COLUMN: Ever heard of the sideline stall? I’ve done it
The year was 1992 and I was a sophomore guard for my high school basketball team. We were OK that year – nothing great, but certainly no pushover.
Our first-round sectional opponent just wasn’t a good match-up. In fact, they’d cleaned our clocks twice during the regular season, so to have a chance to pull off the upset, well, it was going to take a miracle.
Or a well-orchestrated plan.
That plan played out in the form of a 32-minute stall. Seriously. I’m not making it up. The final score was something like 15-12 (I’m just guessing, but I know that’s close). We lost, but had a 3-point attempt at the buzzer to send it into overtime.
Our coach pulled out every trick in the book. We started the game in the good-ole’ three-man weave out top. It took the opponent several seconds to figure out what was going on and by the one-minute mark of the tactic they were onto us.
Oh, but it got better.
At some point in the second quarter our coach bellowed out “SIDELINE!” We knew what that meant. All five of us raced to a spot right in front of the opposing bench and stood shoulder-to-shoulder while facing the coach, who had to wonder if he was having a nightmare. And then we simply handed the ball back-and-forth to one another as the other team stood behind us and watched. They didn’t know what to do. We may have spent the rest of the quarter with our backs to the court if one of my teammates – it wasn’t me – hadn’t dropped the ball out of bounds.
Again, I’m serious. This actually happened.
The third quarter went by quickly. As the opponent just sat back in a zone, I stood with the ball out near the center circle … for almost seven minutes.
I tell you all of this to let you know that things like this happen every year. Teams that lack the size, skill and depth of certain opponents do what they can to survive. If it means everyone in the stands has to suffer through a 90-minute yawner, so be it.
I’ve told that story of my team several times over the years and I always get the same reaction. First, while laughing, people ask if I’m serious and then they ask if it was humiliating.
At the time I don’t remember being embarrassed about it. But now? Yeah, I’m embarrassed.
All of this is to make the point that I am in favor of utilizing shot clocks at the high school level. It would put an end – once and for all – to tactics like the sideline stall and for me that’s good enough.
When I started the research on this topic and began having conversations with coaches and fans, I’ll admit that I was firmly in the shot clock camp. But now I understand the reasons why some don’t want it and I can empathize. Yes, it would put a financial strain on schools at a time when every penny counts and, yes, finding individuals willing to do the thankless job of running the clocks wouldn’t be easy. As someone with a nightly deadline, I am eternally opposed to anything that adds time to sporting events.
But I also don’t like to hear “ONE SHOT!” yelled out from the bench, only to look up and see two minutes left in a quarter. I don’t like to watch 38-34 “barnburners” either and I would gladly say goodbye to the dreaded hack-a-thon at the end of regulation.
Would the shot clock cure all? No, but it would be a good start.