You say it’s fun to go traveling? Not refs

It won’t surprise K-State basketball fans who watched KU benefit from a missed call at the end of a game in Lawrence this year that traveling is one of the calls most often missed by officials.

For what it’s worth, I don’t blame the officials for the Wildcats’ loss. The call was a factor in the outcome, but it wasn’t the only factor.

It’s been said that you don’t want to put the game in the hands of referees, where a call or lack of a call helps determine the outcome.

Astute fans will remember that KSU missed a great opportunity to make an unguarded three just seconds before the missed traveling call and winning basket. If K-State makes the three, the missed traveling call is a moot point.

Having said that, it’s painful to watch a missed call.

But then, what’s obvious to you isn’t always obvious to me, and vice versa. We all have blind spots and we all make mistakes.

The fact is, if that non-call had happened 10 minutes earlier, no one would talk about it. But when the mistake happens at the end of a tight game, it’s hard to miss (pardon the pun).

So how does a missed traveling call like that happen? As a former official, it’s easier than you think.

Traveling is one of the only calls in basketball where you may have a better perspective from the stands or on your TV screen than on the basketball court.

If all officials had to worry about was traveling, you’d see a lot more traveling calls. But officials are watching for more than traveling. And when players are sprinting in transition from one end of the floor to the other on a fast break, it’s even easier to miss. In general, if officials aren’t sure what they saw, they don’t guess.

The official most responsible for making that call in Lawrence was in the right position, but he was hustling down the court as well. It’s obvious that he didn’t see when the player stopped his dribble and took the ball to the basket. Unfortunately for him, nearly everyone else did and it was a big-time travel. I’d be willing to guess that no one was more upset about missing the call than the official.

As an official, I remember missing two traveling calls in a row in a high school girls’ basketball game. Worse yet, the missed calls led to a technical foul on the coach of the team who was wronged. In my case though, the game was a blowout and it wasn’t a factor in the outcome.

Team B had the ball and I should have called traveling on two occasions in a matter of seconds, but didn’t react to either violation.

From the other end of the court, the coach of Team A stood and yelled for everyone in the gym to hear, “That’s two traveling calls you missed!”

I stopped, turned around and assessed a technical foul. When I messed up, I was usually willing to give coaches some slack, but it’s harder to do if they are showing you up.

After awarding the technical foul, the athletic director of the school getting drubbed said to my officiating partner, “He’s (the coach) up 20 points with two minutes to play and he’s complaining about traveling?” My point exactly. There’s a time and way for a coach to express his or her concern. This wasn’t the right time or way to express that concern.

On another occasion, a coach of a team who was winning comfortably was rightly concerned that the three of us officials let an opposing player take three steps to score a basket.

But this coach waited until I was standing in front of him. While the game continued, he said, “Joe, how many steps do they get?” I turned slightly and acknowledged that I heard him. I was the only one who heard what he said and he handled it discreetly, but his point was well taken.

Of course, the situation is different if a call, right or wrong, is made at the end of a tie game.

Trust me, it’s no fun to be an official in that scenario.

Hillsboro resident Joe Klein­sasser is director of news and media relations at Wichita State University. You can reached him at Joe.Klein­sasser@wichita.edu