Welcome to The County Line. We may not have much time, so you have to listen closely. Look around — the entire world is on fire. A pandemic is raging, economies across the world are rising and falling like a feather above the mouth of a sleeping cartoon giant, and it’s 70 degrees in February, so you’ll excuse me if I treat this first submission as if it’s my only one—just in case. If you only ever read one thing, I have to live with myself knowing I charged headlong into the most important and daunting colossus facing humanity. We can get to the less serious stuff later, God willing.
Basketball has to eliminate the charge call. I’m surely not the first or most important person to sound this alarm, but apparently the powers-that-be aren’t listening to the others, so this David might as well load the slingshot. I could make my case analytically, statistically, and show you the relationship between offensive fouls and lower scoring, reduced shooting percentage, turnover frequency, and — in some data sets — even injury occurrence. But the people who care about those things are the ones who put the charge call into the game in the first place. This space isn’t for them and never will be.
Let me instead bring you to my side in a different way, with a little exercise. Close your eyes and picture the first play that comes to mind when I give you the following criteria: the best dunk you’ve ever seen. The best no-look pass you’ve ever seen. The most high-stakes buzzer beater you’ve ever seen. The best charge you’ve ever seen anyone take.
Alright–eyes open–review your answers. I had Shawn Kemp over Alton Lister, Jason Williams to Chris Webber against the Grizzlies (I’m too young for Magic), and Kris Jenkins over North Carolina to prevent the country’s most fraudulent program from claiming another national title. Your answers may differ. Basketball is a beautiful game with an immense history, and there have been seemingly countless iterations of the scenarios I set forth. You’re free to choose your own.
Except the last one. We all had the same answer on the last one: you don’t remember a single good charge in history. Before you interject — the one you took against Cumberland County in January of 2001 wasn’t good either. At best, you were rewarded for being too slow to get out of the way.
And that gets to the cold, black, barely-beating heart of the issue: it isn’t basketball. Every other rule exists to facilitate the grandeur and aesthetic of the wonderful game. It makes sense that you can’t travel or double-dribble: those are real advantages gained by bastardizing the beauty of dribbling the basketball. You can’t foul a player attempting to engage in that same beauty — again, that checks out. But where did we go so wrong as to allow a secondary defender to see his teammate get beat defensively and try to run and fall down before the offensive player can make the layup he earned? Imagine a defender sneaking behind Steph Curry as he shoots a three, waiting to fall down when Steph lands to negate the jumper. Cowardice.
But even in an alternate universe where it isn’t a last-ditch effort by an outclassed defense, where it isn’t the annoying-sibling-finger-an-inch-from-your-face-in-the-backseat while chanting “I’m not touching you” technicality that we all know it is, no official can consistently get it correct. Maybe they love the dramatic wind-up motion. Maybe they love the cheer of the crowd. Maybe there’s a correlation between being too slow to play defense and too short to block a shot that leads former players to become officials, I can’t say with any certainty, but they botch it two-out-of-three times at least. The out of bounds rule is logical and necessary, but if the ref simply flipped a coin and blew the whistle every time it landed on tails, we’d be better off doing away with it, too.
So join me. I’m only one man with weird, increasingly-gray hair and a keyboard, and you’re probably someone equally as flawed and powerless, but maybe enough of us can make a change. Those of us who are tired of missing the first six minutes of the Cats because the Big 10 game has featured 40 offensive fouls must join hands with those of us who are tired of pretending Patrick Beverly is an All-NBA defender. Alone, we must continue to suffer. Together, we can fix this in the only language the monsters understand: by getting in the way and falling down.
For more of Blake’s takes, follow him on Twitter: @RealFakeBlake.
Editor’s note: With all due respect to Mr. Spires, Anthony Epps took the greatest charge of all time on April 1, 1996. If ya know, ya know. That said, it’s been 26 years now, so maybe Blake has a point. Please note that the opinions expressed by County Line contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this company or its owners.