Blogtable: Tougher to officiate pro baseball or pro basketball?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: What’s wrong with Phoenix? | Thoughts on a game at Fenway? |
Tougher to officiate in MLB or NBA?



VIDEOTake a closer look at Joey Crawford’s NBA career

> Joey Crawford will retire at the end of the season after 39 years as an NBA referee. Joey’s father, Shag Crawford, was a longtime Major League Baseball umpire. My question for you: What’s the harder sport to call, pro baseball or pro basketball?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: I think baseball. There’s a decision to make on every single pitch. Although, I think the single hardest call in sports is block/charge.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Working home plate is harder than refereeing an NBA game, which is harder than working three out of four games as a base umpire. That’s my hierarchy. Making those 300 or so ball/strike calls is a test of concentration and stamina, the elements can be brutal under all that gear — standing in the sun in August in St. Louis? — and baseball gives its players and managers a lot more latitude for griping before you can thumb someone out. An NBA referee has to discern and process what to call or not call at every moment of every possession, but he at least has the cover of two peers doing the exact same tasks, in a climate-controlled environment, with a whistle and technical fouls at the ready. And that still is way harder than making a few safe/out or fair/foul hand signals when an ump is rotating through his crew’s non-home plate duties. On those days, that’s like being the middle guys on a bobsled team.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Bigger, faster, stronger players who are constantly in motion. It’s basketball in a slam dunk.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The NBA must be the easiest sport in the world to officiate. Just look at Tommy Heinsohn. He’s never wrong on any of his objective calls about the nightly string of felonies committed against the Celtics.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The hardest is basketball, easily. Making a call on charging vs. blocking stands alone on an island. Basketball players are big and fast and agile and the game comes quick, and even the best refs make mistakes. Other than balls and strikes, what’s so hard about being a baseball ump? Especially with instant replay bailing them out on the bases?

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I was a referee and an umpire for kids leagues and basketball was definitely tougher. Baseball is pretty straightforward, especially once you’ve got a handle on the strike zone and, in most cases, you can wait a beat, think about what you saw, and then make your call. Basketball is a much faster and much more fluid sport, with a lot more ambiguity in the calls that need to be made (or not made). And I’m fairly sure that the issues I dealt with (reffing 5th and 6th graders) are exacerbated when dealing with athletes as big, strong and quick as those in the NBA.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: No disrespect to Shag Crawford or any of the great Major League Baseball umpires that served before or after his time, but it’s not even close. Running top speed every night in the land of the world’s most athletic giants tops umpiring in every category. Refereeing NBA games is easily the most physically demanding job in any of the major sports and it requires a mental dexterity (you have to be able to see things in a crowd both above and below the rim and react within a split second often enough) that simply is not required in baseball. Again, I don’t think this is a fair fight for the guys in baseball.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: For Joey Crawford to be an elite referee for so many decades is a marvel. Because his is the hardest job in pro sports. The NBA game is fast and unpredictable with contentious rules that are difficult to interpret via replay, never mind real time. And yet Crawford — while running full speed with the world’s greatest athletes — has maintained command of his craft. Baseball and football aren’t easy to officiate, that’s for sure, but there is nothing in sports more difficult than refereeing NBA basketball.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Are you kidding? Basketball is a fast-paced sport that requires constant action up and down the court. There are three officials on the floor with the power to make calls, and even then they can’t keep up with everything that’s happening. Meanwhile, you can umpire a baseball game while sitting in a chair. Also, in baseball it seems to be encouraged that each umpire has their own set of rules that they selectively enforce, as the strike zone morphs from game to game. Heck, for a playoff game in 1997, Eric Gregg randomly decided the strike zone should be about 10 feet wide for the Atlanta Braves hitters, knocking the Braves from the postseason, and this was just allowed to happen with no consequences. And no, I’m not still angry about this.

One Comment

  1. sports fan says:

    Basketball is harder. Umpires can focus on a single area – where the ball is. 99% of the time the calls are at the ball. In basketball the refs also have to make a lot of calls off the ball. There’s a lot more to watch for at a single moment in basketball.