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."
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.
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.