Got one

If the NBA has taught us anything, it's that basketball players don't commit fouls. Oh sure, fouls get called all the time -- at a rate of about 22 per game last season -- but nobody ever actually commits one. All body contact is totally legal and that slapping sound was all ball. Tim Duncan's goggly-eyed stare has become the defacto symbol of a world in which fouls are like Easter Bunnies and zombie movies that aren't awesome: They don't exist.

Well, monkey see, monkey freakin' do. Pickup ballers emulate their NBA counterparts by expressing indignant disbelief whenever a foul is called on them. Winning an argument over a foul is like lawyering in a high-profile murder case: You have to convince everybody, beyond a shadow of doubt, that your defender is guilty.

The Basics

1. Make a pained facial expression: Star Trek's Mr. Spock has always been one of my favorite sci-fi characters. The cool thing about Spock was that he was completely unfazed by human emotion. You could tell him that you anally violated his pet Tribble, and he'd just raise an eyebrow and say, "Fascinating." But despite the cool haircut, pointy ears, and greater-than-human strength and endurance, Spock never got laid. This is partly because Captain Kirk was banging everything that wasn't tied down or on fire. But mostly it's because it's impossible to trust someone who doesn't emote with their face. Let me put it this way: Do you trust zombies? Killer robots from the future? Dick Cheney? Of course you don't. But it isn't because they want to feast on living brains and conquer your feeble human world. It's because their facial expressions never change. And that's just creepy.

2. Grunt and/or cry out: When Bruce Willis takes a bullet in the face, he doesn't scream. He doesn't even wince. Instead, he dramatically sticks his foot through the bad guy while rasping out something totally rad, like "Yippee ki yay, [demeaning expletive of choice]!" But here's the thing: You aren't Bruce Willis. What's more, everybody knows you're not Bruce Willis. So nobody's going to believe that you got fouled if you endure it in grim silence. You don't need to go all William Shatner -- " god...I've been...fouled!!" -- but you'd better bring a little noise.

3. Call the foul: This is absolutely essential. In most cases, it won't matter how obvious the foul is; if you don’t call it, it didn’t happen. Period. Your head could explode in a grisly shower of blood and brain chunks, and the other team will just boogy downcourt while what's left of your body is twitching on the floor. Call it out loud and clear, immediately after the fact. If the ball makes it to half court, your chance may be lost.


4. Glare: Never underestimate the power of a hateful glare. Look at your defender like you just found out he slept with your sister and your girlfriend. At the same time. The glowering hatred oozing out of your pores will convince most of the other players that something truly unforgivable has been done to you.

5. Warm them up: If you miss a couple shots or get bumped off some rebounds, mumble under your breath about how you got fouled but you're letting it go. That way, when you finally do call the foul, everyone will be expecting it.

Advanced Tactics

1. Get mad: Showing frustrations doesn't work, and being merely irritated just won't cut it. You have to get full-on "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!" mad. It helps if you're big and scary to begin with. If not, you might have to do something more elaborate. You'll need the following supplies: Green contacts, some old clothes, a body builder, and a bucket of green body paint. Before you go to your pickup league, paint the body builder green and dress him in torn purple trousers. Have him stand outside the gym door. The first time you get fouled, bend over and shove in the green contacts. Spin around with your eyes wide open and start groaning. Stumble out the door while yelling, "No! Nooooo! I'm changing again!!" Once out of sight, start ripping your old clothes while making a "nreeeeeeeeeerrrrr" sound. Have the body builder growl menacingly, then storm in and start rampaging around. It would be best if he knocks over something big and throws at least one person (preferably the guy who committed the foul) across the gym. Then he should flex at everybody and run down a deserted alleyway (although you should be gone by then). I personally guarantee that nobody in your league will mess with you ever again.

2. Curse...early and often: The well-timed swear word can be indispensable during a foul pitch. Just make sure you sound thoroughly disgusted as you say it. Visualization is key. Pretend somebody just dumped a bucket of writhing insects down your shorts, or that you found a human finger in your Big Mac. You should also use curse words selectively. "Damn" should be used to indicate you would have hit the shot had you not been fouled. "Shit" denotes a generic sense of disgust regarding your defenders cheap tactics. "Fuck" is a sign of growing rage at your continued mistreatment. "Goddamn it" will let everybody know that you're mad as hell and you aren't going to take it anymore.

3. Drop, flop, and roll: Most of the time, a foul that doesn't result in major bloodshed or the loss of a significant appendage is considered ticky-tac, and will result in a notable loss of manhood. You might as well tell everybody you're wearing a pink lace thong under your hoopty shorts. It'll help if you took a Theater 101 course in college, and thus understand the basic tenets of method acting. However, watching some old pro wrestling DVDs will teach you everything you need to know (I suggest The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection). When possible, try to wheel your arms around and then hit the ground with a loud, solid thunk. The crazier your fall and the harder you hit, the easier it will be to believe you just got thugged. You'll probably have to limp or shuffle around for a little while afterward, otherwise people will totally know you were faking.

4. Fake a serious injury: There’s no better way to get somebody off your back than to drop to the ground, grab the body part of choice, and scream out something like, "Noooooo, my ankle!" I've found joints are the best "serious injury" body parts, particularly the knee and ankle, since that could be a "career-ending" injury. Screw up your face, moan like a little girl, and writhe as much as possible. However, you cannnot recover quickly from this one. Limping up and down the court won't cut it. You'll need to leave the court and maybe sit on the sidelines for a while. If you hammed it up too much, you might even have to leave for the night. But trust me, your effort will not have been in vain. Your team will be given the ball back, no questions asked.

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Blogger B-Will said...
Also you should prepare people for the fouls you are going to call. I mean being quiet all the time and then calling a foul, it will be unexpected. With every shot you successfully make, (it it is at all contested) you need to shout And1 this will get them firmly into the mode of expecting your foul. I learned this trick from your nice post about the AND1.

10 signs you are a basketball addict

Blogger Unknown said...
What about the ol' "Oh. Okay, so THAT'S how you want to play", followed by verbal confirmation of what you perceive to be now-acceptable play, i.e.
-"So I CAN go over your back with one hand on your shoulder to rebound"
-"So I CAN hook your arms under mine and hold you when I set a pick"
But of course, with this strategy no foul is called and the game either
a) gets better because you guilt the opposing player into admitting his foul and he stops doing it
b) deteriorates because the infraction is now fair play...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Basketbawful: I find this relevant to your interests

It's a bit long, but there's all sorts of pick-up basketball stuff that you talked about in it.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Very funny.You must read that guy Listen to. I saw a couple of the same refernces as a post of his.


Anonymous Anonymous said...
Basketbawful's wife knows all about faking it! Hey-O!

Blogger Pete Fresh said...
In an interesting paradox, nobody in the NBA fouls, and everyone in the NBA gets fouled. You sell both things the same way, yell as loud as you can. Rasheed gets called for fouling: "AHHHHH!", Rasheed thinks he gets fouled going for the layup: "AHHHHH!".

Blogger Basketbawful said...
brad -- Good point. I'll need to edit this point. You've got to warm the opposing team up, so to speak.

dave -- That is an oft-used tactic, but as you point out, it doesn't really help sell the foul. In fact, not calling the foul but nonetheless complaining about it is seen as a sign of weakness, and the other players will often resort to eating you alive.

sun devil -- Beautiful video...I might have to post that one.

Mike -- Liston is my conjoined twin. He's here with me now. He says, "Ba weep grana, weep ninny ba."

anonymous -- Change "wife" to "harem of 18 to 21 year old girls" and you're right on. And honestly, once I'm done, who cares if they're faking it?

pete -- Yup. NBA players sell the foul too. There's the hateful glare. The Rasheed scream. Tim Duncan's googly eyes.