Is there anything more frustrating as a fan than watching a game and thinking that your favorite team could not care less about the eventual outcome? Probably not.

This has become an all too familiar occurrence in the landscape of professional sports. There are certainly exceptions, but many of the best athletes in the world seem to care only about their multi-million dollar paychecks.

NBA commissioner David Stern has apparently decided that players in his league should care even less. He is attempting to eliminate reactions to officiating calls by instituting what is being called a “zero-tolerance policy.”

Of course, every call does not need to be disputed by a player, a la Rasheed Wallace.

However, if a player believes he has been blatantly wronged, fans should get to see a response out of him that says the game matters as much to the player as it does to all the fans who have been watching their favorite team religiously for years.

This does not mean that a seven-foot center should get in a 60 year-old referee’s face and start cursing him out, but he should merely plead his case, or at least turn away from the official and show some disgust at getting the short end of the stick.

Stern claims that reacting to calls “shows the less attractive side to the greatest athletes in the world,” and that a he has never seen a call reversed. The latter argument may be true, but the former is absurd.

Allen Iverson, whatever you say about him off the court, plays every game like it is his last. Sixers fans have to love this about him. This characteristic often has “The Answer” flying into the stands trying to save a loose ball. If an official says he stepped out of bounds while performing such an act, it would be unattractive if he did not complain to an official. Iverson consistently lays it all on the line, including when he fights for calls, and that is what makes his playing style beautiful for a Philadelphia fan to watch.

Even if he does not get the original call reversed, that little question of doubt is sure to linger in a referee’s head the next time there is a call in question involving Iverson.

Stern has every right to try and clean up the league’s mistreatment of officials and should always try to protect the referees. This includes cracking down on the use of foul language and threatening physical motions, but not any dispute of a call – that is what separates an NBA game from a casual game amongst friends. A zero tolerance policy is simply taking it too far.

This stance by the commissioner will only further alienate a previously alienated fan base. All Stern has to do is look at the half-empty NHL arenas every night to know that alienating a fan base is never ideal for a professional sports league.

Obviously this declaration is a far cry from the NHL strike, but the NHL has no stiff competition like the NBA with NCAA basketball.

When Duke and North Carolina match up, players argue about calls and they play for ACC supremacy and the pride of their respective schools. Their fan bases never have to worry about dollar signs being a higher priority than winning games. Unfortunately, this seems to not always be the case in the NBA.

Whether you think it’s right or wrong, sports fans make teams a huge part of their lives. This gives them the right to expect a lot out of athletes being paid ridiculous sums of money to play a simple game; this includes expecting them to try and get every possible break.

Stern has made some great decisions recently for the future of the NBA by enforcing a couple strict rulings on players and fans: banning a fan from all games for the entire season after the fan screamed a racial slur at Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo, and banning former Pacers guard Ron Artest for an entire season following his altercation with fans in Detroit.

However, when it comes to this decision, Stern could learn a lot from the old adage, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

Last season, if you crossed the line with the referees, you got a technical foul and possibly a fine or even a suspension; most of the time the punishment fit the crime perfectly. Was there anything wrong with that?

Waldman is a member of the class of 2010.



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