By Steve Rushin
April 27, 2011

You call that a foul? You called that a foul? You called THAT a FOUL on ... ME? When I didn't touch the guy? When I barely brushed the guy?! If anything, HE fouled ME. Now I am required by NBA convention to go through an entire taxonomy of exaggerated emotions, beginning with shock and disbelief.

See my palms, turned up to the heavens? They're saying: Why me? What have I done to deserve this inexplicable injustice? After the game, when you're in your hotel room, watching SportsCenter, and they replay your travesty of a call, and then slow-roast you over an open flame for getting it COMPLETELY WRONG -- when you are dragged before the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, as you deserve to be -- then you will realize why I'm looking at you this way, eyes wide in comic-book astonishment, eyes popping from my head as if they are dangling on springs in a Warner Brothers cartoon.

Now I am losing the ability to stand. My shoulders are slumping. My neck is wilting in resignation. Your officiating incompetence has rendered me an invertebrate.

Joey! I mean Steve! I mean Bennett! I mean Dick! Don't walk away! I'm calling you by your first name now, as if we're all friends here. I'm no longer complaining about the call. See? I am smiling -- albeit world-wearily, secure in the knowledge that everyone else in the building, and the multitudes watching at home, and even the other officials on your crew, know, in their heart of hearts, what you have failed to recognize: That I didn't foul that guy. I wasn't within 10 feet of that guy. That guy was jumping into ME. I'm laughing now because your call is so ridiculous.

I am gently touching you on the elbow now, trying to attract your attention, attempting to look in your eyes, but you won't stop walking. I just want to help you. You need help. I genuinely feel sorry for anyone who would make that call. You have my sympathy. My pity. I want to explain to you, with this over-the-top chopping motion on my forearm, what a foul is and what a foul is not. Consider this a teaching moment. Don't walk away from me. That is incredibly rude.

I am pausing to stare at the arena rafters now, mouth open in disbelief, like a silent supplicant in a Spielberg movie who is gazing at the heavens as the aliens alight. I am closing my eyes, wondering why bad things happen to good people. Now, with a rueful shake of the head, I am raising my hand to signal the scorer that I, of all people, have been called for that foul.

Now I am waving my hand at you dismissively: You are an insignificant, poorly paid, middle-aged flyspeck, unworthy of my sustained attention.

Except that you will rue this call until the end of time. Which is coming soon, given the rioting that must now be taking place in the streets by all right-minded citizens who have witnessed your unbelievable call and are surely descending on this arena with pitchforks.

GALLERY: NBA's Best 'I Didn't Foul' Faces

Yes, I realize my man is now at the free-throw line, complicit in the fiction that he has been fouled. And I am bent over, hands on shorts, shaking my head in absolute astonishment -- with utter incredulity -- that these free throws have been awarded. You called that foul on me? It defies rational explanation. It is the greatest error in human judgment since New Coke. But I'm over it. I'm moving on. Some things -- like that call, and natural disaster -- cannot be comprehended.

Okay. I'm not moving on. I'm indignant. See my face? Nose scrunched, brow furrowed, visage contorted in a way that says I smell something deeply unpleasant? I am removing my mouth guard to tell you this, inches from your ear, using my 14-inch height surplus to its most intimidating advantage, as you retrieve the ball for the second free throw: This injustice shall not stand. You are a joke. You are a clown, with your Sansabelt ref slacks and your V-neck ref shirt, dressed like an old man in an aluminum-framed lawn chair in the front yard on a hot day.

You're not listening. My hands are now church-steepled in front of my mouth, as if in prayer, in the hope that God might intervene to correct this horrifying crime against nature. I am asking a higher power why I have been singled out for such senseless persecution.

Your call has rendered me speechless. Not literally speechless. But I'm frozen in place, figuratively dumbstruck, staring into your eyes, both palms on top of my head, fingers laced together, armpits exposed, as I begin laser-cutting your heart out with the twin beams of my eyes. If only you'd look at me. Why won't you look at me? I'm talking to YOU, M-----------!

What? You're T'ing me up?! I'm looking around, but don't see anyone else nearby. With both index fingers, I'm pointing -- mouth agape -- at my own chest, as if to say: ME? You're calling that technical on ME? For what? I didn't say anything. I am looking at my coach, at my teammates, at our trainer, seeking confirmation that I have not lost my mind. All I said was, "Brother's tuckered." As in you must be tuckered out after all that running, brother. I know I am. Why don't you sit down?

What's that? Why don't I sit down? You're giving me a second T? Sweet mother of pearl, this is not happening. Why does the universe, and everything in it, hate me?

I am leaving the court -- the court that wrongly convicted me -- with head held high. And draped in a towel -- a white towel of surrender. I am at the final stage of the Kubler-Ross grief scale: Acceptance. I accept that I got screwed, and that history will exonerate me.

As I head for the mahogany exile of the player's lounge, I think of Judgment Day, when you -- blind ref -- will be called to account, forced to explain how in the name of all that is holy you could have called me for that reach-in, knowing full well that I barely touched the guy.

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