The ref made me flop

October, 2, 2012
10/02/12
11:07
AM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
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Shane Battier, referee
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Shane Battier says one reason players go down is because referees tell them they have to.

On Heat Index, Tom Haberstroh digs into the NBA's new, as-yet unclear anti-flopping policy.

Erik Spoelstra and LeBron James are all for it, hoping it will cut down on, essentially, players taking slight contact from James and then hurtling to the floor as if shot.

But Heat forward Shane Battier is not on board. Battier has done his fair share of flopping -- he's aggressive and at times inventive in taking the charge. To some, hearing Battier opposes the new rule is a sign it's a good one.

Read what he has to say, though, and it's a tale of a culture of flopping that runs deeper than we had suspected -- all the way to the referees. Battier says, emphatically, that referees tell players to flop. I'm not kidding!

Here's Battier:
"The unfortunate thing about the block/charge (distinction) is that I’ve had many, many times where a ref told me that you have to go to the floor to get the call. By the letter of the law, I’ve taken a hit, but I’ve stood on my feet. Even though I’ve gotten nailed, the ref calls it a no-call. I say, ‘Ref, what’s wrong with that (charge)?’ He says, ‘You have to go down to get the call.’

"Inherently, there’s something wrong with that.”

Yes, yes there is.

Now, you might wonder why a referee would do something like that. Here's my best guess: Credibility matters a lot in their jobs. They need to be seen as making good calls. Call a charge on a guy who knocked somebody down, and you're seen as sensible. Call a charge after some contact on a drive which didn't send a body flying, and we all know what happens next: commentators, fans, everybody is screaming to "let them play."

Make a lot of calls that look funny on television, and it quickly becomes very tough to earn a reputation as a great referee.

How things look on television is not just a concern for the individual referees, but for the league too. For instance, a major factor in their "respect for the game" technical fouls is essentially, complaining in a way that is obvious on TV. Call the referee a nasty name with a smile on your face, while running back on defense, and nobody much cares. Wave your arms around in a dramatic way that makes clear to everyone watching across the country that you think the referee is an idiot, and you're in trouble. That's how that rule works.

So if referees want to make calls that look sensible to the people at home, I could see that it would be helpful for a fouled player to make himself look like a player fouled hard. I get how we got here.

What I hate about it, though, is how rich the rewards are the NBA's most dedicated thespians. There are just a lot of reasons to hit the deck, and now one more is, if you believe Battier, that referees want it that way.

Henry Abbott | email

TrueHoop, NBA

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