by Jacob McKay. (I talk about sports too)
This years NCAA tournament has busted many brackets, including mine. After 40 games, there are no longer any perfect brackets left. The only bracket to make it past 37 games was entered in the Yahoo bracket contest, and now we all watch the rest of the tournament for fun, as it was meant to be enjoyed. The tournament would be more fun in my opinion if it wasn’t for the glaring errors in officiating that I’ve seen all tournament. The improvement of replay technology may be to blame, but I’m watching most of these calls live on TV, from a worse point of view than the officials, and being blown away by the amount of touch fouls and whistles being blown on absolutely no contact. Duke lost to South Carolina in part to the call that created the tournaments second most popular meme. Luke Kennard got called for a foul after being elbowed in the face on defense, and the meme is hilarious but the reaction was kind of warranted.
Duke wasn’t the only victim of questionable calls. St. Mary’s got absolutely cheated in their loss to Oregon, the Northwestern-Gonzaga game had some heartbreakers, Arkansas, URI, the list goes on and on. The tournament has been robbed of even more upsets and deserving teams have gotten railroaded. Is it like this every year? It hasn’t been in recent memory, at least for me. And the enduring images of this tournament say it all. Crying Northwestern kid will live forever in the annals of tournament history. This is the tournament where the refs robbed children of their hopes and dreams.
My dad is an official, and he taught me a lot of what I know about the game. Our one-on-one contests at the park lasted hours, and I still remember the firs time I beat him in fifth grade. We operated on the no blood no foul rule, and in AAU and school games I grew up on a pretty physical brand of basketball most of the time. I learned how to play defense aggressively, how to make people earn buckets. Defense is as much a beautiful part of the game as offense, the art of denying a man of everything he wants. One of my coaches used to call it “protecting your mama’s house”, and he’d yell that us while we did wall sits in between suicides. That’s basketball, and the finesse part of the game is important, but if contact is dead then every kid will have to try to be Steph Curry. Three-Point shooting is already dominating the game, and this tournament is the perfect example of teams like Duke living and dying by it. Sometimes it works like it has for Oregon. I understand officials have an incredibly tough job, and I’m not disparaging the profession whatsoever, I’m just saying we should let the kids play. Blow the whistle less if we’re going to keep blowing it for everything thing that might appear to be contact. If the defense isn’t allowed to put bodies on people, then a whole element of the game is gone. As we roll into the Sweet Sixteen, the bad calls will probably continue. It’s March, and March is for basketball no matter what. In one of the most divisive times in modern history, I think we can all agree that basketball is pretty cool. The NCAA is going to give us this tournament their way and year after year I will stop all other thought for a full day to work on brackets. It’s called Madness for a reason.