A foul is not a
foul is not a foul. Not when college and high school fouls are compared to
those called in the professional game. The rules may read the same—a charge is
a charge, a hack on the way to the basket is a hack, two shots awarded—but the
enforcement is different.
the officials try to run the game," says Ken Hudson, a former NBA official
and now a college broadcaster. "In the pros, the officials try to control
the game. They try to let the players play."
Trying to enforce
the pro game the way the college and high school games are enforced would be
like trying to enforce in Manhattan the ordinances of a small town in Iowa. No
spitting in the street? No loud or profane language? No jaywalking? The small
stuff is forgotten in the big city.
"You look at
the people we have now," says Pistons coach Chuck Daly. "The players
have outgrown both the game and the rules. On every shot at the basket, you
have a minimum of six people underneath that rim. They're all at least six feet
seven and weigh 240, 250 pounds. If a guard has taken the shot, you have as
many as seven or eight people in there. You have a lot of big, talented people
doing a lot of things in a confined space."
Let 'em play. That
is the unwritten rule of the NBA. People pay money to see the stars fly and
float. Let the stars fly and float. Someone might be doing something illegal.
Someone else might be doing something illegal in return. Is anyone being hurt?
No? Play on. Keep control, but let 'em play.
looking at an advantage-disadvantage situation," says Darell Garretson, a
veteran referee and the NBA's chief of officials. "Did the person do
something illegal to create an advantage for himself or to put his opponent at
a disadvantage? If he did, then it's a foul. If not...that's a foul we wouldn't
The result is a
game that sends Michael Jordan to the moon and Dominique Wilkins to the foul
line and Isiah and Magic and Larry into the home about a billion times a week
on the cable. The result also is a game that drives refereeing purists and
basketball conservatives to distraction.
"Traveling," you say.