Prior to the current season, NBA commissioner David Stern instituted the so-called "Rasheed Wallace Rule," a zero-tolerance policy that (kinda sorta) prohibits post-whistle bitching and moaning. Unfortunately, pickup leagues don't have commissioners or
referees, and therefore we can't get anti-complaint legislation passed, let alone enforced. But man oh man, I wish we could.
Here's the thing: Pickup basketball works on the honor system. You're expected to call your own fouls in a just and reasonable manner, and the other players are then obliged to respect the call. But if that ever actually happens in your league, please, by all means, let me know...because I'll personally call the Guiness Book of World Records
people for you.
See, most pickup players have been balling for 10, 15, even 20 or more years. During that time, they have evolved into sophisticated basketball machines; a vast supply of experience combined with their athletic prowess and laser-like reflexes make them incapable of committing a foul. Or so they think.
So when you do
call a foul against someone, that person naturally gets bent the hell out of shape. It's like you just accused your mom of never hugging you as a child, or told your girlfriend she looks fat in, well, everything she owns. Eyes bulge. Arms flail. Curses are shouted toward the unforgiving heavens. What follows is what I like to call The
Four Stages of Foul Dispute.Stage 1 - Denial:
As soon as the foul has been called -- and sometimes before the words can even leave your mouth -- the opposing player immediately
contradicts you. They don't even take the time to analyze what you said, because they know in their heart that they never, ever, under any number of crazy circumstances, could have committed a foul. In the immortal words of Dr. Cox: "Never; not in a million years; absolutely not; no way, Jose; no chance, Lance; nyet; negatory; mm-mm; nuh-uh; and of course my own personal favorite of all time, man falling off of a cliff -- NOOOOOOOoooooooo
Last night, Partial Hand Guy set a pick on me. I tried to run around the pick, but as I was doing so he stuck out his exceptionally large ass. Once his ass caught me, he began scooting backward with as much force as he could, in effect bulldozing me backwards with his butt cheeks. The man I was defending, now wide open, shot and hit a three-pointer. On my way back upcourt, I said, "You can't set moving picks. Watch it." Mind you, I didn't call a foul. I was just giving a slightly less-than-friendly reminder that moving picks are, in fact, illegal. Instead of admitting his transgression and (reluctantly) agreeing not to set any more moving picks, or even just quietly accepting what I had to say, he naturally freaked out. "What
?! No I didn't! Come on now, that was a clean pick!"Example 2a:
Later, while I was bringing the ball upcourt, Spaz Guy -- who loves to apply full-court pressure -- charged at me with wildly swinging arms. His hand caught me hard across the wrist and the ball popped out of my hands. Never, at any point, did he get so much as a fingernail on the ball. "Got it," I said. His reply? "Wha
?! Are you kidding
me?! Is everything
a foul?!"Stage 2 - Obfuscation:
For some reason, many people feel that getting called out or accused of committing a foul is the worst possible embarrassment, worse even than those guys who get caught on Dateline's To Catch A Predator
series. So after first making a strong-worded denial, the next step is to embarrass their opponent right back. This means making a sort of reverse accusation, which more often than not has nothing whatsoever to do with the call that was made. The person who committed the foul tries to take a moral stand, accusing the person who called the foul of some previous wrongdoing, either real or imagined, that was worse, wasn't called (out of "mercy"), or both
Once Partial Hand Guy realized that I wasn't going to accept his denial of the illegal pick, he made a seamless transition from defense to offense. "Oh yeah
? Well you travel every single time you touch the ball...I could call that every time
As he was stomping his way toward the other end of the court, Spaz Guy felt the need to point out that "You double-dribbled just a couple minutes ago, and I
didn't call that
!"Stage 3 - Justification:
By denying the foul and then pointing a finger at you, the defender has given himself the time necessary to catch his breath and think up a really good explanation of why, exactly, the foul was not really a foul. The hope, of course, is that everyone is so fatigued and confused, nobody will be able to remember exactly what happened, assuming they even saw it in the first place. And at that point, it's your word against his...a veritable no-win situation.Example 1c:
After a heated debate on whether or not I actually manage to travel on every possession, Partial Hand Guy finally got around to pointing out that he wasn't moving on the pick. He was rolling
. "I can roll to the basket after I set a pick. That's perfectly legal." Forget the fact that he had his head down, his hands at his sides, and he wasn't even moving toward
the basket. It was really a pick-and-roll, and not a pick-and-push-me-the-hell-out-of-the-way. Suuuuuure.Example 2c:
Once Spaz Guy had finished recounting the exact nature of my supposed double-dribble, complete with pantomime and a running commentary, he returned to what presumably was the original point. "And anyway, I didn't hit your arm. I got all ball, and after I stole it your arm came up and hit me in the face." It was, at best, a rewriting of history and, at worst, a ridiculous lie. But it sounded plausible enough to him. He wasn't getting the ball back -- no one ever does, just like in the NBA -- but he now felt absolved of any wrongdoing. And in the end, that's really what it's all about.Edit:
Many thanks to reader JamieK
for pointing out the forgotten fourth stage of dispute...Stage 4 - Threats of Retribution:
This is where the person who committed the foul promises to start making every conceivable call against you and your team. "Oh, I see how it is. I'm gonna start calling everything too." Sometimes this is merely a bluff, a classic case of someone blowing off steam. But, more often than not, there will be at least one or two ticky-tack makeup calls immediately thereafter. And usually they're of the exceedingly petty variety. Hand checking? Yup. Three second violation? Of course. Palming? You know it. Fortunately, these are the kinds of calls that can turn a person's own team against him, and once his teammates start groaning and snarking at him, things usually return to normal.
Until the next foul.
Labels: fouls, pickup basketball, Rasheed Wallace Rule