What is a foul?

By Mac McPhail - Contributing columnist
Mac McPhail -

I finished calling basketball games for the season as a referee for the Clinton Recreation Department last week. My last game was the championship game for the 7 and 8 year old league. These little guys are just learning the game. So the goal is for the young players to develop their skills, have fun, and not get hurt. If, at the end of the game, the kids are smiling, and they are not limping around, it’s a good game.

I commend all the coaches for taking their time, effort and patience (lots of patience) in coaching all the youth teams. But sometimes they may take it a little too seriously. Near the end of the championship game, one of the coaches ran onto the court complaining about a foul call I had made against one of his players. I ignored him because there were only a few seconds left in the game, and then the season would be over. Of course, earlier in the game, the coach of the opposing team gave me a lot of grief when he thought one of his players was fouled while shooting a shot.

They both were complaining about fouls. But what is a basketball foul? “Wikipedia” describes it as “an infraction of the rules more serious than a violation. Most fouls occur as a result of illegal personal contact with an opponent and/or unsportsmanlike behavior.” So, the rules state illegal personal contact determine a foul in basketball. But it seems that for most coaches and fans one thing determines if a foul has been committed. It’s whether if it’s my player on my team that’s being fouled, or doing the fouling. How we view the rules of the game are based on our personal preferences. We want all the calls to go our way.

That’s why we often don’t like rules. But they are there for a reason. In basketball, they help maintain order and fairness in competition. But standards are necessary in all parts of our lives, not just basketball.

Back when I was working for the N.C. Dept. of Revenue in Laurinburg, I was involved in a case concerning an individual who was a tax protester. Needless to say, he didn’t like the rules and laws set by our government. He even stated that it was unconstitutional for the government to tell you which side of the road to drive on. I suppose it would be his decision if he wanted to drive on the right side of the highway today, and maybe on the left side tomorrow. It would be his choice, regardless of the rules.

Can you imagine what a competitive basketball game would be like without referees or rules? Or, would you like to drive on a major highway meeting drivers who chose to drive on whichever side of the road they want according to how they felt that day? Yes, rules are important, even if they sometimes may impose on our personal desires.

“Who are you to tell me what’s right or wrong?” Or you may hear it said another way, like “Each person has to determine what’s right for themselves.” Usually comments like these are made by individuals in an effort to justify their behavior. Or they are made by people just going along with the popular culture. They believe that right and wrong are relative terms, depending on the individual and situation. In reality, like the coaches, they really just want all the calls to go their way, to fit their personal desires and wants, or how they felt that day.

But often we find out that the rules, standards and laws still apply. If you step off a high cliff, you will quickly find out the Law of Gravity is a reality, whether you like it or not. While the end result may not be as immediate, there are other laws that the consequences are just as certain, despite the denial by the current culture. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

A basketball game without rules can lead to chaos. Drivers on the highway without rules will lead to death and destruction. There has to be standards and rules on the basketball court and on the road. And if there is not a recognized standard of behavior in a culture, it will also descend into chaos and destruction.

Back to the basketball game. I really can’t blame the coaches for getting excited. The games are fun and competitive. And yes, I may miss a call, although in my unbiased opinion, it is a rare occurrence. Coaches, thanks for all you do. But remember, these are little kids. Just relax a little. You know the main thing most of your little ballplayers are concerned with is whether there are going to be snacks after the

Mac McPhail
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By Mac McPhail

Contributing columnist