From time to time
apologists for the game have made attempts to define the motivations that impel
the buffs to attend these encounters, but their conclusions are almost
invariably desultory and pathetic. The best that this observer, who has also
delved into the matter, can say is that there is no accounting for people's
tastes, because it is well known that some even like fried baby bees, kidney
stew, Garroway, and yodeling, and some root for the Washington Senators.
spectator, who has tried intermittently to warm toward the game in efforts to
relive it up, finds nothing left to cheer for at a basketball contest. Who can
applaud Wilt the Stilt, or his ilk when they outflank the basket from above and
pelt it like an open city? These fellows are biological accidents who ought to
be more usefully employed, like hiring out as rainmakers and going to sow a few
Even that last
precious motivation of healthy partisanship, the pleasure of rooting for
somebody, evaporates at a basketball game in common outrage against the referee
who is usually wronging both teams, as well as the spectators.
always attended by a shrieking dissent from this character, who is trying to
enforce fine-line rules that defy sensible interpretation. It is thus
inevitable that the referee must wind up as the enemy of all cheering sections.
King Solomon would have wisely disqualified himself as incompetent had he been
asked to deliver a fair ruling on blocking vs. charging on the basketball court
Nothing in the
prospectus ever suggested that anybody should pay admission to watch a
basketball referee perform, but their actions would seem to imply that they
believe this to be the case. Most of them consider the basketball court as
their public stage, having taken the cue from the late great Pat Kennedy, an
extraordinary dramatist who invented the role of the domineering, infallible,
showboat referee. The first indication of a rules infraction would set Actor
Kennedy aquiver and his whistle to shrieking. His eyes bulged from their
sockets, the veins showed purple in his neck as he tracked down the miscreant
who had violated something about Kennedy's game. He would put the positive
finger on the culprit with an outward show of anger that others usually reserve
for a rapist.
were at least diverting, but peopling the referee ranks now are only the lesser
hams who have no reason to fancy themselves in his image. The result is pure
cornball as, playing screech-owl tunes on their tin whistles, these Keystone
cops blow the action to a stop apparently on whim.
The game, in fact,
is crawling with would-be scene stealers. In that department the referees are
hard pressed by the coaches on the players' benches. Modern coaches are a breed
better born for the revival tents. They play to the crowd by kicking up a
public fuss at every grievance real or fancied, and communicate by their
gestures that the referees are utter no-goodniks.
The coaches warm
up to their phony sympathy pitch with suitable and audible sighs and groans.
Then come the head-in-hands gestures of utter despair, the falling to the knees
in posture of prayer for greater justice, and then the arms flung wide in
"Please, Almighty," supplication for deliverance from the fiends
blowing whistles. For the most part it adds up to incitement to riot.
Among the pro
teams, all this has filtered up from the colleges where the coaches first
discovered that they, too, could be characters. As usual, the pros have
improved on it, as they have done with most everything else from the colleges,
so that in basketball you now have, in addition to the goons, the flip-top