PRYOR, OK —
Perhaps no sport has evolved as much as basketball.
Baseball has evolved the least. A scorekeeper from almost any era could keep score in 2013 with very little problem. Stasis is baseball’s trademark, and it’s why people continue to love it. Aside from the mustache fashions, the game just hasn’t changed.
Football has evolved quite a bit, but most of that change is on the strategy end and has stemmed from coaches trying to outduel each other with spreads, wishbones and 3-3-5 stacks rather than the sport itself changing.
There are two major rules innovations that changed the look of the sport forever, but one, the forward pass, has been part of football for so long it’s basically in the sport’s DNA. The other, the two-point conversion, only seriously comes into play at the end of close games.
Basketball is different. There are debatably four things that have changed basketball forever: the shot clock, the 3-point basket, the slam dunk and Michael Jordan, and high school basketball still refuses to embrace the shot clock.
There are two basic schools of thought regarding a shot clock in high school basketball. On the one hand, the lack of a shot clock helps coaches manage a game better. If a play doesn’t work, a player can pass out to the perimeter, the team can reset the offense and try another play, and repeat as necessary. At the high school level, running a set offense to get a good shot is often the only way a team can score efficiently.
In high school contests, game management should always be in the hands of the coach. Forcing a player to decide when to take a shot can be a lot of pressure — pressure that can unfairly affect a kid that should probably be studying for an algebra exam rather than trying to knock down a game-winning stepback 18-footer.
Another advantage is that a coach can slow a game down and effectively take a timeout while the game clock is running. Especially at the small school level, when teams are forced to play without substitutes or with a limited six- or seven-man rotation, giving players time to rest is important.
The arguments in favor of the shot clock are much more romantic.
Nobody that plays basketball wants to watch a team run a full minute off the clock while nothing happens. Nobody in the stands wants to watch that, either. It’s like watching Albert Pujols get intentionally walked.
Football has several built-in rules for making sure the game is paced properly, like the play clock and the four-down system. Without those rules, football would be a complete bore.
(I know plenty of folks who have argued football is a complete bore anyway, but that’s beside the point.)
I’ve been in the building for a 19-16 basketball game before, because neither coach wanted to risk losing a lead. The schools’ respective football programs scored more points against each other that year than the basketball teams.
Forget the score being 19-16 — the whole game felt like it was played in 1916.
As a sportswriter, I love the shot clock. It speeds the game up. It offers fast break opportunities thanks to ill-advised shots and passes. It has the potential to add an element of drama to any possession.
For the sake of the coaches and the players, I do understand why the OSSAA refuses to add that element to the game, but I will still advocate for it as long as I live.
Because sometimes, logical thinking and reason need to take a backseat to good old-fashioned fun.