limits on resolution and frame rates for video.
If a call is occasionally wrong down the line, I can live with it. We live with wrong calls in the other 38 minutes of the game, and those calls do has an impact on the outcome. Pretending the last two minutes are so special is silly and it takes away my enjoyment of the drama.
Less extreme compromise: If you do not think you can live without the possibility of “correcting” a violent mistake at the end of a game, can we at least have a 60-second clock for the review? If you can not figure it out quickly, it is very likely that it is not unique, so just declare it inconclusive and get started with the game. Oh, and get that 60-second review done by a 4th referee with no input from the three match officials, so it might be even faster.
Eliminate timeouts on the bench
I also watch a lot of football. Do you know what football does not have? Timeouts. By a miracle, players play for 90 minutes without being able to stop the game and consult with their coach. That’s the craziest thing! Continuous play is a big part of what makes the sport compelling for those of us who love it. There is no reason why basketball can not do more to make the game more continuous.
And here’s the thing: My proposal to eliminate bench timeouts would not even be that extreme, as college basketball already has four timeouts per half built-in for television! And one half time! It is ni stop where coaches can implement strategic changes! Why on earth would anyone think we need more than that?!?
That’s more than enough, and you know it. They even reduced the number of timeouts a few years ago, so even college coaches know deep down that timeouts on the bench are not crucial to the game.
The problem, of course, is that many college coaches are control freaks with a lot of money running on performance by people who can not yet legally drink, and that kind of guys will never voluntarily let go of their control. Someone has to take it from them. They will adapt! Let the players play and let the coaches shout instructions from the bench between these stops, e.g. during penalty throws. It will be OK.
If you’re worried about games running out of hand because the coach does not want the magic momentum stop, I promise players can learn to deal with it. Do not want to find out? I definitely would! And if they can not handle it, guess what? There’s a TV timeout just around the corner!
Also, if you’re worried that situations in late fights go to hell without the guidance of a proper adult … well, I have news for you: Everyone is damn bad with it already! Again, I think of trade-offs: If we got a pristine execution at the expense of stoppages, I think I should live with it, but we certainly do not. If the execution just gets a little bit worse, but the end of the game gets a lot more fluid, it’s a trade I definitely do.
And for what it’s worth, I’m of the opinion that players do such a bad job at the end of matches, precisely because the coaches have those timeouts. Players have not been trained to think about how to perform down the stretch because they have been trained all their lives to postpone to coaches. That may change. Let them prepare for these things in practice and just play.
Last thing: I know there are a few people out there who actually think timeouts add to the late game drama because it allows suspense to build or whatever. It’s balloney. Watch a sport without timeouts in the last minutes and you will clearly see how full of balloon your take actually is.
Let. Them. Game. It all gets a lot more exciting!
Less extreme compromise: One timeout pr. half, and it disappears after TV timeout under 4 years in the second half. That’s the best I can offer you.
I have several suggestions, but you’ll have to wait for them on another slow news day.
Or maybe I will not finish this series at all!
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