Unfortunately, it doesn’t get played that way.
Sadly, to make sure the game runs smoothly, they invented a thing called a “foul,” which is a punishment for interfering with the ability of a player on the other team to move the ball... a punishment for disrupting the fluid nature of the game. But fouls don’t have any real penalty attached. So they’ve become a strategic tool used by teams when they need to get the ball back. Basically, they grab the player with the ball and the action stops. A foul is called. The opposing player gets to take a shot at the basket, and then the team committing the foul gets the chance to get the ball back. In effect, they are openly cheating because they are willing to take the penalty of getting caught.
In my book, this is a horrible lesson to teach people. Rather than teaching people to step up their game, it teaches people to intentionally break the rules if they think the benefits of breaking the rules outweigh the punishment. That’s not a type of thinking society wants people to internalize because it leads people away from doing the right thing on principle and instead gets them thinking in risk/reward terms. But risk/reward thinking is not enough to make society work unless you want a hardcore police state with sharp punishments. And here is basketball, teaching people this very lesson.
Even worse, I see this kind of thinking spreading to other sports now. I’m amazed how happy people get when they watch football and penalties happen to the other side. It seems that winning by penalty is fast becoming just as acceptable to fans as winning by skill... penalties are now seen as “good plays.” That’s kind of shocking to me because it again flies in the face of the spirit of the game. Isn’t the game about superior play? I guess not. I guess, having the refs hand you the game is just as satisfying as winning it yourself. Again, this is not a good message for people to internalize... it sounds rather socialist actually.
Ditto on instant replay. Instant replay wrongly gives people the sense that we can and should achieve perfection. It also gives us a twisted version of perfection. By showing frame by frame images, it lets people wrongly imagine that it should have been easy for players or referees to do something that no one would ever consider possible when seen in real time. In effect, it wrongly makes us believe that perfection should be easy and only the incompetent fail to achieve it. That then reflects poorly in people’s expectations in every other facet of their lives, where perfect in anything is ultra-rare.
What I think makes these lessons particularly dangerous is that these lessons are taught without anyone realizing what they are learning. If a politician does something stupid, we debate it, and you consciously decide if their behavior is something you accept or you don’t. But the things above don’t strike us as lessons. They just slowly change our perceptions and our expectations. They are, in effect, the way brainwashing really works.