Season Ticket Review – Stolen

“We feel like we stole one tonight.” – Dakota Wizards head coach Dave Joerger.

Dear NBA D-League Official,


Game 23: March 30th, 2007

Dakota Wizards (27-15) at Sioux Falls Skyforce (27-16)

Last night, you took over the game. Yes, you – the blond haired, afraid-to-look-at-the-crowd referee. You ruined an exciting game by making one of the worst calls we’ve ever seen at Sioux Falls Arena. Yeah! You did it! You’ve become legendary! You’re officially the worst!

Imagine – Dakota Wizards vs. Sioux Falls Skyforce. Two seemingly unassuming teams with an incredible history. It’s the greatest rivalry in CBA history. It’s the only real rivalry in the NBA D-League. It’s a team filled with former Skyforce players and coaches vs. the new blood – the new, stronger, faster, more high-paced squad – and the first championship coach.

Sioux Falls has won two CBA Championships. Both of the coaches that won those championships were on the floor last night. Oh, and to make it a little more important – Sioux Falls is just ½ game behind Dakota for a first-round bye in the playoffs.

It’s a big time game. There’s no reason for an inexperienced referee – an easily startled and carless referee – to be on the court.

So the Skyforce got off to a fast start. They always do. Coach Joeger was yelling at his players loud enough for us nosebleeders to hear (and I quote: “You’re 6’11”! Go to the rim!” after a tall skinny player passed the ball right out of bounds.) The Wizards seemed off balance. Amir Johnson had 20 points and Elton Nesbitt had 18 – in the first half.

But the typical Skyforce mid-game collapse let the Wizards back in the game. In fact, they were down by 12 going into the fourth quarter.

Remember that, hapless referee? We had all but given up. And then, we fought back. We scratched and clawed and did all of those other clichés and we made it back within a few points.

We had a brilliant series of plays. Remember when Amir nearly dove out of bounds to save the ball, then got up and ran back under the basket for the alley oop? Ridiculously good.

And remember when, with the game tied at 100, we inbounded the ball to Eddie Fobbs for another great alley oop – Fobbs’ long arms snatching the ball out of the air and slamming it through the hoop, leaving 24.5 seconds left on the clock – enough time for a wing and a prayer if we got the ball back again.

Yeah. We had the lead. It was 102-100. The Arena was louder than I’d ever heard it. No one was sitting. It was the most exciting game I’ve ever been a part of. It was fantastic. My legs were shaking. I’d never been so proud to be a Skyforce fan before – never felt so connected to our little D-League team. We nearly had the win. Nothing could happen now. Could it?

Well, bumbling moronic ref, it did. And you allowed it. The Wizards came down and shot from behind the line for the win. The shot didn’t go in. The grabbed the rebound.

But the Wizards player that grabbed the rebound traveled.

He traveled.

This wasn’t some little traveling call, like an absently shifted pivot foot or an extra half step before the drive – this was a stumble, a blatant walk, a traveling call so obvious that half of the Arena was yelling at you to call it, rolling their arms around in the universal basketball symbol for traveling. He was nearly out to the three-point line before he finally passed the ball – that’s a long way to go without dribbling the ball. So, yeah, that was a horrible call. One of the worst. And it was at one of the worst times. Unfortunately for you, it was televised. Watch it on Wednesday on NBA TV. Maybe you’ll get the call right this time.

Unfortunately for us, the game was pretty much over after that. Ronaldo Major, former Sioux Falls Skyforce player, launched up a blind, arcing three point shot that hit nothing but net. Assistant Coach Nate Tibbetts was concerned that Major’s foot was on the line (making it only worth two). But if that was a concern, it was also a non-call. You didn’t call the traveling call, why would you call something as simple as a foot on the line?

From just seconds earlier – when the noise was so deafening I could hardly hear Kerrie speak – to after the botched traveling call, the crowd turned, morphing the deafening cheer into a floor rumbling boo. There was more discontent in the Arena than there had been as long as I can remember. With five seconds left, we couldn’t manage to get a shot off. We stood there, stunned, our exciting, thrilling spectacle over. Killed. Shot down from the sky.

I could have screamed, if it would have mattered. Instead, I just cursed your entire presence to myself, under my breath.

You. You’re the ref that cost us our best shot at leading the division. You’re the ref that tore apart an exciting game and threw it in our faces. You’re, officially, the worst ref we’ve ever seen.

Congratulations. You fucking moron.

Corey Vilhauer.

Skyforce 102, Wizards 103

This was lovingly handwritten on March 31st, 2007