Saturday, January 7, 2012

Youth Basketball: Flagrant Foul on Social Media?

This blog covers the good, the bad and the ugly of youth sports and this week the ugly raised its head yet again.

A dad of a high school player took a video camera to a HS game to capture highlights of his kid. He also captured the attention of the tiny TriCityHerald and 5 million and counting YouTube viewers.

As you will see, the game was physical, very physical. The dad with the video camera took exception to the refereeing in the game and wanted to make a point that the league needed better officiating. So after the game, he edited the video to showcase six tough fouls committed by two senior players on the Connell (Wash.) High School team. He then uploaded the video onto Facebook and YouTube. 

The Main Point

I am calling an unintentional foul on the dad with the video. He wanted Yakima, Washington to take notice, but the world was watching. This dad failed to realize was the power of social media.

I'm also calling one foul on the ref (not 5 fouls) and a foul on HS basketball rules.

Finally, I am calling a flagrant foul on the coach of the team for not controlling his players by taking them out of the game himself. Basketball is a rough and tough game but it is not a street fight. (I added this after reading the comment by Clarence Gains II below - Clarence was so right on this account)

Here is my take on the situation.

1) I think that the most difficult officiating job in youth sports is basketball refereeing. There are fouls on almost every single possession in basketball. The ref can't call every foul or the game will last too long. Conversely, the ref can't let every foul go or the game will get out of hand. So every play provides a coach or a fan the opportunity to complain. And because the ref is so close to the fans and coaches they hear an earful all game long (As you can hear in the video). I good ref just ignores the chatter and calls a balanced game.

2) I can only watch the edited clip, but from what I can see, the refs only made one judgement mistake. Remember the refs do not have the luxury of watching the play over and over again. They should have called a flagrant personal foul on the foul called #5. The player, who committed that foul, should have been ejected from the game and suspended for the next game as dictated by High School Rules. Otherwise the refs called all the fouls. Yes the other fouls highlighted in the video were tough fouls, but did they rise to the level of automatic ejection and one game suspension? I'm not so sure.

NFHS (U.S. high school) rules define a flagrant foul as a personal or technical foul that is extreme or severe. A flagrant personal / intentional foul involves excessive or severe contact during a live ball. A flagrant technical foul involves unsportsmanlike conduct that is extreme in nature, or excessive or severe contact during a dead ball. Fighting is also considered a flagrant technical foul.
The penalty for a flagrant foul in high school is the immediate ejection of the offending player, plus two free throws and a throw-in for the opposing team. The ejected player is also suspended during the next game played by his or her team.
    In the NBA there are two levels of flagrant fouls - level one and level two. NBA referees have discretion in determining which level to call. The penalty for a flagrant 1 foul is two free throws and the fouled team gets the ball back. A flagrant 2 call also results in two free throws and the ball back, but the   offending player is immediately ejection too. A player who receives two flagrant 1 level fouls in a single game is also ejected upon the second foul. Just like in soccer where two yellow cards equals a red card.

    I think that HS should have a similar rule to the NBA. This would give the refs another tool in their toolbox to control the game. A tough foul could result in a steep penalty (2 free throws and the ball back which could result in a 4 point swing) without ejecting / suspending a player who might have been playing out of control or overly aggressive but not mean spiritedly. Let's face it, a ref is going to hesitate making a judgement call that would result in an automatic ejection and suspension.

    3) The dad inadvertently demonized two players he does not know. Were the offending players mean spirited or simply football players who are not agile enough to play at the speed required for High School basketball? I do not know and neither does the dad with the video camera. One thing I do know is that you have to think long and hard about what you post online because once it is out there, it is out there.


    The video shooter and editor was an uncle not a dad. And apparently according to this newspaper account, the uncle distributed the video to ESPN and other news sources via twitter.


    1. So if I read this right, you are calling a foul on the dad for posting this video. If you feel like that's wrong, why did you re-post the video here? You could have made your point without it.

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    2. The foul was for not realizing that it could be isolated to his small audience. BTW - I did hesitate re-posting the video showing kids when there were only 40K views on YouTube but when I revisited and saw 5M views I decided to write the post. It was already out there and the video helped make my point easier. Thanks for reading and participating in the conversation.

    3. Bob cook's blog (your kid's not going pro) says that the dad sent the video to a bunch of media outlets, including ESPN among others.

    4. C'mon Man - demonizing the players - no way. You're way too soft on them,especially #34, whose fouls are malicious and purposeful. "Were the offending players mean spirited or simply football players who are not agile enough to play at the speed required for High School basketball?"

      I'll take a stab at the question you posed. First, being agile enough has nothing to do with the fouls they committed. In #34's case I'm going for the mean-spirited position. His first three fouls that were highlighted were way over the top. The first one would be flagrant one's in the NBA and the third one is definitely a flagrant 2 and would result in immediate expulsion in any league. The 2nd one is borderline depending on your angle & what was communicated to him by the ref after the first one. He knew exactly what he was doing and should be held accountable for his actions not only by the officials, but by his Coach.

      The Coach of this team needs to be called on the carpet because he obviously condoned this type of behavior and probably encouraged it by talking about taking hard fouls. When I was in High School, I hammered a kid who was attempting to finish a breakaway layup. My coach immediately pulled me from the game and chastised me for my actions. That's what should have happened in this game.

      The other kid, #42, has a mean streak in him (nothing wrong with that, but has to be channeled properly); and I consider his fouls to be frustration fouls. His fouls don't come anywhere close to the type of fouls #34 committed in 1,3, & 5.

      The referees dropped the ball big time in this game. Referees and coaches should always be concerned with the safety of every kid on that floor. "Do No Harm" should be a guiding philosophy in the manner in which referees ref a game and in the way coaches teach their teams how to play. I've done my sharing of refereeing & I communicate with kids when I think they're close to crossing a line. I would have sternly warned #34 after the first incident & probably have thrown him out on the second incident (he actually did a good job of disguising his intentions - depends on the angle I have of the play). The third incident is a no-brainer in banishing him from the game.

      Applaud you for bringing a different perspective than most on this situation,but I think more good than bad will come about because these incidents were posted on youtube. One thing you can count on is that the two players will change their style of play in the future; and that's a good thing. It's basketball; not goonball.

    5. Clarence - I amended my post to call a foul on the coach that is the right call. This style of play is obviously tolerated if not encouraged by the coaching staff. I also agree with every point you made. I am as outraged as you are about the style of play depicted here (it is not basketball) I just like to give kids, who I do not know, the benefit of the doubt. Thanks for furthering the conversation.

    6. this was not an isolated game...Connell players have been playing dirty for years, and the guy with the camera finally exposed it. If #30 for the red team was paralyzed right now after landing on his head in foul #5....would you still write this article? You need your head examined and your website deleted

    7. Also, do your research will you??...the guy who posted the video released a statement saying he AND the parents strongly promoted the video to expose the refs.

      I also have my suspicions about a guy who writes about little kids on his blog. Someone needs to run a background check on you

    8. Wow - lots of hostility. I gave a foul on the video guy for not thinking it would go viral - not for posting the video. I think that the refs did a horrible job as did the coaches who allow the game to be played this way. I also gave a foul to the rules. I think that we are on the same side. I'm just trying to get people talking and thinking - so re-read the post and take a deep breath.

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