Once Upon A Time If you want some insight into how officiating in the NBA has changed over the years get yourself a copy of Calling the Shots: My Five decades in the NBA by the late great Earl Strom. It’s an old book (1990) and might be hard to find but it's a gem written by one of the great personalities of the NBA. [floatr]http://img362.imageshack.us/img362/8302/strombook5sc.jpg[/floatr]Strom believed in calling a strong consistent game, not being influenced by the opposing crowd or whining players. He also drew a hard line with fellow refs similar to treatment Microwave dishes out to wayward posters on pf.com. This Strom story was originally described by Charlie Rosen. Seems a number of seasons back, Philly was playing the Nets in New Jersey. The game was a nail biter and emotions were running high. Old Earl Strom and Dick Bavetta were the senior refs, and Earl made a last-second call against the Nets, apparently ending the game with a win for Sixers. Suddenly Dick Bavetta ran across the hardwoods to the scorer's table, saying, "No! No! I got a push off against McGinnis!" Earl Strom then challenged Bavetta, "Are you over-ruling my call?" "I got pushing off right here!" Bavetta insisted, which reversed Stroms call and the Nets wound up with the W. The game over, players were walking to their respective locker rooms when the door to the referees' locker room flew open and Dick Bavetta came staggering out. His Officials jersey was ripped and he was wearing a big welt over his eye, and he appeared to be running, maybe even scoping out a place to hide. That's when it's reported old Earl Strom stepped out into the hallway and hollered after Bavetta, "You'll take another one of my (bleeping) calls again, right, you (bleep)?" [floatl]http://img363.imageshack.us/img363/6725/032706cubanhi5rv.jpg[/floatl]To be fair, being an NBA referee has got to be one tough gig. The speed of the game, the athleticism of the players, non-stop pressure from fans, screaming coaches and insane owners (like Mark Cuban)…it ain’t easy. Then add on some of the more complex rules like illegal defense while keeping your eye on the no-charge line and making sure no ones in the lane for 3 seconds. You pretty much have to own a tough charismatic personality like Earl Strom not be affected by all the distraction while maintaining control of the game. [floatr]http://img362.imageshack.us/img362/4681/arroyo3es.jpg[/floatr] Today’s officials get a lot more training to go along with the public scrutiny. They are watched more closely than all the fellas from Puerto Rico watch Carlos Arroyo. Consider the following, much like the players, NBA officials have annual training camps, where they hone their crafts. They are expected to arrive just like the players in top physical shape. It takes 10-14 years of overall college and "B" League experience before a referee is even granted consideration for a position in the NBA as an Official. It takes another seven years of experience for an NBA Official to call a playoff game. It normally takes 14-20 years for an NBA official to be selected to work an NBA Finals game (14 to 20 years? Think about that, by that time even Darko may have developed a post game!) Referees maintain that their calls are correct 93% of the time. That's an admirable rate of accuracy, but still 7% less than Lee356. One bad call (with a 7% probability) at the wrong time can turn a ball game the wrong way. Also, non-calls are a huge factor and can effect the game as much as a bad call. Throw out the name James Capers to a true Piston fan and the outrage over the phantom offensive foul on Chauncey Billups comes flooding back. What about Bill Laimbeer’s legendary phantom foul on Kareem? [floatl]http://img462.imageshack.us/img462/5875/vangundymourning8ya.jpg[/floatl]We all expect perfection from refs …but calling a perfect game is about as likely as Anthony Goldwire making an All-Star squad . It’s as pointless as Jeff Van Gundy hanging on Alonzo Mourning’s leg. But what would the game be without them? They’re as important to today's game as a disposable diaper is to Larry Brown. If you really want to gripe about them, though, go to www.nbarefsSuck.com…. Earl Strom would be rolling over in his grave!