Now that the first month of the National Basketball Association playoffs has kicked off, it's time to start paying closer attention to the cagers.

The best athletes in the world still don't seem to be totally focused on the task at hand, which is the reason my enthusiasm for the hardwood has waned of late. I just refuse to believe you get 20-point swings if both teams are concentrating and such huge reversals are par for the course.

Maybe if the balls simply bounces the other way for two extended stretches, but that wasn't the case in the San Antonio Spurs contest with the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday.

The Spurs vaulted out to a huge lead when the Mavs came blundering out of the gates only to tune out while Dallas came storming back and took the lead. Of course, they snapped back to attention and delivered the kill-shot to Big D—that only re-emphasizes the collective siesta taken by San Antonio in the third quarter.

How stoked should I, the fan, be if two of the best teams in the Association (underestimate a healthy Big Three at your peril) can't muster a focused, 48-minute effort in a Game Six?

Nevertheless, the NBA is the athletic ballet at its peak. When these winners of the genetic lottery finally do push the jets to full-throttle, the gorgeous result cannot be rivaled in the sporting arena.

That happens at some point in late-April/early-May and it's a spectacle you don't want to miss. At least I don't, so it's time for Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, and some hoops courtesy of the game's greatest practitioners.

Unfortunately, that means a grotesquely heaping helping of grown men—most of them physical giants and/or millionaires—mewling like infants missing their binky.

Notice that group is not relegated to the players.

On the contrary, some of the biggest offenders are the Mavericks' owner, Mark Cuban , and Los Angeles Lakers head coach, Phil Jackson .

In fact, these are the really egregious antagonists because how can you expect the guys doing the sweating not to pick up on the actions of owners and coaches?

If the gripe works for the guys in the suits—in Cuban's case, the ill-fitting tee shirt/blue jeans combo—it should do the same for the ones in high-tops, no?

Look, we can all admit there are a handful of hideous calls in almost every NBA game and even more suspect examples. The zebras with the whistles in a professional basketball game are probably the worst of the major American sports as far as officiating accuracy is concerned.

But the objectivity cuts both ways—basketball is infinitely harder to referee than Major League Baseball and even the National Football League.

These are enormous men moving with incredible speed and agility in essentially random directions; most of the so-called "little" speedsters are generally six-feet or above. With those physics at work, what looks like a cataclysmic collision one moment can dissolve into a lithely creative escape in the next nanosecond.

There can be no anticipation of anything.

Try staying in nice position to make every call with such dynamic pieces blurring the scenery.

Furthermore, there are two distinct games being played at all times on a court—the inside game and the perimeter one. What is a foul on the outside cannot always be an infraction against the big uglies. Yet the two facets are constantly mixing due to the fluid motion of most offenses.

Lastly, there's the matter of the flopping and its growing vogue. Think that complicates matters a touch?

It's a brutal job—what a huge surprise that calls get butchered. I'm stunned.

In the face of such inevitability, how about accepting that the HUMAN officials will make mistakes, perhaps a lot of them, and playing through it? How about manning-up and deciding to turn in brilliant performance, referees be damned?

How about letting some—just a couple—slide?

Instead, it's literally impossible to go more than 30 seconds in an NBA game without seeing a 6'8" super-freak with granite shoulders on the verge of tears following a borderline tweet from the ref.

They've even taking to blogging their feet stomping and fist-balling .

Instead, most coaches are a call or two away from sideline apoplexy.

Not only does it come off as extremely petulant and weak to constantly be appealing to the authority figure for help—I believe some would call it a b**** move—but it makes all the trademark mean-muggin' and tough-guy posturing a little hard to stomach.

Much less take seriously.

Plus, it's a total waste of time and energy.

Don't give me this "working the ref" nonsense—if you complain vehemently after every single damn whistle, why would the individual making the calls take the moaning as any sort of sincere/appropriate criticism?

Or that it will ever stop?

The shtick is so extensive that quite literally 95 percent of the league misbehaves in the same manner. How could that NOT be white noise to the NBA's zebras?

All the whining does is create a collective ear—and eyesore—which detracts from the beauty of the game.

And that truly is a shame.

 

**www.pva.org**