Last autumn I spent some time writing about over-regulation for the Baltimore Orioles and Major League Baseball. We’re starting to see it across the board in baseball, such as the rules governing takeout slides and blocking the plate. The more rules and stipulations that exist, the more they’re open to interpretation by different umpires.
And over the weekend we saw the dark side of interpreting rules in a college basketball game. In short, St. Bonaventure beat VCU in an apparent upset victory – or did they? “The Bonnies” hit a shot to take a one-point lead with what appeared to be .4 seconds on the clock. At one point the clock actually said zero, and the students stormed the court in celebration.
However the game wasn’t over – there were .4 seconds left. That’s barely enough time for a heave-ho at the end, but in theory it’s enough time. However the game official whistled a technical foul against St. Bonaventure because the crowd stormed the court. VCU was awarded a free throw (which they converted to tie the game – with .4 seconds left), and then won the game in overtime.
This is where we get into well “technically” the letter of the rule says… And that’s where frustrations can boil over. Major League Baseball should look at that situation and take note. Because something like that could in fact happen in baseball if an umpire wanted to interpret a rule one way or another.
In accordance with the rule the way it is written, the referee in that game was within his right to whistle a technical foul. Some people might even argue that he would have shirked his duty had he not done so, in fact. But baseball fans have a word/hashtag for this: #umpshow. Basically when an umpire decides to make himself part of the show, we start seeing that term thrown around.
And in my view that’s exactly what the ref in that basketball game did. Because he absolutely had to rigidly enforce the rule by the letter, he not only became part of “the show,” but he put his own stamp on the game. That’s not supposed to happen.
So some might ask what exactly I want officials to do. If a rule is broken, should some sort of enforcement not occur? Of course it should. However if you’re an umpire or ref, you’re also schooled in how the game works. So in that case the ref should have understood the magnitude of that moment, and yes in essence looked the other way. That’s not to say that he should have just given the St. Bonaventure students carte blanche to storm the court before the game was over, but he should have looked at the circustance of the moment as opposed to just the letter of the rule.
And yes folks, if there are too many rules sometimes things like that can happen. So MLB needs to take note of that. I’ll let you throw scenarios around in your heads as to how something along those lines could in theory occur in baseball, but when something along those lines flat out costs you a game that you rightfully won it’s no laughing matter.
As an aside, baseball does have one advantage over the rest of the sports in situations like these. The concept of “playing under protest” still exists according to the rules. If a manager thinks a rule has been unfairly applied or misinterpreted, he can let the umpire know that he’s playing under protest. The umpire is then supposed to document that, and put that in his report to the league office after the game.
The manager can drop the protest after the game if he so chooses (which most managers will do if they end up winning the game). However if he chooses to continue his protest he has until noon the next day to send in a formal notice of protest to the league office. The league will then review the situation, and if they decide that yes in fact a rule was misinterpreted or misapplied by the umpire, they can order the game to be re-played from that moment.
Apparently that concept doesn’t exist in college basketball – but I think it should exist in all sports. However that aside, the more rules and regulations which exist the more chance there is that something like that could happen.