Treat me like dirt

The NBA has the most inconsistent refereeing this side of football. Fine. But if we take that as a given, certainly there has to be something more interesting to say about the flux that is Association calls than "it's a conspiracy to advance the Lakers." We always hear about stars getting the benefit of the doubt, if not outright favortism, yet that too implies some cabalistic scheme to generate a market-tested outcome most condusive to network preferences. The preposterous thing about this is that it assumed that the referees themselves—certainly the most proud, tough, headstrong S.O.B.'s this side of vintage umpiring—would so willingly cave and prostitute themselves as pawns in a far-reaching fix.

What it also neglects is what exactly goes on in the interactions between players and refs, hinted at continuously in the media but never explicitly detailed. And why I can hardly presume to report it accurately, my sense is that it has a lot to do with respect. Pulling a Haslem shows disrespect toward the officials, and invariably lands a player several temples shy of objectivity, and guys who have undoubtedly proved their basketball worth are more likely to get the "just let them play" postulate applied lopsidedly toward them. It's not about letting them cheat; it's giving competency the benefit of the doubt. With Cavs/Wizards, and at least still technically in Suns/Lakers, you've got a pair of stars jostling for position in the minds of the refs and proving that there's a way to leverage calls that doesn't depend on racking up fines. It's a fight to demonstrate that they (and their team) understand the tenor of playoff basketball, are willing to go for broke, and don't expect the officials to bail them out—the kind of play that balding zebras nod at this time of year.

Plain and simple, you've got Arenas demanding respect by regularly going to the hoop hard with more than a fiery snowball's chance of success, taking the kind of punishment that'll earn him a break now and then. Not that LeBron doesn't do the same, but Arenas and his team are going from specks in the shadow of a legend to gutsy, and above all else adept, veterans every bit as worthy of the refs' deference as James. Kobe started out the series by getting flat-out robbed on a non-call that cost them the game. With his decimation of Nash, though, he asserted that he was the alpha star, and that his motley Lakers were every bit as legit as the Suns. Whether or not that should've been a charge (it wasn't), from that point on Kobe proved himself, and the Lakers, to be the more physical, aggressive of the two teams.

The Suns may have the record, but they aren't really playing like a team that's earned it with sweat and blood—in short, not playoff-ready.The Suns, just like the Kings before them, aren't getting calls because they're soft. As egomaniacal as many refs may be, it's not like they feel golden about being counted on by one team to protect them; in the context of the playoffs, that amounts to them getting used. This may not be the issue on every possession, but you've got to think that, down the road, it catches up with teams. You may argue that this is giving the mightiest of the stars an unfair edge, but think about it this way: shouldn't a truly great squad be able to overcome occasional human error, or not end up in spots where these judgment calls decide the fate of their seasons?

On Arenas and the deity: LeBron doesn't have a bit of Jesus in him. He's the angry, inexorable Father of the Israelites, plain and simple. If you're looking for the King of the Conqurered and Downtrodden, that would Arenas. Some better qualified authority on the Trinity should break the tie by making a call on the Holy Ghost.

UPDATE: Wilbon just said "Kobe's earned the calls, but what about Steve Nash, the reigning MVP?" Only conclusion is that, at least in this venue, he hasn't.


At 5/01/2006 5:05 PM, Blogger Mirabeau Lamar said...


Nice call on Bron as The Father. I've always felt there was something distinctively Old Testament about his game and his playoff beard sure helps solidify the connection. The Holy Spirit is neither seen nor heard, but the silent visitor whenever two or more are gathered in His Name. Therefore, I would contend that the Legacy of MJ, as Holy Ghost, would round out that Trinity nicely.

At 5/01/2006 5:29 PM, Anonymous Carlos Destrroyo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5/01/2006 5:31 PM, Anonymous Carlos Destrroyo said...

The Holy Ghost first manifested himself to the apostles of the son as tongues of fire. With that logic, I'd say that he hasn't shown himself as the true power he can be yet, so it's hard to say. If Carmelo has a bonkers crazy season next year, I say give it to him; he is an equal to the father and the son, but without the power over the people.

In an almost unrelated note, how is Pao Gasol's song not Clutch's Burning Beard ? Too bad he isn't the Holy Ghost-esque player I have in mind, otherwise the tongues of fire thing would be too damn perfect.

At 5/01/2006 5:42 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

as a line-towing member of the jewish faith, i've always believed the holy ghost to be loony ecstasy. but i know that for the faithful, it is an experiential glory that is perhaps more readily accessible than either of the other two dudes.

At 5/01/2006 5:43 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

cd, i deleted your first comment because it was the same as the second + some accdeintally hyperlinked stuff. if you meant to put both up there, i'm sorry.

At 5/01/2006 5:52 PM, Anonymous bobduck said...

How is Darko not the perfect Holy Ghost?

He's poised for an insane breakout season (pretty damn solid down the stretch for Oorlando), and I think its obvious he hasn't realized his full fiery potential?

Plus, who's more FD than D?

At 5/01/2006 6:08 PM, Blogger Tigero is my Afro-Asian said...

The Holy Ghost question is a grooved 2 seamer from Isringhausen, more over it's served on a cafeteria tray waiting for the masses spiritual consumption. Carlos forgets that the Father was the creator (an OG), the Son was the Savior (big ego, beyond being part man part amazing), the Spirit is a throw in to complete the trinity, makes its presents know in times of need, and is the compass directing you to the Promise Land or a game 6 home court defeat.
If we'd spin this back to the age of LA Gear, we're talking about Paxsman. Present day, I'm looking at Big Shot Bob, he's not going to deliver manna to wayward teams. But when your soul is on the line, Horry's going to decide your destiny (or dynasty).
No way is 'Melo the Ghost, the Ghost wouldn't be seen wearing a Stop Snitchin' T.

At 5/01/2006 6:19 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

what's more "stop snitching" than the saga of early christianity?

At 5/01/2006 6:33 PM, Blogger Ian said...

What's more "stop snitching" than the saga of early Christianity might be Snow's "Informer." Or maybe not. Anyways, my only beef about refereeing thus far was when I missed the Nets/Pacers game on Tuesday due to heavy alcohol consumption. I woke up to SportsCenter showing the highlights, followed by "Violet Palmer: first woman to referee a playoff game." And I thought to myself, "how long will it take for some player to comment on the calls? Lo and behold...

At 5/01/2006 6:37 PM, Blogger Mirabeau Lamar said...

Shoals, that last line linked the Early Church, Melo and hip-hop culture in a way I never thought possible. The problem with Melo, Paxson, Horry or Darko is that the HG is never represented in human form (instead usually a dove) and the idea of the embodiment of the HG in a human is rather unorthodox, let alone borderline heretical; not to mention inconsistent with the theological/historical concept of the HG. So if not MJ's legacy, perhaps something more like The Triangle Offense (, which has a nice trinitarian feel to it, or the spirit of the Playoffs.

At 5/01/2006 6:52 PM, Anonymous Aaron said...

It's weird... I'm so much more comfortable with this blog dealing with Jewish theology in heretical terms than dealing with Christian theology in heretical terms. I have no idea why this is- I am, after all, a practicing Jew.

In any case, if you want to play with deity metaphors... How is MJ not Cronus, eating up his offspring as they are born? And we all hope that LeBron is Zeus, who will finally slay his father and become Master of Olympus, and simultaneously free his older siblings, (Kobe and Vince and T-Mac?) to take their rightful places in the Pantheon.

verification: nourqeve

At 5/01/2006 6:57 PM, Blogger there is no you or me without Suomi said...

I agree with MLamar in that the HG cannot be a human. Therefore, I nominate Jimmy Chitwood as holy ghost. Think of it, he was never an actual basketball mortal and as fiction, can embody a sort of platonic perfection that real ballers can hope to be possessed by. (What your people called corn/'getting in the zone', we called maize/'the parousia')
Unfortunately, there was nothing in the way of xenoglossy when it came to Jimmy having to speak without the benefit of his jump shot. No matter, this doesn't stop 'true' basketball charismatics from still seeking his face. What I'm saying is this: if Larry Brown starts trying to get the Knicks into snake handling and bleacher-jumping for reasons besides protecting the fans from Kendra Davis, this is why. He's a mental fundie trying to untie his bowtie while driving his honda.

At 5/01/2006 7:07 PM, Anonymous bobduck said...

If we're going all Greek, would that make Kobe Hades?

At 5/01/2006 7:23 PM, Anonymous Jimmy Jefferson said...

Sam Cassel is Hephaestus.

At 5/01/2006 7:38 PM, Anonymous Torgo said...

Maybe this is the unspeakable, but couldn't we say that Amare is the Holy Ghost? Not present, but his presence (or lack of) is felt everywhere? At least for this year, and if, in the future, his knee goes the way of the martyrs before him? Who's John the Baptist when it comes to microfracture? Penny? C-Webb? Kidd?

Verification: dmbez

At 5/01/2006 8:42 PM, Blogger Snicker-snack said...

I usually think of Kobe as the Angel of Death and encourage him sadistically, with "Death." replacing "Money!" and "Destroy." replacing take him.

At 5/01/2006 10:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If we are talking greek, Kobe is Achilles and Steve Nash is Hector. Tomorrow Kobe will drag Nash's body from the back of his motorcycle around America West Arena.

Unfortunately, he will lose to Paris (Elton Brand) in the second wrong when he lands on his ankle wrong after a nasty dunk.

At 5/02/2006 12:19 AM, Anonymous Torgo said...

Or is Amare the Golem? Just to totally mix the mythology up. Maybe he's just so horrifyingly good, so strange and foreign, the villagers had to get the rebbe to smudge the word on his head...

Nah, screw it. Ben Wallace is the Golem. Go ahead, reach toward his forhead. See if your hand comes back to you, or just a bloody stump.

At 5/02/2006 12:57 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5/02/2006 12:58 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

from wikipedia, which since it mentions us twice is a definitive reference source:

"In the late nineteenth century the golem was adopted by mainstream European society. Most notably Gustav Meyrink's 1915 novel Der Golem based on the tales of the golem created by Judah Low ben Bezalel. This book inspired a classic set of expressionistic silent movies, Paul Wegener's Golem series, of which especially Golem: How He Came Into the World (also released as The Golem, 1920, USA 1921) is famous. Another famous treatment from the same era is H. Leivick's 1921 Yiddish-language "dramatic poem in eight sections" The Golem. Also notable is Julien Duvivier's "Le Golem" (1936), a sequel to the Wegener film.

These tales saw a dramatic change, and some would argue a Christianization, of the golem. Christianity, far more than Judaism, has long had a deep concern with humanity presuming Godhood upon themselves. The golem thus became a creation of overambitious and overreaching mystics, who would inevitably be punished for their blasphemy"

larry brown=jew whose ancient orthodoxy was under attack by cossacks, they of great physical prowess
Ben Wallace=the golem

steve nash=the creator who dared to change the league
amare=the monster that ultimately destroyed both himsef and his maker


At 5/02/2006 2:43 AM, Anonymous Torgo said...

Wow. Shoals, you rule with an iron fist. Just beautiful. There just isn't a better way to put that. I like, by the way, your graded reader approach to myth.

At first, goyhood is a little hard to get past, but somehow, it works better each time, not unlike a fine bottle of Skol. After a while, you don't notice the flavor.

At 5/02/2006 5:04 AM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

Fun fact that's got nothing to do with anything mentione before:

"At a hospital early Monday morning, Kobe Bryant and his wife Vanessa welcomed their second daughter (Gianna) to the world.

Shaquille O'Neal and his wife Shaunie simultaneously delivered their sixth child (Mearah Sanaa O'Neal) just six minutes earlier than the Bryants in South Florida. The timing is beyond comprehension as the ex-teammates remain star-crossed well beyond their days of hoisting trophies together in Los Angeles."

So maybe the WNBA will finally have an interesting storyline about 20 years down the road!

At 5/02/2006 9:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, this is kobe's 2nd and shaq already has about 70. Between shaq and kemp, the wnba is gonna be stacked for years to come.

At 5/02/2006 10:20 AM, Blogger T. said...

I had a long comment written about Jalen Rose being Loki the Trickster - including links to his draft suit and references to the Fab Five and the trickster god and birthing the wolf who ends Ragnorok., but my computer decided that was a good time to freeze

So all you get is the comparison.

At 5/02/2006 11:12 AM, Blogger Mirabeau Lamar said...

The Jalen Rose draft suit was a doctoral dissertation begging to be written. When I first laid eyes upon it, I remember genuflecting before the TV and feeling naked wearing my peasantesque cotton gym shorts.

T, that dude's sideline reporting at the Spurs reminds me of a high school journalism project.

At 5/02/2006 12:08 PM, Blogger ~CW~ said...

You could make the parallel that Shaq is Saturn, the last vestige of 90's hoops, and by Kobe, the son Jove, overpowering him and forcing him to retire, he allows the wave of new gods - Livingston, Howard, Amare, LeBron, Dwyane - to flourish.

Only problem is that Saturn retired to Italy and that seems to be Kobe's claim, but that's stretching it. I just want to find the proper religious trope for the genius that is Shaun Livingston.

At 5/02/2006 7:39 PM, Anonymous futuristxen said...

On the issue of the officials. I don't know how much it is actually earning or not earning respect. I think that's an effort on the part of rabble to ascribe human attributes where there are none. Superstars are superstars for a reason, they have special abilities that others simply don't. One of those abilities, is the ability to change the rules around them.

Whether it is Paul Pierce giving a head fake that gets his man in the air, Lebron's hop step maybe only coming off correct half of the time, or Arenas and Hughes ability to strip the ball where a lesser defender would be called for a foul. The superstar is less governed by the rule, as much as he creates the rule. Like a slick shot lawyer from the sewers, the law is rewritten around him.

And this is not something that the officials have the ability to undo. Like I said in the other thread, when Lebron James travels with the ball, and does it inhumanly quick for a man his size, it's virtually incallable. You can't call what you can't see, so the judges are abliged to let it go, even though instant replay may make them look foolish afterwards. But right now instant replay only counts in the final seconds of the game.

Similarly, people complain about superstars and continuation. But often times those continuation moves are moves that the average mortal NBA player can't pull off--so who really knows if there is a bias in that beyond the bias that the player has earned, simply by being that skilled.

The emphasis on superstar treatment is too much on the officials. The reason that the officiating gets worse every year is because the players are creating the divide. Not the officials. The players are getting closer and closer to the level where the naked human eye can't judge their indescretions.

We have to realize that superstar treatment is an errant term.

Instead of bemoaning these calls, they should be celebrated, as humankind moves closer and closer to a state where they are unable to be judged by their fellow man. Something on the order of Gods.

Someday we'll get to a place where the most obvious thing is to simply forgo the officials altogether and let the players police themselves. Whatever that may entail.

Another interesting discussion might be about what the role of the officials actually is. Some people think more judges, but there is a school of thought that officials are supposed to be like conductors. But I would imagine at this point, it's like presuming to have the right to conduct Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Theolonius Monk.

At 5/02/2006 8:55 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

like i said, it's all about giving competency the benefit of the doubt. you assume that stars don't need to cheat to make amazing shit happen. with fouls, if a player shows they can play physically and still succeed, they've earned the right to have refs assume that when something goes wrong, it's not their fault. i don't think it's so much about stars being beyond the powers of human perception as the whole thing being imperfect. so in the place of objectivity, there stands instead a perfcetly code of honor and symbolic order, alebit one that functions subjectively.


At 5/02/2006 10:18 PM, Anonymous futuristxen said...

Hmmm...I know the refs are assuming that stars don't need to cheat to make amazing shit happen--but post steroids scandal, and just in general how we are--wouldn't you say fans are the opposite? Most fans if they see something amazing immediately think something foul happened.

We doubt the miraculous. Heck, turn on the history channel and they are explaining how moses parted the red sea.

How do we bridget that gap? Do we pull the stars down, or go up to meet them? Y'know.

At 5/03/2006 1:30 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

giant muscular white men was perfectly fine and natural, in fact confirming that race's most hallowed of physical potentials. only when blacks in baseball really bulked up did fans freak out and cry plunder. likewise, the more explosively athletic black baskbetall players get, the more it makes people feel like the world has some sense to it. when it gets back to the general public that manu is technically caucasian, though. . .look the fuck out.


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