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Sports Last Updated: Dec 30, 2008 - 9:35:51 PM


Posted in: Sports
Ron Pexa: What About That Call? December 31, 2008
By Ron Pexa
Dec 31, 2008 - 3:33:17 PM

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This column has been a lot of fun for me. It has given me the opportunity to share some of the sports stories I’ve heard or read about as well as a few of the tales that for better or worse, I was a noteworthy part of. But I’ve gotten the biggest kick out of answering your questions and addressing your comments about the rules and referees.


I’m not sure where the idea of this weekly adventure into amateur journalism came from. I suppose that partly, it was something that just came naturally. While watching various sporting events with friends and family, I was always called upon to answer questions about the rules or the legitimacy of a particular call made by one of the referees or umpires. And on top of that, it was frustrating to listen to game announcers criticize game officials calls or foul up a rule interpretation. Eventually, I got it through my thick head that most people that are sports fans aren’t rules experts, and unlike myself, actually enjoy watching sports without looking at a game as the next set of questions in a rules exam.. And as I suspected, there were alot of you out there wondering about some of the things the zebras call. I hope I’ve been able to sort some of these out and haven’t just added to the confusion.

As an athlete, I wanted to know the rules so I could stretch them to the breaking point. As an official, I was watching out for guys like me.

I recall a game I refereed a few years back at Missouri State (known then as S.W. Missouri), and a comment made to me by their coach, Charlie Spoonhour. Following a foul call I had made late in a tight game. Spoonhour, who had coached at Moberly junior college when I played at Missouri so was familiar with my style of play, started to protest the call I had just made, but then in mid sentence stopped and smiled. “No, I guess you must be right, Ron”, Spoonhour quipped, “you ought to know what a foul is, you sure as hell committed enough of them.” Charlie was probably right. I found myself calling a basketball game the way I would have liked it called as a player. What the heck, they give you five fouls, why not use them?

As a basketball official, it takes a certain feel for the game to succeed at the highest levels, and enough confidence in your own judgment to allow you to make the split second decisions necessitated by the nature of the game. This self confidence was probably best illustrated to me when, as a rookie official back in the 70’s, a veteran referee defended a questionable call he had just made. “As a referee. I’ve never been wrong”, he told me, “just some times I’m a little short on being right”.

This weeks question is from on line reader Jake who writes, “I was watching a small college game last week and this happened. A team was passing the ball setting up a play at it’s offensive end of the court. A defensive player trying to intercept a pass, batted at the ball knocking it to the floor and it went to the other end of the court where it bounced several times. This same player ran after the ball, picked it up, then dribbled three times and made a layup. Shouldn’t he have been called for a double dribble since he tapped the ball to the floor once, retrieved it, then dribbled again?”

NCAA rules define a dribble as “ball movement caused by a player in control who bats, pushes or taps the ball to the playing court once or several times”. In this case, the first bat of the ball to the court by the defensive player is not considered to be a dribble because the defensive player did not have CONTROL of the ball. He is not considered as having control of the ball until he secures it AFTER batting it. His subsequent picking up of the ball and dribbling was therefore legal and not considered double dribbling.

I want to thank Mitch Traphagen for his encouragement and support over the past year and for giving me this forum. Judging from all the positive comments I have heard from those of you living in the Iowa-Poweshiek County area and from across state and the country as well, the East Iowa Herald will be sorely missed. Here’s hoping this is just a “timeout” for the Herald and that we’ll all be be back on the court sometime soon.


© Copyright 2008 by The East Iowa Herald

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