Mistakes are inevitable but intentional harm is inexcusable
The Short Version
Flagrant fouls are part of college basketball and a game can turn on a last-minute call. Sometimes it’s good strategy but it comes with risks. Acts of terrorism, political malfeasance, and the whims of the universe can also come with flagrant fouls of their own. Perhaps, like basketball, we should get a free throw when those happen. Something good to counter the bad.
More To The StoryOne of the things that make the month of March endurable is the NCAA basketball tournament. I like basketball up through the college level. The players work hard, develop their skills, and learn to work as a team. Anything can happen on any given night during this tournament. South Carolina can take down a perennial powerhouse like Duke. Wisconsin can eliminate top-seeded Villanova. The excitement is palpable.
Games can turn around, though, when someone does something questionable and intentionally fouls a player from the opposite team. Strategically, this can be a smart move at the end of a very close game. Intentionally fouling a weak player puts them on the free throw line instead of allowing them to pass the ball to a strong player who might make a three-point shot. Putting a weak player on the line holds the possibility of getting the ball back without giving up any points. Depending on the team and the player fouled, the strategy can give an edge to a team that’s only losing by one point.
A flagrant foul at the wrong time, however, can kill a victory. We saw that happen a couple of times last week in close games. A flagrant foul call against a Seton Hall player in their match against Arkansas almost certainly cost them the game. There has been a lot of debate, especially by Seton Hall fans, over whether the call was justified. Did young Desi Rodriguez really intend to commit the foul or did momentum make the contact inevitable? Referees at the game said the action violated the rules against pushing from behind (NCAA men’s basketball Rule 4; Section 15; Article 2.c.2). The action caused Arkansas’ Jaylen Barford to fall forward, losing his balance. Fortunately, Mr. Barford was not hurt, but the potential was certainly there.
Flagrant fouls in sports are part of the game. We expect them at certain points and there are times it can be a good strategy despite being a clear violation of the rules. However, we too frequently see the same strategy of flagrant fouling outside of basketball and when that occurs, the results are not nearly so entertaining and someone almost always gets hurt.
Terrorism would be a good example. What happened yesterday (22 March) in London was unquestionably a flagrant foul. One person’s deliberate and planned actions cost the lives of five people and injured some 20 others. The act was not only an offense to the people of London and the UK, but to the entire world. Civilized society does not tolerate the deliberate targeting of innocent people. Foul. Take the responsible persons out of the game.
Flagrant fouls happen in politics all the time. Again, there are times when a deliberate breaking of the rules can be a good strategy, such as when Congressman John Lewis led a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives last Spring. He brought attention to a critical issue that Congress was attempting to ignore. At other times, however, such actions can be devastating for justice, the rule of law, and the American people.
One of the most recent examples would be Rep. Devin Nunes assertions late yesterday that communications between the president-elect and his staff might have been “inadvertently” caught up in intelligence officials’ monitoring of other targets. Such a statement from the chair of the house intelligence committee was a foul in a couple of different ways. First, the chair was speaking to the press about information the full intelligence committee had not yet seen or discussed, a clear violation of House rules. Second, there is every possibility that the information the Congressman gave to the press was, in part, classified. A direct violation of law.
Who loses in a situation such as this? Justice. The American people. The statements by the Congressman undermine TWO ongoing Congressional investigation, one of which has severe implications regarding the interference of Russians in the US elections last fall. Such deliberate and calculated carelessness underscores the need for an independent, non-partisan investigation into both matters. Congressman Nunes needs to be removed from the intelligence game for such a flagrant foul.
Another flagrant foul would be the threats the administration and Congressional leadership have put on Members of Congress to pass the health care law scheduled for a vote today. GOP leaders and the president have been heavy-handed in their threats to members who have voiced opposition to the bill. The implication of those threats is that the party and/or the administration will “punish” those who vote against the bill. What this administration and party leadership seem to forget is that neither of them owns or control the votes of any member of Congress. Representatives are there to express the voice of their constituents. Failure on the part of a Congressperson to do so is a severe dereliction of duty. The foul is a strategical move by a losing team grasping at straws.
The strategy may well end up going against the administration and result in losing the vote. As of this morning, the Freedom Caucus, which is composed of extreme-right GOP members of Congress, still opposes the health bill. Should they, as a bloc, vote against the bill, it would not pass. The extreme right are not the only ones opposed to the bill, though. Consider the opinion of Senator Lindsey Graham:
Graham: It would be embarrassing for the GOP to pass the health care bill because “somebody tells you you have to” https://t.co/WWPBCO3OAU
— CNN (@CNN) March 22, 2017
There is a caveat here that Congressional votes such as this often come down to the wire as deals are made with individual members of Congress. Yet, getting back on point, the flagrant foul of attempting to overtly threaten Members of Congress is still wrong and, hopefully, contributes to the defeat of the bill.
I could continue to list other flagrant fouls on the part of the administration, but there is a point here at which such accusations feel redundant and fail to serve the point. I suppose, bringing the story back around to our original example, in some ways the administration’s propensity toward misbehavior is like Duke’s Grayson Allen intentionally tripping other players at the beginning of the season. The situation became so bad that Duke had to suspend Allen for several games and the ACC officially reprimanded him for his behavior. The difference is that we can’t just suspend the president for a few weeks. Even if Congress were to grow some balls and reprimand the president for his behavior, it would almost certainly have no effect.
Life throws flagrant fouls at us as well. Repeated trips to the doctor over the past two weeks have tripled the number of medicine bottles on my shelf. With so much medicine comes a wave of side effects and those are the flagrant fouls that leave me unable to stay focused, dealing with increased levels of pain and confusion. The effects are supposed to be temporary, according to the doctor, but the results, for now, are frustrating and debilitating to a large degree. Add to that forced changes in what I eat and how I live and I most certainly think the universe deserves to be whistled for the foul.
I know many of you have felt the same.
In basketball, when one is fouled, one gets a free shot. With a flagrant foul, you not only get the free throws, you get to retain possession of the ball. I think the universe needs to institute such a penalty. For everything bad that happens, for every terrorist incident or every political misappropriation of power, something of equal or potentially greater good has to happen. The two children of Ayshe Frade, whose mother was killed in yesterday’s Westminster attack, deserve for the rest of their lives to be blissful in exchange for the horrendously flagrant foul committed against them. The American people deserve an all-inclusive single-payer healthcare system that cannot be tampered with by Congress.
And me? I just want to be able to take pictures without worrying about forgetting the appointment or becoming ill in the middle of a shoot or having pain affect the quality of my pictures. I’ll take those free throws, thank you.
And against the odds, we’re pulling for Butler against North Carolina tomorrow night. This is what makes March so mad.