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The Incredible Sulk: The new emphasis on whining in the NBA

Oct 27, 2010, 11:18 AM EDT


It’s a sight we’ve all seen many times — an NBA player committing a glaringly obvious foul or carry or walk or any other various infraction, and reacting to the ref’s well-placed whistle with such incredulity that it makes you wonder if in that player’s mind, he’s ever committed a violation in his life (a certain Cleveland-spurning two-time MVP comes to mind). All too often, a collection of the greatest athletes in the world transform into a gaggle of tantrum-throwing babies unfit for their own physical ability, as broad shoulders and speed devolve into wide eyes and spittle, drawing the ref’s attention from the game at hand with either histrionics or perpetual yapping from one baseline to the other. Thankfully, the NBA appears to have had enough.

Starting with last night’s tip-off action (in which the Miami Heat’s “Big Three” looked more like The Three Stooges), NBA referees are following a directive to give much less slack when it comes to player feedback, and not to hesitate to assign technical fouls for excessive verbal complaints or even consistent body language. Geez, I’d say Rasheed Wallace retired just in time. From the Los Angeles Times:

“The spirit of it is that our players don’t do that in elementary school, in junior high, high school, college, and then they get their master’s [degree] in complaining when they get to the NBA. And that’s not a good thing.”

Well, at least they’d have Master’s degrees in something. That’s NBA commissioner David Stern, doing his best to channel Martha Stewart in discussing the impetus for the renewed crackdown on complaining, presumably before lying to reporters about the economic situation of the league and then threatening contraction in the same breath (but that’s a story for a different day).

Stern has a bit of a reputation for being paternalistic and prone to hand-wringing over the moral state of the NBA, but unlike the new dress code implemented a couple years ago (a thinly-veiled swipe at an “image problem” that never really existed beyond the whitebread minds of select NBA owners & executives), this should promise to be an actual improvement for the league. Do you know how many times a referee has reversed a decision after the player complained about it? The same number of times Greg Oden has finished a season healthy. It just doesn’t happen.

So why keep piping up about it? You could make the argument that the constant chirping influences possible future calls, but doesn’t handling the refs fall under the job description of the Head Coach, and not the players? As much as they’re often maligned, NBA referees have a tough job to do in policing the activity of 10 freakish athletes at any given time (or nine, if J.J. Redick happens to be on the court) and I’m sure their jobs aren’t exactly made easier by large angry men gesticulating in their faces or sulking down the court while shooting them the slow-motion stink-eye.

People watch the NBA (no really, they do) to see basketball played on a world-class level, not to watch every single traveling violation or offensive foul turn into an open court held at the offending player’s behest. Once the call has been made, it’s not going to change, and if the majority of players put half as much effort into getting back on defense as they do in lobbying officials over their besmirched character, the game would be much better for it.

What remains to be seen is how players react to this on the whole — do they preemptively cut down on their complaining ways out of fear of catching a technical, or will everyone have to learn it the hard way? Certainly some individuals in the league are bigger offenders than others when it comes to matters of petulance, but the league is correct in identifying the problem as pervasive enough to warrant change. Detractors may say this measure removes a level of emotion from the game, but it’s important to remember that not all emotions are created equal, and while fans pine to see passion, excitement, and joy from those on the court, most would rather do without irritation, frustration, and anger.

And with Stern’s new edict, one thing is clear — either the players play the game without complaining, or the games will be played without them.

– Rob Sylvester

David Stern says crackdown on complaining is no token gesture by NBA [Los Angeles Times]

  1. frankvzappa - Oct 27, 2010 at 1:22 PM

    Stern is a memeber of the fascist CFR, whose policies are nazi-bred through and through, so it comes as no surprise that a man who is a member of a group that is controlling the world toward global tyranny should be so controlling over every persons emotions as they try to turn people into wage slave robots subservient to the global fascist state

  2. geo59 - Oct 29, 2010 at 2:39 PM

    This new so-called rule is a joke. It’s already fading, two days into the season. That Stern would be so reactionary, controlling, naive and disrespectful of the players is disgusting. Players are not robots. Basketball is an emotional game. The whole idea of trying to tell NBA players what facial expressions they can or can’t have smacks of Jim Crow. The real problem with players complaining is poor officiating. It’s gotten to be completely inconsistent and amateurish. Get rid of the dinosaurs and either train the young guys right or get some new ones. And while you’re at it, please get rid of David Stern. The guy is a corporate lackey who knows nothing about basketball. Oh and Rob Sylvester, your article smells to high heaven. Your bigoted hate for the NBA shines through in every sentence. If you hate the NBA and its players so much, why write about them? Get a job writing gossip columns or driving a garbage truck.