Officiating Changes? Please and Thank You, NBA

NCorrespondent ISeptember 12, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 14:  Hedo Turkoglu #15 of the Orlando Magic discusses a call with referee Dan Crawford in the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Five of the 2009 NBA Finals on June 14, 2009 at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

I’ve never truly contemplated sending a thank-you card to a professional sporting league before.

I mean, I thank people for birthday presents and holiday gifts, but sending a nice Hallmark card (or at the very least, a spiffy e-card) to a sporting league before? To be honest, it had never really crossed my mind.

Until now.

I’m at my computer. I cruise over to the ESPN's home page. My eyes fall upon the headline for Marc Stein’s article: “NBA Referees Expect to be Locked Out on Oct. 1.”

Naturally, I click. I read. And the first thing I think is not “Wow, what does this mean for the season?” It’s not even “Those poor underpaid referees with bad retirement packages. How dare the league slight them like this!” Nope. None of those thoughts even cross my mind. The first thing I’m thinking?

“Thank you, NBA. I’d rather have no referees than the lousy ones the you employ.”

Think about that. I would rather David Stern allow ten grown men wrestle over a basketball with absolutely no supervision then have three middle-aged men with whistles try to control a basketball game.

The saddest part? I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

As a basketball fan, the 2009 postseason was the final straw. There was officiating controversy in every single round. Phantom fouls. Obvious fouls ignored. Players who were literally grabbing their opponents faces and throwing them to the floor (yes, I mean you, Rajon Rondo), for God’s sake!

It was ridiculous. It was barbaric.

My two younger brothers call their driveway basketball games better than the professional referees did this summer. In fact, maybe I’ll include their contact information in my thank you to David Stern. They don’t need retirement packages or pay raises. Just give them some pizza and the chance to use the court for a pick-up game at halftime and they’ll be golden.

Unfortunately, my hope for NBA games sans referees will not be fulfilled. Stein reports that the NBA will likely use replacement referees while they negotiate terms with the "official" officials.

But you know, negotiating with the guys in stripes shouldn’t take up all of the NBA’s time. In fact, maybe they could use this opportunity to discuss what they can do to make a referee’s job a little easier.

For instance, a booth review/challenge system. Referees make a couple dozen calls a game, right? You can’t expect them to be right all the time. No one’s perfect. They’re gonna mess up.

So why not use technology to help them out a little bit? How about this: every three-pointer is automatically reviewed. That’ll take, what two seconds? No more controversy regarding the arc!

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Any hard foul is automatically reviewed in the booth. Let’s face it, it is very difficult for an official to review plays on the court with the fans as close to their ear as they can get. Review in a booth eliminates the ability of a crowd to “influence” a call.

And everyone knows that the last two minutes of a basketball game are the most intense. Give each coach one challenge for the final two minutes, kind of like football. They can use the challenge on an out of bounds call, goaltending, etc. If the coach is right, they keep the challenge. If they’re wrong, they lose it.

Referees can’t see everything. It’s physically impossible. Let the booth help them. Of all the fouls that they miss (like if Dwight Howard is getting hacked every time he goes to the basket or if LeBron is doing his darn crab-dribble every time he gets the ball or flopping as soon as someone even looks at him funny), the booth could make note of it.

If it’s happening repeatedly, the booth quickly splices together the footage and the refs take a look during halftime. It’s possible. If CBS, ABC, TNT, and all those media networks can have a championship montage put together two minutes after the final whistle blows, the NBA can definitely employ booth operators that can edit tape. Don’t tell me it’s not possible.

This is not your grandfather’s NBA. The shorts are longer, the players are stronger, the game is quicker.

It’s sad that it’s gotten to the point where no officials would be better than the ones currently whining about their retirement plan. But utilize the technology at our fingertips and train the replacement referees well and the league and quality of the games will much improve.

I’ve decided if the NBA locks out the referees in October, I’ll send them that spiffy e-card. If they decide to make some changes to the officiating system as a whole, they’ll get the fancy stationary. They’ll get the envelope and stamps and speedy delivery.

You think I can find David Stern’s address on Google?