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Stern addresses 'flopping,' but return to 'old-school' refs would fix it

by | Columnist

Two words would end this flopping mess for the commissioner: Richie Powers. (Getty Images)  
Two words would end this flopping mess for the commissioner: Richie Powers. (Getty Images)  

God love David Stern for waiting until the last possible moment to address the flopping crisis in the NBA, and did it in the traditional Sternian way -- through all three sides of his mouth.

Yes, he would have fined Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel a lot more for calling the Miami Heat the biggest floppers in the league. But yes, it is a problem that needs to be looked at. And yes, he tried to do something about it years before, but was laughed out of the room by the coaches and general managers because they, not he, runs the league.

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Makes your eyebrows bleed just thinking about it.

In other words, nobody gets to speak on the matter but him. He did speak on it and was ignored. Therefore, there is no problem. So why did Frank Vogel get fined for complaining about something that the league is apparently fine with?

Because that's the way it is, Scooter. That's just the way it is.

People hate flopping, in all sports, for all the smells of cheating and cowardice it implies. But nothing is ever done about it for several compelling reasons, none the least of which is the one time it's called as a flop and turns out to be a serious injury.

Yeah, that'll play. But that's the one in a zaskillion moment of officiating Armageddon. Let's concentrate on the thousand of times when catastrophic injury is not the result.

In soccer, where the art best manifests itself, the problem of one official in the middle of a vast expanse trying to get the right angle on every collision is, well, a virtual impossibility. Even with linesman, you're guaranteed nothing but lousy vantage points.

That is, unless you're watching Queens Park Rangers player Joey Barton. If something happens, and he's nears it, he did it. That ought to be a rule, for sure.

But now it's supposedly an issue in basketball, and there seems to be nobody who cares about it except poor (well, poorer) Frank Vogel.

Well, there used to be a remedy, and it goes back to the good old days when the two officials ran the floor with the confidence of ten, which is to say twice as much confidence as three run it now. They were tougher and more respected than anyone else on the floor because they were fearless, and handed out justice with a hearty "Shut up and play."

The move was a simple one. There would be contact. Someone would go flying. And the official (I am sure it was always Earl Strom, or maybe it was Richie Powers, or in later incarnations, Joey Crawford) would stand over the aggrieved party, hold out his hands and raise them three or four times with a dismissive "Get up."

It was perfect. Well, it wasn't perfect. Sometimes there was a foul involved, but the officials' gesture typically was linked more by the look of pain and bewilderment of the guy on the floor, begging for the call he wanted. It said, "I'll tell you when it's a foul. Now get up."

And that's the way it was. Get up. You could flop, but at best you'd be laying on the floor while the game was going on, and at worst you'd get a sneaker in the chest.

But that's when officials had actual power, and were forced to use it make sure the game ran properly. There are now 50 percent more of them, most of them about half as good, as they're all kept on a short leash by the league office, which decided long ago that training people to be decisive and judgmentally sound wasn't as good as dull, aloof and fearful.

And now, you get flopping that isn't punished unless you talk about it to reporters. The problem that you can see with your own eyes but can't express with your own tongue.

In other words, no problem at all. And how are those eyebrows?

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast Sports Bay Area (


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