Pickup Martyr
This image was found doing a Google search for "martyr." Seriously.

Pickup Martyr (pik'-up mart'-uhr) noun. Refers to those pickup basketball players who refuse to call fouls committed against them -- ostensibly because they're too tough or principled to do so -- but nonetheless never fail to communicate (either verbally or non-verbally) that the foul occurred...sometimes (or even often) quite loudly. These players might also labor fruitlessly on terrible teams without suggesting roster changes. And, of course, they won't miss an opportunity to inform various members of the opposite team that their squad sucks.

Usage example: That one guy never calls a foul, but he always lets you know he's not calling it. He's a regular Pickup Martyr.

Word history: I thought up this term right after finishing the Pickup Judas post. If you're a baller, chances are you've played with and/or against a Pickup Martyr. Some examples of Pickup Martyrdom include:

1. Someone fouls the PM in an obvious way. Play slows noticably while everybody watches the PM to see whether he's going to call it. The PM then makes eye contact with one or more people, sighs heavily (to openly acknowledge that he was indeed fouled), shakes his head (to indicate he's "better" than to make the call), and trudges despondently downcourt to play defense.

2. Someone fouls the PM in a slightly less obvious way. Play continues while the PM groans, sighs, laughs in mock disgust, or maybe taps his arm or wrist to indicate he was hit. This behavior continues until at least one other players notices and tells the PM to call the foul. The PM will respond by shaking his head and/or saying something like "Nah, forget it" in a highly dignified manner.

3. Someone fouls the PM in either an obvious or not-to-obvious way. The PM will stop and stand stock-still for a moment, which in many pickup leagues is the same as calling the foul out loud. Play stops and one or more players will ask the PM if he wants the call. The PM will then say something like "Forget it" or "No, it was clean" even though everybody pretty much knows it wasn't clean. On some rare occasions, the opposing players will insist on giving the PM the call no matter how strongly he resists accepting it.

The goal of Pickup Martyrdom seems to be twofold. First, the PM is trying to establish a sort of moral superiority among the players who are present. This often provides the PM with a sense of pride and personal satisfaction that he can use to feel victorious regardless of whether his team wins or loses. Second, the PM is often trying to passive-aggressively modify the behavior of the other players. Some heartless pickup ballers won't care how much the PM suffers, but many players develop a heightened sensitivity to the PM, so that they will either try their best to never foul him or insist on repeatedly calling fouls for him...even in situations when they might otherwise not be called (such as with ticky-tac fouls and embarrassment calls).

The downside of having a PM on your team is that the fouls he doesn't call could very well end up costing your team a close game, especially if the PM is relatively talented. This has often happened with my buddy Mister P, who never, ever, ever calls it when he gets hit driving to the basket. This drives me absolutely batty. Fortunately, Mister P usually spots up at the three-point line in lieu of taking it to the hoop.

Update! Some followup thoughts from Basketbawful reader Drake: "I was a little skeptical about your definition of the PM at first, but your explanation makes sense. Being a martyr isn't about dying silently for your cause; it's about making as much noise as possible while dying for your cause. For some PMs, the 'dying for his cause' part means he won't call fouls because he feels he's ruining the integrity of pickup ball like that (or something), but he will bitch and moan as much as possible about it so other will know what happened. But your definition seems a little narrow. It defines the PM as a passive-aggressive asshole who keeps muttering under his breath. But what about those loudmouths who go all out and keep yapping off about everything, except they don't actually explicitly call foul?"

Solid point. Some PMs do indeed make a spectacular and flamboyant show of thier martyrdom, yelling, sreaming or cackling about this or that call they didn't make but totally should have. Some of them even use this as an excuse to retaliate with similar fouls, which they will complain about if called. So I suppose you could say there are two types of PMs: The silent, stoic kind and the loud, obnoxious kind.

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19 Comments:
Blogger BJ said...
Hey Bawful. Ever see that encyclopedia series for kids, "Eyewitness Books"? In the section on Referees (pgs 12-13) is a really sublime example of Duncan Face. The son of a bitch is posing for it! In a book of knowledge, man! Impressionable children see these things! (And the angle's bad, but I can't say for sure he's not fondling himself.)
-BJ

Blogger Michael Hsu said...
I got Jesus pictures and a naked woman when I typed in martyr with Safesearch turned on.

is that colbert?

Blogger Cortez said...
Once again kind sir, I have to respectfully disagree.

The only thing I dislike about the "pickup martyr" is when they make a show of their non-calls. If I play with some less than stellar players I may avoid calling fouls altogether just to keep the flow of the game going.

If I called every foul we would rarely leave that side of the court.

The kicker is that I don't complain about it, or make any notice of it whatsoever, unless you start acting as if your defense actually superb.

In that case, I typically make it a point to make strong moves and make the call afterwards.

Most people, if they have any honor, will simply say "hey dude, my bad for hacking you to death".

The better thing to do, and nearly impossible at the same time, is to find a group that actually knows how to play basketball and has some personal integrity.

The day I have to resort to hacking to keep the game close is the day I stop playing, period.

Also, I was reading your post from the other day. Your answers are nearly the exact same answers I would have given.

Are you my (white) clone?

Blogger Cortez said...
Disregard my last comment.

I need to learn how to read a bit closer!

Blogger Basketbawful said...
bj -- Any chance you could get me a scan?

michael hsu -- Yup, in all his patriotic glory.

cortez -- I'm not sure you're actually disagreeing with me. You say: "The only thing I dislike about the "pickup martyr" is when they make a show of their non-calls." And part of the definition is that they always make a show of the non-calls. That's what makes them a martyr and not just somebody who calls intelligent fouls and tries to maintain the overall flow of the contest.

The thing is, fouls happen all the time and you can't call every one of them. I learned this the first time I played in a serious tournament. I got hacked, and hard, several times in the beginning of the first game and lost the ball each time. I couldn't believe the refs weren't calling them. But what can they do? Foul everybody out?

I would have to test your DNA to figure out whether you're my clone. Can you provide a sample?

Blogger Drake said...
I was a little skeptical about your definition of the PM at first, but your explanation makes sense. Being a martyr isn't about dying silently for your cause; it's about making as much noise as possible while dying for your cause. For some PMs, the "dying for his cause" part means he won't call fouls because he feels he's ruining the integrity of pickup ball like that (or something), but he will bitch and moan as much as possible about it so other will know what happened.

But your definition seems a little narrow. It defines the PM through some passive-aggressive asshole who keeps muttering under his breath. But what about those loudmouths who go all out and keep yapping off about everything, except they don't actually explicitly call foul?

Blogger BJ said...
Whoops. The player in the photo is Tony Parker, overdoing Duncan Face. My bad. Disgust and horror stands.

http://i280.photobucket.com/albums/kk161/darali_starscream/ParkerdoesDuncanFace.jpg

Best I could do. The book itself I got from the library.
-BJ

Anonymous Stanko Zovko said...
This happens in my league a lot. We play pickup and we NEVER call fouls. We have been playing with each other for a while and realise that it is more fun to let the play continue.

We always have people jump in and become martyrs since we don't call any fouls. Usually this leads to the opposing team running their entire offense at the Martyr while also throwing some serious defense his way. The Martyr then looks like a fool and all are happy.

Anonymous joe said...
Classic!

Anonymous tradebait said...
I have to admit that I'm basically this player minus the speaking out and drama (I don't complain). I'm different since I don't call fouls unless I think my shot will miss badly because of the foul. Being 6'4 with long arm and springs for achilles I usually get my miss back. Why call it? But I did sort of lose a game for the team Tuesday, got hacked in the paint on game point 3 straight times, no calls, but the shots rolled out so whatever.
Very happy about these pickup ball posts thanks.

Blogger cawo said...
can somebody tell me why the first pic when I typed martyr in google image was a naked woman? really weird....

oh and who is a good example of a pick-up martyr? is he almost the same as the ginobli(the term not the player)

Anonymous FooTara said...
aa fuck it I just realized that I'm a pickup martyr.

Blogger Brad said...
The scene from the longest yard is glorification of the pick up martyr.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gdc4uhiBdrc

How many people made comments during your hacker posts admitting that they were hackers? No-one even though in truth hackers will win more games for their teams than Martyr's and are probably the more competitive winning assholes. (e.g. do anything for the win) However pickupbasketball is usually for the pure hoops desciples that care more about how you win, than about if you win. Therefore, you can't slam the pickup martyr too much, they would rather be a martyr than be classified as a hack.

Blogger Cortez said...
"But what can they do? Foul everybody out?"

Yeah. They'll adjust.

"And part of the definition is that they always make a show of the non-calls."

That was the purpose of my follow up.

My ADD was kicking in hard.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
There is yet another kind of martyr; the one who never calls, but say he misses a pivotal bucket (ex. Blown lay up on point game), chooses to make sure that everyone knows of his no call

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Damn, I might be a pick-up martyr, but the quiet type.

Anonymous davefromm said...
The real fun begins when the pickup martyr guards the "and one!" guy. Will they both leave feeling great about themselves? Or will one eventually bust out with the "You're calling/not calling that shit?!" Who can hold out the longest?

Blogger Aurelio said...
Is there a term for people who don't complain about it? I drive to the basket a lot and tend to get fouled, but I rarely call it. I don't draw attention to it though I just keep on going with the game. It's not that I'm trying to feel morally superior to everyone else, it's just that it doesn't cross my mind to call it. I know this upset my teammates when the game is close but I just forget to, and late calls are not accepted with the people I play with. You have to call right after the foul. Unless it's an obvious hard foul then those are just given to the player. So is there some term for it? Because Martyrs seem to not call fouls for their own selfish reasons.

Anonymous keane said...
its the best when someone on the other team calls a questionable call the next time down. the PM always makes a big show and complains about how "youre gonna call that sh*t?" ill just start caling everything"

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