Damn, I hate the foul out rule. Always have. Thing is, over the years it’s gone from something I saw as a mild imperfection to this ghastly stain on the dress shirt of Basketball, or whatever. I’m Still trying to wrap my mind around why it hasn’t been changed or ammended over the years. I mean once upon a time, the basket was an actual peach basket with no hole in it, and after every made goal they had to stop play, grab a ladder and retrieve the damn ball. Eventually, someone saw fit to cut a hole in that fucker, and they never looked back.

According to Dr. James Naismith’s original 13 rules of basketball, a free point (or goal) is awarded to a team if the opponent guilty of three consecutive fouls. This makes sense to me as a way of discouraging coaches from getting all roughhousy with it, even if it would have killed a modern team like the Detroit bad Boys or Pat Riley’s grabby Knicks teams. Alas, somewhere along the line they decided to ditch that rule and replace it with the free-throw, decreeing that you earn the points instead of just being awarded.

They call it progress, baby. You change with the times, make adjustments to the rules when they need it, and the game evolves. 

How then, does it make any sense to continue to allow the enforcement of a rule that seems ashopelessly antiquated as the foul out? It rips at my insides (not literally) to know that often times a basketball game is decided by a star player fouling out, much less some infraction as trivial as a guy reaching in for the ball 50 feet from the basket, or in the case of this years’ Butler/Pittsburgh NCAA Tournament game, 94 feet. The worst atrocity is what has become of the modern charging rules. I’d have to research it to be sure, but I’m pretty confident that the concept of the charging foul was put in place to prevent players from literally running over the defender to get to the basket at will, much like you can on the playground, where charging calls are looked upon with a great deal of scorn. Here’s what I imagine the original mock-up of the original charging rule to look like, more or less.
Somewhere along the line it became hip to teach guys to run into the path of an offensive player who had already beaten his defender, thus “drawing a charging foul” and stuff. Something like this.

 Anyway, I‘m pretty sure it’s all Mike Krzyzweski’s doing, since I seem to remember Duke being the first team perfect this dirty art, but I could be wrong.

All wacky stick-figure art aside, what kind of bullshit distortion of the laws of nature is this, and better yet, why has it been allowed to become an acceptable strategy? Same with flopping. Sure, I’ve developed a certain admiration for the way people like Big Bay Davis and Derek Fisher have plied their trade all these years, and I can certainly speak to the artful qualities of a good flopper, he who learns to take the smallest amount of contact in a manner similiar to how one would react to being shot with a cannonball. People have gotten rich and famous for less, certainly. What bothers me is the way the powers that be have allowed these types of things to overwhelm the game in recent years. The game has turned more theatrical than is healthy, similar to the diving epidemic that plagues Soccer. Enough of the goofiness, I say.

Sure, they’ll threaten you with castration (ok, so they only use technical fouls and the accompanying fines) for arguing with officials, but this kind of dishonest circumvention of the spirit of the rules goes unpunished. Sure, there was some talk years ago about cracking down on flopping (and those who love to do it), but it was quickly forgotten, much like Baseball does with the balk on a seemingly yearly basis. Between all of this and the modern art of pump-faking a defender into the air, then throwing your body at them wildly in an attempt to draw a foul (Paul Pierce is the master), there appears to be infinitely more
ways to draw fouls on the opponent, most of which can be considered “cheap”. 
In light of all of this evidence, why won’t the governors of the game look at changing or eliminating the foul out?

The worst part of this is that it would appear nobody has ever stopped to compare the NBA’s disqualification rules to the other major sports, or at least not in the last 50 years. Nothing but the most dastardly, lowdown display of unsportsmanlike conduct gets you ejected from an NFL or MLB game, and you more or less have to stab somebody to get thrown out in in the NHL. The average Hockey penalty is punishable by the temporary benching of a player or in extreme cases, a free shot in a sport where scoring is hard to come by. In Football, a penalty costs the offending team yardage but nothing else. Why then, does Basketball punish the guilty by not only awarding free throws to the other team but also with eventual disqualification from the game, especially when the average basketball foul is often the most minor of transgressions? Can you imagine an offensive lineman being ejected for numerous false starts, or a defensive back being sent to the showers for too many pass interference calls? Why do the rules of basketball punish a player twice for fouls or penalties? What am I missing here?
Oh and while we’re here, can somebody explain to me why teams get extra time-outs in overtime periods, but not extra fouls? So, in a game that goes to say, triple overtime (like game 4 of Memphis/OKC) guys are going to foul out if for no other reason than they are now expected to play 63 minutes without using up 6 fouls, instead of the normal 48 minutes. Again, how does this make sense? Where is the logical adjustment?

Look, who can be pleased with a rule that allows teams to devise their whole strategy based on fouling the other teams’ star player out of the game, or at the very least reducing his time on the court? Since when was this considered to be within the spirit of fairplay? If teams were to send in a bench player to goon it up in hopes of getting a star player to lose his cool and get ejected, people would have a fit about it, but somehow it’s totally moral to center your gameplan around getting a guy disqualified for nothing more than minor infractions. 

And somehow, this rule continues as it is.

Better yet, what can you say about the intelligence of a group of people who allow the stars of their sport to routinely be taken out of games or have their court time diminished by such a rule? Tell me, HOW ON EARTH CAN THIS BE CONSIDERED SOUND LOGIC? There has to be a better way.

Look, this isn’t a new sentiment, but unlike talk of re-seeding in the NBA playoffs or allowing the best 16 teams in instead of the top 8 from each league, this isn’t something that could hit or miss as an innovation, but a fundamental flaw in the way the game is governed. Why not experiment in the pre-season with an unlimited foul system, to see what if any adverse effect it has on the game? Why not at least try it out, and see if the response to having the best players not handcuffed to the bench at crucial moments is not to the games’ overall benefit? Or else why not try a new system, such as the one that has been suggested by numerous people over the years (I remember Dick Vitale mentioning this YEARS AGO) that allows players to stay eligible after their sixth foul, but awards the other team 2 shots and the ball, similar to a flagrant foul. 

No matter what your opinion on this, nobody could argue that it wouldn’t hurt to try. Whether the Baketball braintrust will or not is another question. Personally, I’m not gonna hold my breath.

Hey, it’s still the world’s greatest game. Shame they can’t fix the parts that are broken and make it that much greater.

John Hathwell can be contacted at Sonsofsambowie@yahoo.com


For what it’s worth, we’ve fixed the settings on the comments section so you can speak your mind without having a Google account. By all means, have at it.


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