Josh Nagel’s blog

May 28, 2009

NBA fouls up the flagrant calls

Filed under: General,Sports,Sports betting — jnagelreno @ 6:11 pm
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Sometimes, things end up taking on the opposite of their intended meanings.

Take, for instance, the much-played recent beer commercial in which the middle-aged, Mediterranean cab driver not only sings along with his inebriated passengers to the chorus of that ageless Biz Markie ditty, but actually turns up the volume before doing so.

For a TV spot that purports to advocate using a designated driver, the whole scene just made me wonder precisely who, in that car, had really been doing the drinking. Just sayin’.

Some would call this irony, some might call it happenstance, others might see it as overanalyzing a beer commercial. Whatever your take, if you’ve been watching the NBA playoffs on any sort of regular basis, it’s fair to say that the NBA’s “rules” on flagrant fouls officially have reached the opposite of their intended purpose.

There’s no irony to the notion that the next person to be surprised by this trend will be the first. As with all other faux pas involving the NBA and its enforcement of rules and regulations, this one comes down to inconsistency.

The league’s application of flagrant foul interpretations, similar to the beer commercial, also makes me wonder who has been doing the drinking.

The NBA’s vehicle of judgment on flagrant and technical fouls this postseason has long left the land of Laughable, cruised through the friendly confines of Ridiculous, and is puttering on fumes as it approaches a roadside sign that reads “Welcome to Ineptitude.”

Really, enough is enough. Let me get this straight: Now, with the NBA Finals in sight and every game and every possession of paramount importance, we have otherwise well-behaved players – Kobe Bryant of Los Angeles, Orlando’s Dwight Howard — one step away from a suspension if they dare say another word to the refs during the heat of battle because of their technical foul totals.

Whereas others, such as Duke-softie-turned-wannabe-thug, Dahntay Jones of Denver, who got away with two potentially career-threatening fouls on Bryant without so much as being called for a flagrant, receives a warning along the lines of, “You do that again, and you’ll be in real trouble, mister!”

I had to laugh yesterday as the scroll at the bottom of the ESPN screen revealed that Jones’s deliberate and dangerous trip of Bryant in Game 4 had been, “Upgraded to a Flagrant 1 Foul.” Upgraded from what, exactly? The “Oops, we missed that one!” bin? There was no foul called on the play.

However, in the same game, Andrew Bynum of the Lakers got whistled for a flagrant for what amounted to little more than a peck across the arms of Denver’s Birdman, aka Chris Andersen.

By the way, all this Flagrant 1, Flagrant 2 business sounds more like a fart-rating convention than a good way to classify fouls. How about this idea as an alternative? Just get it right the first time, or at least do your best to make it right when all is said and done. Leave it to the NBA to overreact and under-respond when it comes to cracking down on physical play in the playoffs.

ESPN analyst Tim Legler was dead-on when he surmised that Jones deserved a severe punishment for his actions. Pushing a player while he is airborne for a layup, or tripping him as he races down the court at full speed – Jones did both to Bryant — could lead to a potentially devastating injury.

Yet, Jones gets a slap on the wrist, and Bynum draws a flagrant for slapping the wrists of Birdman. Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?

To get this thing right, all the NBA has to do is go back to basics. I used to officiate at the high school and college levels, and one lesson I never forgot is one they teach you the first hour of training day: “Anticipate the play, not the call.”

We all learned this one, at least once, the hard way. This happened the first time we watched a guy steal a pass and chug down the court for an uncontested layup, only to be chased down by an opponent with fire in his eyes and intentional-foul intentions in his heart.

At this precise moment, it was easy to envision the basketball hell that was about to break loose. This was all well and good, of course, until our villain astonishingly … pulled up and let the guy dunk.

No harm, no foul, no problem … except for the fact that we had already blown the whistle – then wanted to swallow it — when our hero went up for the basket. This “Wanna get away?” moment happens to all officials at some point, so we can’t hold NBA officials too closely to the fire just because they are human.

But it’s well within our rights to criticize them for consistently failing to do their jobs. Again, guys, anticipate the play, not the call. Judge each individual play without pre-conceived notions regarding the team or player involved, and you just might get it right more often.

And if this doesn’t work, the league should at least step in and mete out the appropriate justice upon further review.

However, I am betting that the cab driver in the beer commercial stands a better chance of scoring with one of the hotties in the back seat of his ride before we see the NBA get this flagrant foul mess figured out.

But before you throw your money down, be advised … I hear he’s just a friend.

May 21, 2009

Spike Lee’s new ‘documentary’ misses the mark

Filed under: General,Sports — jnagelreno @ 5:16 am
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It’s about time Spike Lee did the right thing by NBA fans and stopped passing off shameless infomercials as high art.

“Kobe Doin’ Work” has about as much artistic appeal as the worn sole of an Air Jordan. By comparison, however, Lee’s classic spots for Nike anchored by His Airness packed more entertainment into 90 seconds than “Kobe” could manage in 90 painstaking minutes. That’s saying something.

On the off chance that you missed this blockbuster last weekend, here are a couple of thoughts. First, congratulate yourself for having something better to do, and second, make sure you do the same when the re-run marathon starts in full force.

For those of us who were less fortunate, make a concerted effort to stop the head scratching because it might leave a rash. But re-living a scene or two late at night might put that case of insomnia to permanent rest.

Now that his days of taunting Reggie Miller and drooling on Patrick Ewing are over, Lee has taken his quest for relevancy in the NBA to uncharted depths. If he sinks any lower, he’ll need a high chair to watch the Lakers from his court-side seat. But perhaps if he fouls out, Bryant will consider letting Lee sit on his lap.

Kobe Bryant is without question one of the most dynamic and polarizing figures the NBA, and perhaps all of professional sports, has seen in quite some time. Lee’s “documentary” makes an earnest effort to dispel this notion.

With ESPN’s cameras in tow and its precious air time serving as the media railroad for this train wreck, viewers of “Kobe” essentially were treated to a big-screen version of “Kobe miked up.”

Among the highlights: We see Kobe Bryant make a few jumpers. He also missed a few. We see him encourage his teammates. He also barked at them a couple of times. We see him make small talk with a couple of opponents. He also uses dialogue that borders on polite trash talk. We see him debate the merits of a goaltending call. He also disputes a foul call.

Last night, we called this an NBA playoff game (the Lakers won 105-103 over the Denver Nuggets), but with lots of hype and plenty of introspective commentary and manufactured self-importance from Spike Lee, ESPN called it a feature film.

Really, couldn’t Spike have just saved us all the trouble and just given Kobe a big, warm man hug to show his appreciation? Watching Bryant’s every move in a regular-season game against the San Antonio Spurs, full audio and all, tells us a little something about the NBA superstar.

Such as … he plays basketball. Very well. His teammates listen to him, his opponents respect him, and fans show up to watch him. Lee and ESPN make a half-hearted effort to disguise this information in visual form as something we didn’t already know.

What a shame, because they had the idea half-right. A true documentary on Kobe Bryant is something I’d pay to see if Lee or another filmmaker had the proper ambition, access and savvy to pull it off.

Forget the jumpers and pep talks. Let’s take an inside look at this iconic and sometimes controversial sports figure. How about the first conversation he had with his wife after the Colorado rape charges were announced? Now THAT’S a conversation I want to see (logical conclusion: She Hate Me). Short of something this dramatic, how about some perspective on how their relationship has survived this turmoil?

How about his first conversation with Phil Jackson when the Zen master was re-hired as the Lakers head coach? Or a no-holds-barred response to Shaq’s suggestion in a “rap” that Kobe sample a bit of the Big Buffoon’s back side?

In other words, how about anything other than the corporate-logo-encrusted garbage that Lee and ESPN threw at us under the guise of wholesome entertainment?

“Kobe Doin’ Work” could have been worthwhile, had only the architects been willing to do some work of their own. But it’s probably safe to say that Lee’s court-side season ticket will be renewed next year.

Someone find a high chair.

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