I wanted to wait a little bit before talking about the technical foul issues that have been a major part of the Celtics’ preseason thus far. The C’s lead all teams in techs, making it, well, a lot like seasons of old. And there were four more technical fouls called last night against the Raptors after Wednesday night’s tech-fest in New York.
No one likes the new nitpicking tech rules, which are trying to cut down on any complaining to refs (sorry Tim Duncan). That fairly obvious at this point, but unlikely to change anything. Somehow I don’t think this is going to end up like the “new” ball that was tossed after a myriad of complaints. David Stern is constantly trying to “fix” the NBA’s poor image, and this is just another way to do that.
Much like other recent changes (the ball, the dress code), however, this issue has generated the greatest buzz in the league during the preseason. It has even stolen some of the thunder from that team down in Florida (not Orlando). But the difference between some of the other changes Stern has instituted and the new tech rules are that nothing else threatened to have such a large effect on the on-court product that the league produces.
No sport feeds off the raw emotion of individuals more than basketball. It’s why trash-talking is actually a beloved part of the game, and why a single star can take over and assert his will on the game. Now, Stern and the league are trying to curtail that emotion that makes this game so great. As we saw with Kevin Garnett’s quick techs against the Knicks, a player can barely react to a call at all now.
If the refs want to try to control players a little more, fine. But if it affects the on-court product, fans should continue to voice their displeasure. And not just fans, but players as well.
And Shaq is right. Fans already feel that refs (read: Joey Crawford) think they are larger-than-life figures. As we have seen in the NFL and MLB, the best officials or umpires don’t ever garner any spotlight. Why do you think no one had heard of Jim Joyce, who many MLB players felt was the best ump in baseball, before his call cost Armando Galaragga a perfect game?
The Tim Donaghy scandal did not help fans see the refs in a better light, and what is generally regarded as the worst group of officials in all of sports lost even more credibility. So how is it a solution to give the refs even more power?
Stern has done a lot to try to reshape the image of his league in the wake of the Donaghy allegations, and yet the argument still persists that refs are biased. It was a constant thought in the minds of every C’s fan whenever Rasheed Wallace was whistled for a tech last year, and is a constant issue for NBA fans whenever a Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade gets a questionable call.
Stern should have continued to try to do more to make refs accountable for the calls they make on the court. Instead, he did the exact opposite. The players are going to be the first to suffer, and their teams will be next. But if these calls continue at this rate, don’t be surprised if some fans turn their back on the league. Because even if Shaq believes it could happen, there is no way anyone is going to buy a Ken Mauer jersey. Dick Bavetta? Maybe…