Friday, May 30, 2008

Final Second Fouls

Sports Illustrated's David DuPree has an article about last second fouls, which have been prevalent no-calls throughout the NBA playoffs this year:
From stars such as LeBron James to backups like Barry, players haven't gotten last-second, game-deciding calls during the playoffs, partly because officials want the players to determine the outcome just as much as the fans do.
DuPree goes on to argue that by not calling the fouls they are still changing the outcome of the game. I agree, but I think the argument should be about the incentives created by no credible threat of being called for a foul. Even King James chances of hitting the game winner decline if you hit him hard enough. Ironically, the less likely the referees are to call a foul at the end of the game, the greater influence their refereeing has on the outcome.

There are many analogies which make this a flawed style of refereeing. Suppose I catch a student cheating on their final exam in the semester prior to their graduation, should I not fail them because my enforcement of the rules change the outcome of their graduation? I think that would be absurd. Imagine if it was informally accepted that professors would not fail students who cheat on their last final exam of the semester, what would that do to the incidence of cheating? Very curious logic on the part of the NBA.

P.S. I'm not a Lakers fan.