Over the past couple of months, my Twitter feed has been full of talk about the NBA playoffs. And the overwhelming majority of the chatter has focused on the ineptitude of the referees. I can understand an occasional bit of criticism toward the “Zebras,” but I’m starting to think the complaints mark a cultural transition that we ought to pay attention to.
Postmodernity might have something to do with it. For those who aren’t familiar, postmodernity is what comes after modernity (might not mean much to those who aren’t familiar with modernity).
In the modern era (1500-1960s), science and rationality ruled the world. Progress was inevitable. We conceived of a day when we might be able to create a utopia through invention, medicine, and industry.
But the bloodiest century in history, the 20th century, put those dreams to rest. World War I & II weren’t necessarily indicators of a world nearing progress and utopia. Add the scientific discoveries of relativity, quantum physics, and an AIDS epidemic that took the world by storm and you begin to understand postmodernity.
So, what does this all have to do with the NBA? Well, postmodernity included a strong pessimism about authority. You can’t trust world superpowers that go to war for resources. You can’t trust preachers who build growing empires while embroiled in sexual and financial scandals. And as the divorce rate grew steadily, you can’t even trust your parents will remain together.
And you certainly can’t trust the refs.
We have more information at our fingertips than ever before. And that information leads to our doubts as well.
-Instant replay makes us the instant arbitrators of truth.
-I remember reading a stat I couldn’t believe anyone could know. During the Mavericks playoff run in 2011, I heard a stat that the Mavericks were 2-18 when Joey Crawford was officiating.
-Tim Donaghy resigned as an NBA referee after allegations surfaced that he had bet on games that he had officiated over.
Who can you trust?
Certainly not doctors! Admit it, 90% of the time you have already pre-diagnosed yourself on WebMD before you ever step foot in the Doctor’s office. What could a doctor know that WebMD doesn’t?
Certainly not teachers! Years ago, parents waited at home with a spanking waiting when the teacher sent a note home about their student’s bad behavior. Today, kids have parents in the palm of their hand and the teachers have little support from parents.
Certainly not Little League coaches! Have you been to Little League baseball game lately? There’s always the annoying dad who watched Fred McGriff’s training video circa 1994 who is coaching up the kids opposite the advice of the coach on the field.
Certainly not preachers! Preachers: Just try disagreeing with the NIV Study Bible one morning and you can be sure Monday night’s elder meeting will include a “heresy trial.”
Certainly not politicians! Wait, I’m not going to try to defend this one.
We’ve lost our ability to let specialists specialize in anything. After one 30-minute Google search, all of a sudden we know more than a doctor who spent a decade training to give us informed care.
I get it. Refs blow some calls. Some of those calls go against your team. And you found an article that emphasized a certain stat that proves Crawford hates your team.
But all of this questioning of authority cheapens the game. It’s not just the “floppers” who are ruining the game. It’s the fans who “cry foul” on every replay they’re given. And it doesn’t just cheapen the other team’s championship. It will cheapen your team’s title next year.
So, lay off the refs. And the doctors. And the preachers. And the judges.
Hey, did you see that call?!?