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BASKETBALL IS FOR THE BIRDS
Shirley Povich
December 08, 1958
To lead off this special issue, a famous dissenter was asked to state his case. He has—and eloquently. Before you turn to the Spectacle, the personalities, the scouting reports, and The Dream Team, read: BASKETBALL IS FOR THE BIRDS
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December 08, 1958

Basketball Is For The Birds

To lead off this special issue, a famous dissenter was asked to state his case. He has—and eloquently. Before you turn to the Spectacle, the personalities, the scouting reports, and The Dream Team, read: BASKETBALL IS FOR THE BIRDS

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The basketball rules, in themselves, are enough to baffle anybody with an orderly mind. The game launched its popularity with simple restrictives like five players to a side and don't step outside the marked lines. Now it is a confounding jumble of personal fouls, traveling fouls, dribbling fouls, whistles, buzzers and bonuses for injured innocence.

It was not much overdrawn when somebody once said that the basketball people scribble new rules with a pen in each hand for fear of being caught up with. What was permitted last year is this year's foul. In the pro league, even last night's rule book is apt to be outmoded, with President Maurice Podoloff ordering revisions at any hour he can get his referees on the telephone.

The pros' mania for changing the rules cropped up again in October when two new rules governing foul shots were adopted. There is actually the stipulation that one of the new rules would be considered official only during an allotted one-month tryout—a sort of rookie rule, as it were.

The other new rule of the pros deals with double fouls and now provides for a jump ball between the centers of the two teams. But wait. Identifying the centers apparently is not so simple in this modern age of basketball, because the rule takes care to spell out "If a dispute arises as to who is center of a team, it shall be resolved by the referees."

The once-respected place tags have gone from the game. Every position is now so freewheeling that the centers, guards and forwards can be positively identified as such only by lip tattoo. It amounts to basketball's for-real version of the "Who's on First?" vaudeville routine of Abbott and Costello.

To add to the confusion, the colleges a few years back introduced a queer something called the "one-and-one" foul. The bright minds who thought that one up should be cited for deportation as saboteurs of the American way of life.

It is flabbergasting to know that the one-and-one foul, which is awarded victims of aggression, is sometimes two foul shots, sometimes one, depending on the inaccuracy of the man on the free-throw line. If he sinks his first free shot, he is deemed to have exacted the offender's debt to basketball society and the referee says that's all.

But if the fouled citizen misses his first free throw, he is now entitled to take another, honest. Failure is rewarded, success is penalized. It is George Orwell's 1984 in action. Black is white, Truth is false. Love is hate, and Big Brother Referee is always present.

The pros have gimmicked it up even more. Now there is a something extra called a bonus free throw. That goes to the aggrieved team if the fouls by the other side total as many as seven in any period. The spectator without a Comptometer is lost, and only certified public accountants can follow the scoring, except when the board lights up like a jackpot-hit machine.

In what exact year basketball began to go sour as a game cannot be precisely determined here, but there had to be alarm on a certain night in 1949. That was when one man, Paul Arizin, of Villanova, scored 85 points in one game. To the basketball fundamentalists, that was as disgraceful as it was remarkable.

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