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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

John Walters' latest Campus Blitz discusses timeouts in basketball a bit and allows me to open fire on one of my favorite sports rules to despise: the live-action timeout. No sport except basketball allows this monstrosity to occur. Quarterbacks cannot politely request a stop in play immediately after they hurl a wounded duck skyward. Defensemen cannot demand the referee put a stop to things if they are pressured by a heavy forecheck and have no place to put the puck. Baseball has no live action. Only in basketball can you get trapped in a corner by good defensive play and simply ask the referee to correct your screwup for you.

I hate all basketball timeouts, actually. And not just because of the infamous Webber Incident, though that certainly didn't help. Timeouts are one of the reasons I can't get as into basketball as, say, hockey or football (primary reason: watching my team lose a basketball game almost always makes me seriously consider buying a shotgun and a permit for Ref season). The end of a tight basketball game is almost always frantic action alternating with boring trips to the free-throw line and commercials for OxyClean. Frantic action, yes. Free-throws and STAIN FIGHTING POWER, no. Coaches use timeouts as a crutch for players who can't think. We're down three with 40 seconds to go. What do you do? Call timeout, ask coach.

Wouldn't basketball be better if teams had a single timeout? Coaches would have to wonder whether they should halt their opponent's run or save the Precious for a critical late-game situation. The decision would be akin to the decision to take a timeout in hockey... it happens every once in a while early in a game, it's infrequent and not terribly important, and no one minds. Occasionally the mid-game timeout dramatically tilts the ice in favor of one team or another. Michigan trailed DU 3-0 in an NCAA tournament game five or so years back when Berenson called his timeout. Michigan scored 5 straight goals in a game that burned itself into my head. Drama!

There's no drama when timeouts are as disposable as Indonesian Nike employees or top-100 defensive ends at USC, so the answer to that question is "I'll take a timeout BOTH times!" That's great if you're a control freak of a coach, but bad if you're anyone else. Timeouts should disappear from basketball.

If you're really patient with maniacs, I can also describe to you why I think hockey should get rid of offsides. Entirely. But maybe another time.