Season Ticket Review – Gra-Y Officiating

When there’s a blizzard, you stay home. In Sioux Falls, the mall closes. The health clinics close. Schools and businesses throughout the region close.


Game 18: March 1st, 2007

Dakota Wizards (19-12) at Sioux Falls Skyforce (18-15)

But the Skyforce? They play on.

Thanks to The Blizzard of the Millennium®! – a storm that blanketed our gentle region with a cold, rigid layer of drifted snow – Sioux Falls was effectively shut down last night. Nothing was open. If you wanted acute healthcare, or a flame-broiled hamburger, or advertising copy, you were out of luck.

However, if you wanted to watch semi-professional basketball, that could be arranged.

The Arena was only about a quarter filled, which really isn’t that much different from any other Thursday game. But this group was a little rowdier, more apt to criticizing refs in an effort to release pent up blizzard energy. And it was a perfect night for that – we may have witnessed the worst refs in the history of basketball.

Imagine: the ball goes out of bounds, off of a Wizards player. The ref closest to the action, unsure of what just happened, looks to the next ref on his right. Standing without a clue, this ref – blank stare firmly planted on his face – turns to the ref farthest away. That ref – yes, the one with the worst view of the action – makes the decision that, yes, indeed, the ball was out of bounds.

On the Skyforce.

Take that scene. Repeat it. Over and over and over again. That was our game. That was our referee crew, straight out of a Gra-Y Tournament, designed more for calling fouls on seven-year-olds than judging the nuances of carrying and defensive three-seconds.

We were treated to a pretty good game, actually, despite all of the ineptitude from the circle of officials – a group that looked more like a comedy troupe of impersonators (there’s mini-George Lopez! There’s fake-Michael Richards!) than an actual functioning refereeing crew.

We’ve added a few Pistons call-downs – old favorite Amir Johnson (12 points, 7 boards) and newcomer Will Blaylock (6 points, 6 assists). We’ve integrated some of our newer players into the mix – Damone Brown scored from everywhere for 22 points and Eddy Fobbs added 12 points and 5 blocks, including a wonderful block to end the first half. And Stephen Graham is proving more and more each game to be a quiet front-runner for the league’s MVP award.

Keeping all of this in mind, I didn’t focus on the game as much as I should have. First of all, we had a comfortable lead through most of the first three quarters. Then, as we slowly lost our lead, I found I was focusing on the refs more than the players – I was stunned, simply waiting for the next fouled up error, the next horribly misguided call. It was almost funny – I couldn’t tell whether to laugh or to criticize.

So instead, I just made fun of the guy in front of me, who took the calls all way too seriously, not just yelling to yell, but yelling as if he wanted to start a fight. He had that faux-toughness that permeates through all Limp Bizkit fans. So I wasn’t going to make fun of him out loud. I couldn’t tell if he was truly a tough guy or not. I value my face the way it is.

I also waited for Corey Williams to start swinging punches. We welcomed back the recently cut guard – now a Dakota Wizard – to the Arena just a few days after he left. I waited for the chip to come out, strategically placed on his right shoulder, resulting in an “I’m going to score 50 on your ass because you cut me for a couple of NBA primadonnas” performance.

It never happened. We stopped our bleeding and contained the Wizards without much trouble, even without Mo McHone on the bench (he was in Los Angeles for Dennis Johnson’s funeral, missing the blizzard but probably not having much fun). And even though our beefy center Dixon had trouble jumping, finishing shots, or doing anything physical whatsoever, I still found myself feeling sorry for him. Whenever he got the ball, he was swarmed, pushed around, slapped, thrown to the ground. Poor guy.

So the game was good, but forgettable. We won, hooray and all, but it was a pedestrian win. Aside from Fobbs’ blocks, nothing was “stand up and cheer” memorable.

In fact, the only thing I will recall from last night’s game is this: When The Empire Mall’s Star Search comes down to the final two participants, you can always bank on one thing – juggling knives always beats Journey karaoke.

Skyforce 102, Wizards 95

This was lovingly handwritten on March 2nd, 2007