On Sunday night at the end of a very heated game between the Washington Wizards and my Chicago Bulls, Joakim Noah tapped an errant shot that was going in any way through the hoop and the Wizards’ bench threw up their arms, disgusted at this heinous, earth-shattering crime they had just witnessed. The play was clearly one that could be classified as offensive goaltending, as Noah’s hand and the ball were obviously within the cylinder.
I may have already written this column, and I don’t care because this a topic I can’t discuss enough. Ironically, I happen to find the idea of offensive goaltending in basketball to be extremely offensive. It’s just a dumb rule. For some odd reason, there are all sorts of weird rules like this in sports today. Even if you’re new to sports, you are probably still aware that the primary objective of basketball is to get the ball through the hoop. Now obviously you can’t just go ahead and punch your way through the paint or drive a tank through the other team’s frontcourt, killing everyone in sight. But that’s not what we’re talking about here…We’re talking about what is essentially a tip-in play that fulfills the sport’s most important objective. There’s no “foul” on the play here. You have a guy who’s just down low boxing out like he usually is on any other play, only he’s finishing the job that the perimeter shooter couldn’t.
I couldn’t care less if a guy drop kicks a ball through the hoop. But then, we have yet another rule that would come into play as kicking is against the rules as well. Which is a crying shame because if I saw a guy in a street ball game just punt one into the hole and it went in, I’d say “Good for him!” as it is something that you don’t see every day. But the very theory of offensive goaltending is faulty, and that’s coming from a guy who is a huge fan of defensive goaltending being a reasonable rule that is good to have in place.
So let’s think about that for a second here: The purpose of defensive goaltending is to prevent an unfair block of an opposing team’s shot when the ball is coming down from its arc. And that’s a damn good rule to have in place, because otherwise some of these centers would just box out and swat everything away until they needed wrist replacement surgery. (Dwight Howard might even actually be half as great as the sports media has made him out to be!) So in theory, this is to protect the offense from such unjust behavior.
Then why does the sport of basketball feel the need to police such a thing on the other end of the court? That seems a little silly to me. The NBA wants to see scoring, because while defense wins championships it’s also toxic for ratings. (And probably the subject of almost every nightmare Carmelo Anthony has ever had) So what’s the harm in an extra tap-in here and again? It’s not like it happens all of the time…
Look, there has to be rules in sports. I’m not one of those sports anarchists who believe that the whistles should be filled with sand and shoved up the asses of the officials. If that was the case, the current concussion problem in the NFL would have advanced to the point where even the wheelchairs would need to pass a test before they were let back into the game. But I also think that in a weird way, these rules can lead to excessive “excessive celebration” or “unsportsmanlike conduct”. It seems like it’s easier for these competition committees to make rules barring hanging on the rim or standing over a guy taunting him when there are rules like this that are much more trivial. That also advances the conservative agenda of the people who make the rules, because it makes all of the rules against athletes posturing seem less threatening. Basically rules like offensive goaltending are great for the officials because they make it easier for the harder rules to go into effect. That might seem insane at first read, but think about how easy it is to get a technical foul in the NBA today. It might not be a slippery slope, but it ain’t exactly the topography of tornado alley either.
Things like offensive goaltending are unnecessary to have in place. It’s the jaywalking of the sports landscape. It’s just another stupid rule in a sports world where we’ve already determined that the fans think there are too many rules to begin with. Sports are supposed to be a means of fun and entertainment, not a reminder that if you parking more than eighteen inches from the curb you’re going to end up with a citation. There has to be some level of control so injury is minimized, but not so much that we forget why we’re watching in the first place.
I’m Ryan Meehan and I approve this message.