The Pain of Distraction
By Tim Malloy
It is possible for basketball referees to get into the same magical zone that players are sometimes lucky enough to find themselves in.
Officials can have a game, or stretch of games, where the game slows down and the players are positioned in just the right spots on the floor to give you the perfect angle to view the action.
Your whistle is seemingly hardwired to every foul and violation…It’s as if the coaches, players and spectators don’t even know you’re there.
But just as easy and mysteriously as you entered this zone of perfection, you can slide out of it, and often the reason for your ejection is rooted in distraction.
Allowing an external issue (work, family, health, etc.) or an internal factor (a problem with your partner, the timer or scorekeeper, a coach, player, spectator, etc.) can knock you off your game, and if the stars line up against you, the results can be disastrous.
For instance, B-1 fouls A-1 and puts Team A in the bonus.
However, after the officials deal with the disapproval of B-1 and Team B’s head coach, they resume play with a Team A throw-in and fail to award A-1 his/her merited free throws.
A-2 scores on the subsequent inbound, and while the ball is dead, the officials realize the mistake.
Now what? If you can manage to slow down your racing mind; is the information in there to properly rule on this sticky scenario?
So if you find yourself now, ‘out of the zone’ and feel the weight of a misstep bearing down on you; the key to getting back on track is to step outside of yourself.
Take a deep breath and force yourself to calmly process the situation.
Monitor and stack your thoughts as if you were an evaluator in the stands observing the action. You presumably have the knowledge to calmly remedy the situation, but with no skin in the game.
Now, if you noticed the error while Team A was still in control of the ball, you should have stopped the game and line the players up for A-1 to shoot the bonus free throw, and let play resume as normal.
If Team A committed a foul or violation while in control of the ball, and the correctable error was caught in time, A-1 would attempt the one and one with no players in the marked lane spaces, and then the ball would be awarded to Team B for a throw in at the closest spot where the ball was located at the point of interruption.
However if Team A scored a goal, and the forces of basketball nature lined up in an ominous sequence, and you will pay a high price for this momentary lapse in concentration.
Team A’s goal will count, and A-1 will shoot a bonus free throw with no players in the marked lane spaces, and play will resume with a Team B throw in along the end line following the free throw(s).
This ruling punishes Team B for a mistake made by the officiating crew and/or the folks working the scorer’s table. It’s unfair, and your urge may be to unthread this knot with a scenario that is less punitive, particularly if it is at the end of a close game.
Our advice is to not try to dig your way out of a hole. Cut you losses and make the correct ruling. Do not compound your mistake by committing another one with a “split-the-baby” improvised ruling.
The game of basketball requires officials to often make nearly 100 decisions a game (remember, a decision to NOT blow your whistle is still a decision) and will call into question your judgement on most of them.
Your officiating avocation is hard enough; don’t put yourself in the cross-hairs with a mistake that can easily be avoided.
Stay away from the self-inflicted pain of distraction!
Rule Reference: NFHS 2-10-5