You would think that a professional sports league that has recently been rocked by an officiating scandal would have its referees on their best behavior.
But after the fallout from the Tim Donaghy fiasco, where it was revealed (among other things) that NBA referees did indeed have biases towards certain players and teams which affected the outcome of the games they officiated, it would seem that NBA referees are letting their emotions get the best of them while they are trying to do their jobs.
I’m not gong to accuse the referees of fixing Game 5 for the Magic by calling a host of fouls on the Boston Celtics, but it was obvious that the referees in this game let their emotions get a hold of them and it negatively affected the way they called the game.
As a professional referee in a major professional sport these guys have to be able to check their ego at the door and keep any emotion they may have out of the way they call the game.
Any NBA game (much less the Eastern Conference finals) should be called by an impartial crew of referees who are essentially devoid of emotion and are simply there to do the best job that they can.
I’m not suggesting the officials act like robots but they need to keep a cool head and not let their emotions play much of a role in the way they call the game so they can stay focused on what they’re supposed to be doing.
There’s no doubt that referees have an insanely tough profession and the majority of the time they do their job very well.
Almost everyone understands that bad calls are going to happen, they’re just a part of the game and there’s nothing that can be done about them. After all, referees are human and make mistakes just like everyone else.
Furthermore, over the course of an NBA season and even a seven game playoff series these bad calls go both ways and generally tend to even out.
But what shouldn’t happen is the situation that manifested itself in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday night.
Kendrick Perkins, who has a reputation for being a physical player, was given two technical fouls, both of which were questionable at best and resulted in him being ejected from the game before halftime.
The first of which was a double technical given to Perkins and Magic center Marcin Gortat, when it appeared that Perkins inadvertently elbowed Gortat while trying to help teammate Paul Pierce up after a hard foul.
While it didn’t seem like the interaction warranted a double technical, I can understand that the referees were trying to prevent anything from getting out of hand between two of the biggest guys on the court.
But then Perkins was whistled for a second technical foul after a slightly demonstrative reaction to a touch foul called by referee Eddie F. Rush when the Celtics center was trying to deny an entry pass to Dwight Howard.
At which point, despite an initial reaction, Perkins began walking away from Rush in an effort to prevent showing up the referee, but he tossed Perkins out of the game like a bouncer throwing some drunk guy out of the club because he just puked all over the dance floor.
It would appear that Eddie Rush let his emotions get the best of him in this situation and reacted too quickly to Perkins showing his displeasure to what he thought was a questionable call.
Rush’s initial reaction (which is fueled by emotion) to Perkins protesting the foul call was to whistle him for his second technical of the game. That ended up being the wrong call.
If Rush had had his emotions under control he would’ve been able to understand the gravity of the situation and keep a cool head while simply whistling Perkins for a personal foul which he thought was committed.
Instead, he wasn’t able to do this and because of it, Perkins was ejected from the game before the second quarter was over.
Not to say that it would have made a difference in the outcome of the game had Perkins played the second half, but the point is we shouldn’t have to wonder if the game would have ended differently.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that an NBA referee has let their emotions get the best of them in the past few days.
On May 18, at halftime of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, Joe DeRosa was walking over to the scorers table to get his jacket when a Magic fan said something to the 18-year NBA veteran referee.
DeRosa was obviously upset at what the fan had to say as his reaction to the comment was to throw the game ball at the fan.
In what was one of the more ridiculous reactions to a fan’s criticism over the way DeRosa and his crew had called the first half, DeRosa obviously let his emotions get the best of him and showed very little restraint or self control in this instance.
While it’s not really that big of a deal, a referee throwing a ball at a fan who was probably drunk and out of line, it makes you wonder how DeRosa deals with Rasheed Wallace riding him the entire game for missing a call.
If DeRosa can’t even keep his emotions in check when dealing with some drunken fan taking exception with his calls, how is he going to deal with over two hours of criticism from both the Magic and Celtics without it affecting the way he calls the game?
There’s no quick fix to the problem of NBA officials getting caught up in the emotion of the game, but it’s obvious that it can have an affect on the way the game is officiated and this is not a good thing for the NBA, the fans, or the players.
Officials are human and it is impossible for anyone to keep their emotions inside all the time, but that is what these officials are paid to do — call the game from an unbiased perspective.
If these officials can’t keep their emotions in check we should just pick two Magic fans and two Celtic fans out of the crowd and let them call the games, at least this way it would be clear what referees were favoring what teams.