Doug Wolter: The strange and picky arrangement of rude calls – The Globe

The next time you attend a high school basketball game, pay close attention to how fouls are called.

I say this because I recently ran into a baffling issue with how personal fouls are supposed to be announced. Now, I’m not saying that’s a big deal. And I’m not saying it’s badly done. But there seem to be few people, in fact, who can easily explain how this is supposed to work.

I have considered the question. Worthington High School athletic director Josh Dale told me there was some sort of directive that was sent to him some time ago, asking him to remind advertisers not to be bold in broadcasting the number fouls a player has been charged with during the game. He said he would look for the email and forward it to me, but alas he couldn’t locate it.

Doug Wolter

I called an acquaintance at the Minnesota State High School League to explain. I left a message and he hasn’t answered my call yet.

I talked to CJ Nelson of Minnesota West Community and Technical College about it. CJ is uniquely qualified to discuss high school and college rules. He is the head freshman boys basketball coach at WHS and also a scout for the Bluejays. He has a lot to do besides worrying about what announcers say at games, but – always graciously – he pointed out that there are fun rules in the college game too.

Finally, Murray County Central AD James Wajer found something I can put my finger on.

So here’s the thing, as far as I know…

The powers that be don’t want advertisers announcing how many fouls a player has been charged with. They can say, “Foul on Joe Schlabotnik. They can’t say “Foul on Joe Schlabotnik, his third”. The rule was originally established by the National Federation of State High School Associations, and I know it’s been in place since at least 2013 because I’ve seen a reaction to it online.

The reaction was not favourable. I know that’s not favorable either, with a few advertisers I’ve spoken to closer to home, although they do their best to comply.

Wajer confirms that this is indeed a national rule taken over by the MSHSL. Under “Announcer’s Responsibilities” it is stated that announcing the number of fouls on a player is verboten. The same goes for the number of team fouls. And also the type of fault or violation.

There are reasons, of course. I’m not sure what they all are, but here are a few I’ve heard:

  • If the announcer publicly points out that a player has just drawn his fourth foul, this is an indicator for the other team to harass said player into committing his fifth foul.
  • A loud announcement of the number committed could embarrass the offender.
  • If it is a fifth foul and the player’s name is broadcast, opposing supporters will cheer even louder when that player has to leave the game. Result: no more discomfort.

Well, I don’t know. Another AD I spoke to, Fulda’s Colby Pack, reminded me that coaches keep their own track of the number of fouls committed by rival players. It’s not like it’s a secret.
And frankly, it’s no secret to fans either, if they’re paying attention. At Worthington, whenever a player commits a personal foul, his number and foul number are displayed on the scoreboard.

Again, I’m not really trying to take the decision-makers to task. I just think the topic is interesting.

In fact, there are similar rules in other sports as well. In hockey, they’re not supposed to say exactly who goes to the penalty box (although fans with eyes can clearly see), and no names should be called when indicating a standing penalty in football.

So be it. But I kinda think these rules were made to make adults feel better. I’m not at all convinced that the players themselves, involved in the heat of the moment, really care.

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