Below is a blog I posted five years ago (with a few minor edits) regarding NBA players’ reactions to referees’ calls. Talk about lack of progress in the illustration of accountability to younger athletes. See if you agree.
While the NBA Playoffs are played by the best athletes in the world, and are unquestionably exciting and entertaining, as a parent, I have one major criticism. (No, it’s not the “hack-a-somebody” tactics). And while I’m not a fan of tattoos, the tats aren’t what upset me, either. Young players are tremendously influenced by those competing at the highest level, especially when the winner gets to be called World Champions.
My issue is with the amount of complaining done by (seemingly) every player on the floor! And of course, in a league where coaches’ jobs depend a great deal on getting along with, i.e. coddling their players, the guys in suits fit right into the “attack the refs” philosophy (so as to be seen as “having the players’ backs”). If a guy misses a shot, it’s almost like it’s his obligation to yell at the referee before running back to defend. But these guys complain on every play – even when they score! Maybe they truly feel that way, maybe they do it “to get the next call” (an act that couldn’t possibly work or else every other call would be a make-up), or maybe it’s a “save face” mechanism (“No wonder he missed – again – he got hit”). Or, maybe they’re just complainers.
What makes the player (or coach) look particularly bad is that the replays, so many times, show the right call (or non-call) was made (or wasn’t). Also, on the calls that are missed (keep in mind, referees don’t have the benefit of replay on most calls – and they see it live – often involving two or more of the most athletic people on earth), we never see the guy who got away with fouling admit he committed an illegal act. No, he (inwardly – or sometimes even outwardly) smiles, thrilled to having “stolen one,” e.g. how many times replays show a defender grabbing his man’s jersey, with no foul being whistled.
Although it’s next to impossible to find a fan who will admit it (especially if his team just lost), NBA referees are the best in the business. After all, there’s no higher league. So it’s either let them call the game or play “call-your-on-foul” like in pick-up games. Imagine the absurdity of implementing that idea. There are arguments at gyms throughout the country when that method is used – and those fellas are mainly playing to work up a sweat, not for the Lawrence O’Brien trophy (and all that comes with it, e.g. winner’s share, perks, adulation and, oh yeah, a ring).
What irks me, as a parent, is that this childish behavior trickles down (more like cascades) to the levels below. On any given day or night, in any game, at any level, anywhere, spectators see the participants (most of them haven’t earned the title of “player” yet) driving to the basket, taking wild shots and then, after the inevitable miss, looking at the officials, arms out, gesturing as if a crime had been committed right under the guy in the striped shirt’s nose. The ones they get away with, they don’t take ownership of, just the ones that (rightly or wrongly) go against them.
This behavior is so unbecoming – and its negative effect is compounded when the coach (head or assistants) scream at the refs. It used to be coaches would go to the stare (made famous by John Chaney – who actually was intimidating) but, in recent years, this method of disapproval has fizzled out. With the amount of money players make in comparison to their coaches (in nearly all cases), they (whether right or wrong) want to see support from the coach – and simply staring is no longer an acceptable form of protest from upper management. We must not forget, though, that all kids who are involved with a sport (independent of which one it is) aspire to play at the highest level, meaning the concept of “act like those who are already there” is paramount to their behavior.
I’ve always enjoyed reading good books, especially inspirational, motivational, self-help or auto- or biographical. In the book The Oz Principle is a powerful quote which many in our culture need to adopt:
“Victimization holds that circumstances and other people prevent you from achieving your goals. . . Performance invariably improves when people take greater accountability and ownership for results.”