You've noticed, if you've been watching the NBA's overlong preseason, that it is dreaded "point of emphasis" time — the phase of preseason in which officials go crazy calling all sorts of things they haven't generally called much when the games count, but swear they will this season. It's a warning shot: "Unlearn this behavior now, because we'll continue punishing you when the real games start."
And nobody believes it. People within the league are skeptical that officials will stick to these strict new interpretations if doing so slows down games that already last too long. And fans, justifiably, have cried out against zealous enforcement that introduces more pauses into a sport that already has too many — and isn't meant for such stop-and-start action. The poster children so far have been the comically over-whistled delay-of-game calls when a player on a team that scores a basket touches the ball after it goes in. That's a clear no-no in the rule book, since a team switching from offense to defense can delay the opponent's transition game by taking the ball, rolling it toward the baseline, or lobbing it very politely — and very slowly, with a ridiculous arc and softness — to a referee.
The Titans are trailing by 25 points, deep in the third quarter, when they score a touchdown. The extra point is converted, the onside kick is well-executed, and the opposing team flubs the catch. Players fling themselves at the loose ball from all directions, and it is quickly lost under a pile of bodies. Two referees arrive on the scene, take a moment to sort through the melee, stand up, and point in opposite directions. The referee who had originally signaled against Tennessee realizes that there is dissent in the zebra ranks, and swiftly defers to his colleague, swapping arms to rule in favor of the Titans. Unfortunately, his colleague’s desire for conformity is just as strong, and as one right arm falls, another rises, and once again, the two officials point in opposite directions. The pair of them look less like referees and more like a novelty two-man dance troupe on America’s Got Talent, possibly called “Flip-Flop, Don’t Stop”.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Good morning. In today's installment of About Last Night, we're lucky enough to have renowned sports comedy critic Fenwick Vaughnagan on hand to analyze and critique every one of Ryan's jokes. Vaughnagan was born in Caerwys, Wales, and earned international fame for his controversial first book, "You Can't Joke About Rugby, Mate." He moved to America in 1985, and has worked for the Miami Standard-Tribune ever since. Last year, he won the Chloe Herbst Memorial Humour Award for his debut novel "Field of Screams: A Murderous Romp Through America's Ballparks."
Note: Due to space limitations, we weren't able to include Ryan's joke and Vaughnagan's critique, so the actual jokes have been omitted.
Bryce Harper hit two home runs and was ejected for spiking his helmet — both career firsts — as the Nationals ended a five-game losing streak with an 8-4 win over the Marlins. CRITIQUE: "Ryan starts out a bit weak here, it must be said, with a tenuous and rather offensive connection between Harper and former president Jimmy Carter that wouldn't have drawn a laugh even among the yokels at the 1980 Republican convention. And at the risk of sounding like a prude, was it really necessary to use the word f--- 18 times in one sentence?"
"The ACC tournament doesn't start until Friday," is a phrase I heard more than once Thursday, the day on which the ACC tournament actually started.
I was especially prone to hearing that sentiment, considering my penchant for complaining about the lack of quality basketball. Still, all good drama needs a setup; those first two establishing acts that make us care about the climax. Even a joke needs a foundation, and it remains to be seen which path this tournament will take.
Before we take a tour of the notable events from Thursday, here are the basics you need to know.