Friday, July 13, 2012

PST's "Zero Tolerance" Policy Intolerable

Not sure why so much is made of professional squash players arguing a referee's calls (lets, no-lets, strokes). If you've ever watched an NBA game, yes a league that is family centric as well and financially successful through the roof,, coaches, players, fans and sometimes all together contest calls made by the referees ALL the time. There was a time that a player raised his hand and lowered his head if called for a foul...if my memory serves me. And when the player did that it was with a posture of humility, like, "yeah, I made a mistake, mea culpa..." But our world has changed, we are taught, in fact encouraged to challenge authority. Why should squash players be any different? Joe McManus of the PST has stated a new policy for his emerging US based PST pro squash tour, "zero tolerance" toward a player arguing a referee's call. I don't know, "zero tolerance" maybe towards drugs, firearms, cheating, cyber bullying, sexual harassment, but really, arguing a referee's call? Often the exchanges are animated and even humorous, to err is human, and the pros have the right to remind the referees that and to argue their case in spite of that. However,still maintain that rule that states "continuous play" to keep from lengthy court appeals. But to curtail the exchange between a referee and a player takes away from the game.

It would be like watching American Idol, the performances, and then simply the judges voting or Top Chef, no we want to hear the reasoning behind the judges ruling and the contestants responses, it enables us to agree or disagree, it engages us, and makes us less of a spectator. I have never watched a squash match where I felt that the conduct of the player took something away from the game or was such that I couldn't bring my children to watch. Squash players for the most part are highly motivated athletes, in a sport where every inch makes a difference, a bad call can make a huge difference.

I have spoken to a number of professional referees, they are amazing, the job they do is incredibly difficult. And they will be the first to admit they blew a call. But to infer that player conduct towards the referees is responsible, for example, why squash is not an Olympic sport, is ludicrous, look at Tennis, how often do players contest calls? One only remember Serena Williams in the 2009 US Open final -- and last I checked she is going for Olympic Gold -- again in 2012.

Sport is part theater, part entertainment and a good part a mirror of real life. The beauty of squash is it takes all those elements and makes for a pretty great spectator experience. Unfortunately, the game is very complex and like a sport like fencing, which, to an untrained eye, is really hard to follow, it lacks the mass appeal. Squash is difficult, probably one of the most difficult sports on the planet, any tidbit of insight into why a call is made or commentary about a call or a players argument lends a lot to understanding the game better. We are fortunate, squash is not played in some large arena like the NBA or Tennis, so we can hear up close the discussion and arguments...I'd love to hear the audible for all the NBA banter between coaches, players and referees. In fact, those highlights which have a coach or player or referee wired are so interesting watch and listen to. Instead of putting intelligent and well founded challenges to the squash referees on the same level as crime, "zero tolerance" for arguing a call is much too severe. Would baseball have been better off with a "zero tolerance" towards Billy Martin or Leo Durocher, I don't think so. Is the PST going to be a better spectator sport with "zero tolerance" I don't think so. Why remove the theater and entertainment from a game we love for all it's flaws and all its greatness?