All football players know they will be roughed up during a tackle, just like all baseball infielders can assume they will get a few cleats in the shin when a runner slides into the bag.
So, it is only logical for basketball players to expect to receive a few elbows to the face when an opponent swings their arms. That is why the Flagrant 1 foul is the dumbest rule in sports. It is detrimental to NCAA basketball.
I get that the point is to eliminate concussions and other injuries caused when players swing their elbows to earn some space.
The original intentions of the rule are respectable, but I constantly wonder if anyone thought of the consequences. The negative effects far outweigh the supposed improvements to the game.
Let’s start from the beginning. According to the new definition, a Flagrant 1 foul essentially occurs when a player swings an elbow and makes illegal contact with an opponent above the shoulders.
The problem with this is it is very hard to distinguish what contact is illegal and what contact is acceptable. Sure, the officials are veterans, but judgment calls do not get easier over time.
The referees are not the problem. It is the rule itself. The rule is vague in definition yet severe in penalty, as the offended team gets two free throws and possession of the ball. In some cases, even the most routine basketball plays are now illegal.
Take, for example, a play during the NCAA tournament. During a drive to the basket, a Pittsburgh offensive player’s elbow hit a Wichita State defender in the face.
Honestly, it was the defender’s fault – he had nearly fallen down when the player drove by, so his face was unusually low – but either way, it was a routine basketball play. No ordinary foul was committed, and especially not a Flagrant 1.
But, I do not place any fault on the officials. They are only trying to enforce this nonsense rule, which leads to another aspect that maddens me.
In case you have not watched basketball, it is a pretty fast-paced sport. A single call can change the outcome of the game.
When officials suspect a Flagrant 1, they all head over to the TV monitor to watch the play again. This would not be a problem, except it takes several minutes for each review, and potentially affects who comes out with the win.
Teams lose momentum. Players cool down. Coaches heat up. Fans lose interest and cheer less. The entire atmosphere changes, all because of a poorly worded rule.
As a former basketball player, I feel 100 percent comfortable saying this rule is 100 percent stupid.
I have been hit in the head more times than I can count by a random elbow flying through the air.
But guess what? I expected that to happen. I mean, it is freaking basketball. It is a contact sport. There will always be some incidental contact. Players know it. Coaches know it. Fans know it.
So, the NCAA needs to get rid of the rule. Trust the officials to do their jobs. They know how to call a foul and keep the game safe.
Trust the athletes to take care of themselves and not intentionally hurt others.
Let them play ball. Let them have fun. Isn’t that the what the game is about, anyway?
Column by Ryan Richardson, Online Editor.