Second chance worth rooting for

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ columnist

With the state high school basketball tournament next week and the NCAA tournaments the following week, it’s a great time to be a basketball fan.

But before either of those takes place, there’s Saturday, where Philips Arena in Atlanta will give us 52 seconds to root for basketball, and second chances.

Flash back to Dec. 19 of last year. The Miami Heat, in the midst of an abysmal season, were trying to pull a road upset over the upstart Atlanta Hawks. Miami had taken the host Hawks to overtime, but future Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal picked up his sixth foul with 52 seconds left in overtime. Miami was never able to recover from the loss of O’Neal, and the Hawks won 117-111.

Problem: A scorekeeper goofed, and O’Neal hadn’t fouled out. The Heat quickly filed a protest with the National Basketball Association. The request was granted, and the result has been temporarily vacated from each team’s record. Now, Miami, which has since traded O’Neal to the Phoenix Suns, will get a second chance before Saturday’s regularly scheduled game at Atlanta.
The final 52 seconds will be replayed, with Miami holding the ball and trailing 114-111, and each team allowed to use players acquired since Dec. 19. When the overtime period is finished, the teams will take a 15-minute break before playing Saturday’s regularly scheduled game.

Replays aren’t new, but they’re certainly rare. The last NBA replay was in 1983 — coincidentally, the same year a protest was upheld in baseball. That was the “pine tar” incident where Royals slugger George Brett had a go-ahead homer wiped off the board because an umpire deemed his bat illegal. The Royals protested, Major League Baseball agreed, and the Royals closed out the New York Yankees 5-4 in a ninth-inning replay 24 days later.

The replay makes me wish other times in my life had received similar treatment. My most frustrating time in 15 years as a Buffalo Sabres fan had to be when the National Hockey League refused to do a video review on a Stanley Cup winning goal by Brett Hull. Hull’s skate was in the crease, and the Sabres had numerous goals disallowed in the playoffs for that same reason. Maybe Hull and the Dallas Stars would have won the game later anyway, and I never blamed Hull because he was simply trying to score a goal. I just thought it was disrespectful to Buffalo, Dallas and all hockey fans to allow a questionable goal to stand with stakes so high.

We may see do-overs this campaign season. Michigan and Florida lost Democratic delegates for the presidential race when they scheduled primaries in violation of primary rules. Now, the party has offered to pay for new votes and re-seat delegates, and those states may make a bigger impact on the current two-person race than either would have in the five-way race that existed before candidates dropped out.

There are other moments in my life I’d love to replay (passing on movies with LL Cool J comes to mind), but the silver lining is every mistake makes me better as a person.

I’m glad the NBA knows that too. The Hawks will probably hold on for the win, and the basis of Miami’s protest is now playing in Phoenix, but I still look forward to Saturday. It reminds us any organization can admit a mistake, but it takes a great one to correct it.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom New Mexico. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by e-mail: