Thursday, October 27, 2005
Etiquette: When should I call fouls?
When I was coming up in the not-so-mean streets of South City, Wichita, KS, my friends and I called or didn't call fouls based on the situation. When we played among ourselves, we almost never called them. Fouls were for punks. If you went up strong enough you should score whether you get fouled or not. It was like a form of training for all the three-point plays in our future. One of our favorite games was hustle (21) with no fouls, no out-of-bounds, no backcourt, and tip-ins worth three. If you added beer, it got pretty brutal.
But when we took our daily two-mile hike to Lynwood rec center, things were a little different. We rarely called fouls there either unless they were hard ones that really altered our shot and the game was close. But we rarely needed to call them, because usually the guy who fouled you would call it himself. And if we fouled someone, we would do the same. Not only that, but people generally tried to play clean. I know it sounds like a church picnic, but that wasn't it. Lynwood was a place that people came to from all over the city--from four different high schools--East, West, South and Bishop Carroll. And Lynwood, like basketball courts in most cities, was one of the few places where whites and blacks interacted in public. There were even lesbians. People had to get along and wanted to get along. Basketball was a common language and people with skills and the right ethic had each other's respect. Calling the fouls you committed was a way of showing that respect.
On an anonymous court in Berkeley, I recently encountered a different foul-calling code of ethics. You call everything because winning depends on it. And in fact, not calling fouls means you're a punk because you're not standing up for yourself and your team. And if you don't call fouls, the other guy will simply foul you again, but more brutally, because you've allowed him to do it. Not only must every foul be called, but every foul must be disputed. And only punks back down from confrontation. For me, it's not a lot of fun. I think this ethic is accentuated because there is only one court and a lot of people are waiting to play, but it also seems to be a particular form of machismo. It's interesting that machismo can be expressed by either being too tough to call a foul or so tough that you call all fouls without fear of a beatdown. Needless to say, I don't play there anymore.
Other foul-calling codes?