With the advent of the college basketball season, some proactive, athletic-minded law students organized an intramural basketball league for the law school. In the past, if law students wanted to play, they had to join the university-wide intramural league, but this meant going up against undergrads, who were almost always younger, stronger, faster, and generally better at sports. This newly created law school league offered a safe refuge for those of us who didn’t have time to lift weights every day, and who hadn’t shot a basket in a few years. In this league, you didn’t have to worry about getting dunked on and having your glasses fly off your face and shatter on the floor. It was supposed to be a nice escape from the classroom, an opportunity to blow off a little steam, have some friendly fun, and get some much needed exercise. It sounded great in theory, except that law students can’t seem to do something for the friendly fun of it. As everything else that surrounds the study of law, things got insanely competitive.
Some friends and I formed a team and joined the league. The requisite for being on the team was practically that you had to own a pair of gym shoes, because only about half of us had ever played any sort of competitive basketball. The other half, with any luck, might have shot mini-hoops at a sports bar at some point in their lives. That seemed to be a common trend throughout the league. There was only one team that looked somewhat competent. They had two black players, so they immediately intimidated everyone they went up against, and eventually blew everyone out and easily won the league championship. But even they would have probably been crushed by the last place team in the undergrad league.
As bad as the game-play was, it still didn’t prevent most participants from taking the tournament extremely seriously. With the way we are pitted against each other in the class ranks, law students can’t seem to help being competitive about anything and everything. This was evident on the basketball court, as not a single game went by without a severe argument breaking out. One player was kicked off the league – and nearly expelled from the school – for punching an opponent in the face during a game.
Not even the referees could keep their cool. During one of our games, a friend of mine had a problem with the referee, a 2L being paid $20 a game by the university. Every time the ref made a call, my friend would argue it, and anytime he didn’t make a call, my friend would yell at him for not doing so. This went on the entire game, and everyone was baffled as to why he wouldn’t just exercise is power as referee, give him two technical fouls, and send him to the showers. Instead, he put up with the harassment for two thirds of the game, until he finally snapped. He made a 3-seconds call against our center, a big fat guy who had no idea that he couldn't just stand underneath the basket all day and wait for an easy layup.
My friend went up to the ref and said, “Wow, I can’t believe you know what the 3-seconds rule is. Now if you could only learn what a foul is.”
At hearing this, the referee slammed the ball, and charged at my friend, grabbing him by the throat. He literally tried to strangle him. Everyone looked on, mouths wide open in shock. Our big fat center broke them up, and my friend let out a few coughs, regained his breath, and said to the ref, “You better learn to keep your cool, buddy. You can’t do that in the courtroom.”
The referee stared at him for a few seconds, but he didn’t say anything. He just turned around and walked off the court. You can’t very well have a trial without a judge, so the game was forfeited.
I’ve seen a lot of basketball in my lifetime. Prior to moving to