On Campus With Brent Blum

Now, before I ruffle any feathers, let me explain my strong, yet surprising feelings on the men in black and white. People love to chat about officials. In fact, several message board threads can be found dedicated to them after every game. As the old saying goes, the two easiest things to complain about are Congress and Referees. And yes, Ed Hightower is the college basketball version of Tom Delay. Some like him, some can't stand him. I love officials. Even Ed Hightower. Seriously.

I have made it known in the past that I have no idea how to figure out this team. Sure, I could babble on about the use of Wayne Morgan's new chaser defense that stifled Richard Roby. But, honestly I'm not entirely sure some of the ISU players knew what they were supposed to do. It looked like a youth soccer game with Cyclone defenders running around chaotically, with no apparent sense of who they were guarding. The only thing that was missing was a bunch of eight year olds screaming for the ball and juice boxes. Heck, despite its complexity, the defense worked great. Colorado looked as confused as Eric Crouch at wide receiver. Roby summed it up best, "They play weird defenses." Yep, Mr. Roby, they certainly do. Sometimes it's better to be weird than good. But, since I would be wasting all of your time predicting what will happen tonight, I thought I would touch on something a little out of the ordinary, but extremely important to the game of basketball: The Officials.

 

Now, before I ruffle any feathers, let me explain my strong, yet surprising feelings on the men in black and white. People love to chat about officials. In fact, several message board threads can be found dedicated to them after every game. As the old saying goes, the two easiest things to complain about are Congress and Referees. And yes, Ed Hightower is the college basketball version of Tom Delay. Some like him, some can't stand him. I love officials. Even Ed Hightower. Seriously.

 

I have been reffing basketball games since I was 14 years old. Some people come from a long lineage of doctors, lawyers, or coaches. I, on the other hand, am a third generation official. My Grandpa reffed a few games in the old Big 6. My Uncle is a member of the Iowa High School Athletic Hall of Fame due to officiating and has worked the most state title games in Iowa high school history. Amazingly enough they actually let officials into the Hall. At this point the wise-crack in you would say, "Well refs have won more games than any player or coach. No wonder they make the hall." I beat you to it. Anyway, my pops runs a youth basketball league in Des Moines and he and my two brothers also blow the whistle. In fact, if you know anyone who has played organized basketball in the Des Moines area in the past 15 years, chances are you have seen one of my relatives disguised as a zebra. I'm guessing some of you have even personally given me the business.

 

I know right now you want to call me names and say things like, "Call it both ways." I don't blame you, but I'm here to help. To assist you in your basketball watching, let me give you a few tips on simple misunderstandings and the best way to lash out at the refs.

 

"Over the Back"

 

This is probably the most mistaken three words in the game of basketball. When I hear this uttered, I feel like Tara Reid after her 24th shot of tequila. I get a little queasy. Technically, there is no such thing as "Over the back." You won't find it anywhere in the rule book. It is one of the more difficult calls to understand. To simplify the rule, if I am rebounding and have inside position, you can do everything you want to me as long as I am not "displaced." If that means jumping over me, reaching over me, or something similar, it is completely legal. It is only a foul if you force me to lose position. So, next time Steve Welmer (the big bald ref) has a play like this and you feel like getting feisty, don't yell "GET EM OFF!!" Say "THAT IS DISPLACEMENT!!" I will feel very proud. 

      

"He was straight up"

 

This is another popular thing for that guy in the parquet to yell and often times re-enact. Normally this is the same guy who violently moves his hands in a traveling motion whenever there is a debatable use of a pivot foot. He is easy to pick out. The spirit of this phrase is correct. Per the rule, the defender has his space from the floor to the ceiling as his own. If he reaches straight up like he is signaling a successful Bret Culbertson field goal and he isn't moving at all, than he is A-OK. It is known as the "principle of verticality." But, rarely do defenders ever accomplish this. Often they move their arms down to block the shot or are moving at the time of the attempted blocked shot and thus get called with a blocking foul. I can have my hands pointing at the ceiling, but if I hip-check a guy or bump him with my chest, I can still be whistled for a foul. Hubalek tends to do this a lot. He has great form up top, but his torso displaces guys and that's why he is often the victim of seemingly clean blocks.

 

This goes into the "straight up" phrase's twin sister, "All Ball." You can have all ball, but that is only a small portion of your body. The other day I had a fifth grader tell me, "Ref that was all Spalding. All Spalding." Meanwhile, his dad was over in the third row staring me down like Robert DeNiro. I couldn't help but laugh. And if you're curious, refs do talk about fans and coaches all the time. Beware.

 

Perhaps this is my favorite official story of the year:

 

One of my friends was officiating a High School game on the eastern half of the state. I will withhold the names of the schools to protect the innocent. (Off topic: anybody ever watch the old TV classic "Dragnet"? That was my favorite part of that show; when the detective came out after the show and in his deep 50s-style voice announced, "The story you've just seen is true. The names were changed to protect the innocent." That always got me.)

 

Anyway, the home team was getting blasted by like 25 points at the start of the fourth quarter. The coaches and fans were apparently behaving well enough that the three men reffing the game thought they could coast home. All of a sudden, one of the refs notices one of the home team's defenders was conspicuously close to him when the other team had the ball. Apparently, this defender was within two feet of the ref at all times, opting not to play defense on the away team, but instead he looked like he was D'ing up the official. Confused by this oddity, he questioned the player, "Why are you so close to me when you are on defense?"  The player responded matter-of-factly, "Oh, well coach told me to guard their best player." Needless to say, the coach was given a technical foul. But, the creativity points he earned neared all-time status.

    

Refs are easy to rip. I love to do it if warranted. Anybody recall the double foul on Paul Shirley and Antonio Hudson in the Elite 8? That was awful and caused me to have a Quin Snyder style melt-down. But, before you unabashedly yell "Over the back" "Straight up" or "All ball" take a minute and get creative. If you are creative enough to make the refs laugh, you may end up as the star of a great officiating story passed down to generations. And if all else fails, a simple BOO! is always effective. Happy hunting.


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