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Why hoops refs should "let 'em play" as clock winds down

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#1 pogofan

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 12:22 PM

The Washington Post has a sports column today by Sally Jenkins that might be of interest to folks here. The column summarizes a Georgetown Law Journal article that provides support for the widespread preference for referees to go easy on technically correct but minor calls (e.g., lane violations) near the end of a basketball game. The basic logic is simple: the reason for fouls and other penalties is to prevent the perpetrating team from gaining an unfair advantage; but penalties at the end of the game matter more, because there's less opportunity to overcome them, so a penalty that provides the appropriate degree of compensation to the other team early in the game can be excessive by the end.

IIRC, the same logic shows up in baseball statistics in calculations of Win Probability Added: a hit or an out affects WP more in the 9th inning than in the 2nd.

If you're interested, the column is here:
http://www.washingto...s9RS_story.html

#2 whydidnt

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 12:19 PM

I disagree completely with this concept. A penalty or foul is still a penalty or a foul regardless of when it occurs. If the rule doesn't make sense for the final minutes of a game, then it shouldn't be a rule. I grow so frustrated watching games where the referee just let's everything go at the end. This is just as bad in hockey as it is in basketball. Imagine a 3-2 Twins lead in the bottom of the 9th and the opposing team has a player running the bases, but CLEARLY misses third on his way to scoring the tying run..should the umpire not call him out simply because it's a close game? Anyone think that's a fair way to settle a close matchup? Same should apply to basketball and hockey. Change the rules if you ain't going to call 'em in the last 2 minutes!

#3 pogofan

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 07:53 AM

@whydidnt: The law prof isn't arguing that rule violations that are directly, strongly relevant to the game's outcome shouldn't be called. He's not suggesting that goaltending rules be ignored, for example. I think a better baseball analogy would be a balk call on a move that didn't affect the batter or runners. Would you want a pennant or World Series decided on a call like that? I wouldn't. That said, I think the issue is less relevant for baseball than for clock-driven sports. The ninth inning is different from the second, but not as much different as the last thirty seconds is from the first quarter (as we were shown so spectacularly on the last day of the 2011 MLB regular season!).

#4 whydidnt

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 09:57 AM

@pogofan: Doesn't matter to me. A rule is a rule. If you don't want the World Series decided by a balk, then why do we have balks? Why should we allow rules to be broken because of the situation, be it baseball, basketball, or whatever the sport. My argument is that if the violation isn't strongly relevant to the game's outcome than remove it from the rule books. The argument that plays that happen in the ninth inning are somehow more important than plays in the 3rd inning is very weak.

#5 JakeE141414

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 10:14 AM

I agree with whydidnt. A rule is a rule no matter the situation of the game. I know a lot of players in basketball and hockey will play the game based on how the refs are calling it earlier in the game. If the refs change what they are calling near the end of the game it can throw everything out of whack. Would you want an umpire to tighten/loosen the strike zone in the later innings based on how the game is going? I know I'm always annoyed when I see that the strike zone has changed within one game, I'd rather it be consistent from first to last pitch.
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#6 pogofan

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 09:26 AM

Balk rules exist because _some_ balks give pitchers an unfair advantage against runners. I don't have a problem with umpires exercising some degree of judgment about which technical balks to call, nor with them erring more on the side of the spirit rather than the letter of the rule if the game is on the line. That said, even if I thought rules should be enforced exactly the same way throughout the game, I would still think the professor's argument is interesting as an explanation of the logic underlying the "let 'em play at the end" position that many other people take. Maybe that's because I'm an economist, and we're the guys who see something that works in practice and wonder if it works in theory. ;-)

#7 whydidnt

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 09:55 AM

The problem is that as soon as we start allowing umpires to "exercise some degree of judgement" you end up with things like the messed up strike zone we currently have, where one umpires strike zone is completely different than another's and neither of them agree with the rules of the game.