Tower Philosophy

Barry posted this here quite awhile back ... I kept a copy. You should too.

From Barry C Morris off of the Officiating.com Forum

I found the document that I thought was "The Tower Philosophy". It came from an officiating clinic I attended about five years ago. Apparently, though, "The Tower Philosophy" is not a written document but a guiding principle used by editors of the rules committee. The Tower Philosophy came from Oswald Tower, a past Editor of the Rules committee and was espoused by his predecessor, John Bunn. I don't know the author of the document (though, it was apparently a Rules Editor) nor when it was written but I reproduce an excerpt here for your review:

Rules Philosophy and Principles

"As a result of observing officiating in various parts of the U.S.A. and internationally and responding to the many inquiries that have come to the attention of the Editor for a response as to the official ruling of a certain situation that occurred, there are some principles that evidence themselves as being basic to the answer of the majority of inquiries. They reflect a need for thought towards a realistic approach to officiating rather than a literal approach. A well-officiated ball game is one in which the official has called the game in accordance with the spirit and intent of the basketball rules as established by the Rules Committee. In effect, it is a realistic approach rather than a literalistic approach.

The following observations, which are not new to the older and well-established official, are worth restating even though they have been stated exceptionally well by the Editor's predecessors, Mr. John Bunn and Mr. Oswald Tower, on many occasions:

The basic and fundamental responsibility of a basketball official, while officiating a contest, is to have the game proceed and played with as little interference as possible on the part of the official. This is not to say that he is not to blow the whistle when a rule has been violated; but, it is one of not seeking ways to call infractions not intended by the spirit and intent of the rule.

Some thirty years ago, John Bunn phrased for the Basketball Rules Committee what was called the 'Oswald Tower Philosophy', and it best represents what the Rules Committee believes and supports regarding the officiating of a contest. The philosophy is expressed as followed:

'It is the purpose of the rules to penalize a player who by reason of an illegal act has placed his opponent at a disadvantage.'

It represents a realistic approach to guide the judgment of officials in making decisions on all situations where the effect upon the play is the key factor in determining whether or not a rule violation has occurred.

As an illustration, Rule 10 - Section 10 of the rules states, 'A player shall not contact an opponent with his hand unless such contact is only with the opponent's hand while it is on the ball and is incidental to an attempt to play the ball........' If an official did not take a realistic approach to this particular rule and officiated the rule literally, the basketball game would be one of continual fouls and whistle-blowing. A good official realizes that contact, not only in the instance cited previously, but in other aspects of the game must be looked at in terms of the effect it creates on the opponent. If there is no apparent disadvantage to an opponent then, realistically speaking, no rule violation has occurred. The official must use discretion in applying this rule and all rules.

The "Tower Philosophy" stated in another manner is as follows:

'It is not the intent that the rules shall be interpreted literally, rather they should be applied in relation to the effect which the action of the players has upon their opponents. If they are unfairly affected as a result of a violation of rules, then the transgressor shall be penalized. If there has been no appreciable effect upon the progress of the game, then the game shall not be interrupted. The act should be ignored. It is incidental and not vital. Realistically and practically, no violation has occurred.'

The Rules Committee has, over the years, operated under this fundamental philosophy in establishing its interpretations so far as officiating is concerned. Obviously, this philosophy assumes that the official has a thorough understanding of the game. Officials are hired to officiate basketball games because the employer believes that he has basketball intelligence and an understanding of the mood and climate that prevails during a basketball game. The excellent official exercises mature judgment in each play situation in light of the basic philosophy stated. Inquiries indicate that some coaches and officials are too concerned over trivial or unimportant details about play situations during the game. Much time and thought is wasted in digging up hyper-technicalities which are of little or no significance. In the Editor's travels, he finds that, unfortunately, in some Rules Clinics and officials' meetings and interpretation sessions there are those who would sidetrack the 'bread and butter' discussions too often and get involved with emotional discussions over situations that might happen once in a lifetime. In many instances, these very same officials are looking for a mechanical device and many times it is these very officials who are the ultra-literal minded, strict constructionists who have no faith in their own evaluation or judgment. This minority, are those who are categorized as the excessive whistle blowers who are not enhancing our game: in-fact, they hurt the game. They are the very ones who want a spelled-out and detailed rule for every tiny detail to replace judgment. The Basketball Rules Committee is looking for the official with a realistic and humanistic approach to officiating the game of basketball. Did he violate the spirit and intended purpose of the rule?"