With Friends Like These: Mike Breen sees NBA refs as suckers to be conned
What do refs and their union leadership think when they hear Mike Breen, the play-by-play voice of the NBA on ABC and ESPN, matter-of-factly commend a player for a “good sell job” when his theatrics produce a favorable call?
One of the most difficult aspects of a ref’s job is distinguishing legal “incidental” contact from contact meriting a foul. It’s a challenge when the players are honest; it’s a monumental one when players present a distorted picture for the refs by exaggerating the force of contact, yelling for effect, flailing from self-initiated contact, or engaging in other acts of deception to trick the ref.
It’s bad enough that low-life color commentators such as Mark Jackson, Doug Collins and Reggie Miller praise this garbage. They’re supposed to be opinionated, and it’s hardly surprising that the latter two — quite possibly the all-time leaders in total career flops (Miller) and most flops per minute (Collins) — want their antics to be regarded as legitimate skills. It’s far worse when a neutral, theoretically objective play-by-play announcer — the semi-official voice of the league — offers similar praise.
I don’t know when Breen first adopted that philosophy and phrase, but here’s a typical example from the 2009 postseason. After Jeff Van Gundy said he couldn’t tell from the replay if Luis Scola flopped or Pau Gasol genuinely pushed off and thus merited the offensive foul called on him, Breen added “Good sell job by Scola.” He said this in the same tone he would say “Nice deflection by Ariza” or “Clever pass by Brooks.”
Breen is a former (youth-level) ref who presents himself as a defender and ally of referees. He is the last person on earth who should be lauding and normalizing fool-the-ref deceit for impressionable young hoopsters and their parents watching at home.
Active refs bargained away their right to free speech in their labor agreement with the league, so they can’t say what they think of Breen’s attitude. But what does Lamell J. McMorris, official spokesperson of the National Basketball Referees Association, think? What do retired refs think?