TUALATIN, Ore. — The Super Bowl plays this weekend, or so they tell me.
Oh, it’s not that I’m advocating an NFL-free lifestyle and am completely oblivious that the majority of American humanity will be parked in front of flat screens for the greatest sports spectacle of the year, or so it’s called.
It’s just that for my money, I’ll take The Association over The League any day — and twice on Super Bowl Sunday.
The National Basketball Association won my heart a long time ago when stonewashed jeans were still the rage and when the ’90s threw up all over those “I love this game!” spots. Though time and corny marketing ideas have passed, the NBA still finds new ways to keep its relationship with its fans from going stale.
Case in point, the NBA has become the most transparent and repentant league in American professional sports.
For all to see on Wednesday, the NBA offered a my bad to the Indiana Pacers and Dallas Mavericks. In two separate late-game situations, referees made weak decisions — in fact, they were downright incorrect.
The first one happened Monday night in Denver when officials remained silent in the final seconds of a tied game as the Nuggets’ Andre Iguodala recorded a steal against Indiana’s Paul George. Iguodala swiped the ball, and nearly chopped off George’s right hand in the process. No call, and Denver ended up winning.
Wrong call, said the NBA.
The other play happened right here in front of our eyes, as fans inside the Rose Garden Arena experienced what a Mentos feels like when dropped inside a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke. Once again, the score was tied late in the game when Trail Blazers guard Ronnie Price stepped into the baseline path of the Mavericks’ O.J. Mayo. The whistle blew for a charge, the crowd went bananas, and moments later, the Blazers won the game as LaMarcus Aldridge’s jump shot beat the buzzer.
So, umm. …Yeah. …See, what had happened was. …
Wrong call again.
A day later, the NBA would acknowledge that Price committed a blocking foul and Mayo should have received a pair of free throws to potentially give Dallas the lead with 1.5 seconds remaining.
On the surface, this doesn’t show the NBA in the greatest light. Numbskull officiating that costs teams a chance at winning games. The perception of incompetence. Nothing can be worst than that.
Unless, of course, the perception of incompetence is fiercely defended by the arrogance of leadership.
Those two calls were “costly.” The NBA’s words, not mine. Good luck on hearing adjectives like that from the NFL.
In 2010, the NFL sent a written apology to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for blowing a fourth-quarter pass interference play that should have been their touchdown but led to their loss. The mea culpa went directly to the Bucs — not to the fans, nor to the general public.
And when the No Forgiveness League does comment on mistakes, it tends to hide behind its Shield.
Just think back to the Monday Night Nightmare that featured the replacement refs versus the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers.
Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate should not have been given that game-winning touchdown — it says so right there in the NFL rule book that “it is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control.” The defender, not Tate, first caught the ball. But the great and powerful NFL upheld the touchdown through a lengthy explanation that cited every rule imaginable except the one that mattered.
Sorry, but give me a league that can ‘fess up when it’s wrong.
Over the last two full seasons, the NBA has acknowledged at least 10 incorrect calls at the end of close games, according to league spokesman Tim Frank. Just last year it opened the Twitter account @NBAOfficial, which the Association uses, among other things, to directly respond to late-game controversy. Since the account activated on Dec. 11, 2011, the NBA has tweeted six times about incorrect or missed calls along with video proof of the blunders.
Admitting fault, however, doesn’t always cut it. So when a stronger response is necessary, the NBA has a history of changing its rules after reviewing horrible calls like the goaltending one that cost the Blazers a game last February against the Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s widely believed that the wrong call against Aldridge was the impetus to the NBA adding video review for goaltending within the final two minutes of the fourth quarter to its 2012-2013 rulebook.
Still, I don’t want to lose my American citizenship, so I’ll get some overpriced wings this Sunday and watch the big game like the rest of you. But only after I catch the three games on the NBA docket.
I make no apologies. I still love this game.