Imagine that you are at a basketball game between your beloved Sweetest Angels and the hated Evil Ogres. You don’t like the way the Ogres compete; as a matter of fact you conclude that they must be coached to play dirty since every Ogre swings her elbows and shoves their closest opponent in the back. Not only are the Ogres dirty, they are whiners. Every whistle is met with a player pulling a face or rolling her eyes. That’s because they were all spoiled as children and are self-entitled babies Sure, sometimes an Angel might contest a whistle, but only when they have a good reason. Finally the game is over and the Angels and Ogres line up to shake hands. The leading scorer on the Ogres doesn’t stick around. Instead she runs directly into the locker room. This confirms all your suspicions – she is a bad sport and a selfish diva. You see the leading scorer for your Sweetest Angel run immediately into the locker room without shaking hands as well. But you know that she has been fighting the flu all week, so she gets a pass.
What I just described is an example to fundamental attribution error. This is a phenomenon in social psychology that describes the tendency for people to judge someone else’s character or personality through their actions. The less well known that person is, the more likely one is to do this. And nowhere is this tendency to be more pronounced than in athletics.
The only way most fans can judge opposing players or game officials is through their actions. And more often than not, their actions are interpreted in the worst possible light. Because of this, judgements about a young women’s character are often made and then held by entire fan bases due to a random facial expression or a single act that actually has an innocent explanation. (See Prahalis, Sammy. On second thought, never mind)
Fans watch a team for forty minutes and conclude that the point guard who goes straight to the basket is selfish; the post player who calls for the ball on the block is a diva; and the wing who sets a solid screen is dirty. It’s time for those watching the games to take a step back and understand just how crazy and unsupported those snap judgements are. Thousands of factors influence a player’s performance, and the vast majority of them are unknown. We have no idea what players have been told by their coaching staff, or what is going on with the rest of the team.
It’s important to bear in mind that no matter what players DO on the court, it doesn’t reflect on their basic personalities. The season has yet to start, and I honestly have no idea how this year’s Purdue Boilermaker team will perform in games. Because the team is composed of college-aged people, I fully expect that some of their individual and collective actions will be, um, counterproductive. There is one thing I do know completely, however, and that is the fact that the team is composed of exceptional young women of outstanding character. What happens between the opening and closing buzzers of basketball contests cannot change that one bit – no matter what they do when I am watching.
You might have noticed a massive number of rules changes in college women’s basketball this year if you’ve been watching the Purdue Boilermakers play. Perhaps you will not see it right away, but sometime between the second and fourth quarter it will hit you. The NCAA is constantly altering something or other, and it’s rare when everything is held constant from one season to the next. Until this season, however, they’ve been content to tinker with the shot clock a bit, or merely change the official’s “emphasis” from one area to another. Not this season – in 2015-2016 the rules makers went for broke. The most obvious change was the move to quarters, splitting the 20 minute halves into two. The “….. and one” is gone, now fouled players get 2 shots as soon as their team is in the bonus – at foul number 5 of the quarter. Coaches lose 1 time out per game, and usually try to save at least one until the final minute because the other major change concerns ball advancement at the end of the game. If a team calls a time out after a made basket, the change kicks in. The team gets to inbound the ball at the half court, rather under the opposing team’s basket. This is a huge advantage; now a last second shot can be made off the inbounds pass without having to bring the ball up court first.
All of these changes were made with an eye towards speeding up the game and improving offensive flow. By eliminating the TV time outs and replacing them with the breaks between the quarters, there are 2 fewer stoppages of play per game. It’s hard to see how ditching the penalty and bonus in favor of 2 free throws helps any, although it takes more total fouls (10 per half) to reach the penalty than before (7 per half). In contrast, advancing the ball in the final minute has resulted in the end of the game grinding to a screeching halt. Seconds off the clock take minutes as each team burns up all available time outs at every possession in order to cut 47 feet off the distance needed to advance the ball.
To a person, TV and radio announcers have been extremely positive about the changes. The all loooove the new look. As a fan with no vested in interest in selling the game, I’d say the jury is still out. Re-juggling the stoppages of play is welcome, but in many games the final minute has become excruciating.
To this point, the play of the game doesn’t look noticeably less physical, which was another goal of the changes. That can be difficult to judge until two evenly matched, physical teams compete. For the Boilers that probably won’t’ happen in Mackey until the B1G season.
I’d be completely remiss if I didn’t mention another large change this season. The team has regained a little of its old swagger and is back to playing “Boiler Ball.” They have been able to compete with the elite of the sport. They played Stanford to overtime, and ground out and won close games against Louisville and Dayton. Time will tell if the team can sustain the level of play throughout the season, but this has been the most welcome change of all.