Watching the state high school basketball tournament in recent days, I’ve seen a bunch of talented teams take to the courts and perform admirably. The officiating crews have worked hard to call clean games, and in many cases have done an outstanding job. Unfortunately, however, they have called so many traveling violations it makes my head spin.
News flash: the game has changed over the past hundred years to become faster-paced and more explosive. At the professional and collegiate level, players are granted certain “hop steps” as they handle the basketball, and only an archaic understanding of the rules would now take issue with their maneuvers.
I saw a number of kids trying it out successfully in the tournament, perfectly imitating what they watch their heroes do on TV, only to get whistled for traveling before finishing a beautiful move. What follows: a general look of confusion on the face of the player (and many times the coaches and fans), and television viewers scratching their heads as the opposing team goes to take possession.
OK, my buddies and I watching the game are trying to figure out… what just happened… but that wasn’t a travel! I just saw five guys use that move in a college game the other day, and no one was called for traveling. Obviously, it should be called when warranted. But to slow the game down and to penalize kids for playing the way it’s done at higher levels, is wrong.
And perhaps more important, it’s less fun to watch. I want to see athletic achievement, not whistle-blowing. The best refs are the ones you never notice because they don’t make controversial calls. But we counted dozens of controversial traveling calls in this year’s tournament. The Maine Principals’ Association needs to do a better job of training officials to understand what traveling means in today’s game.
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