points negotiator

points negotiator (pointz ni-goh'-shee-eyt'-uhr) noun. The player or players in a pickup basketball game who are trusted and allowed to pass judgment on any scoring discrepancies.

Usage example: Many times, older players are given the role of points negotiator.

Word usage: It never ceases to amaze me how difficult it is for people to keep track of the score during a pickup game. As far as I've been able to determine, the whole 1-pointer/2-pointer scoring system was invented for the sole purpose of making it easier to score the games. Despite the use of the most basic math possible, scoring discrepancies occur with ridiculous frequency...and few things cause more heated conflict on the pickup court.

When a scoring discrepancy happens, both sides feel they're getting screwed. Nobody ever just laughs it off as a simple mistake that can be easily remedied. The interpretation is that points are being stolen, and with the way people behave during the ensuring debate, you'd think the fate of humankind was riding on the outcome. And I'm not even talking about the outcome of the game. I mean who gets to win the argument about what the "correct" score is.

Many times, these disputes are settled by which team screams the loudest or acts the most ready to solve things through a fistfight. Other times, both teams choose to abide by the ruling of a points negotiator. The points negotiator typically is someone who is known, liked and respected by most of the players. As such, points negotiation usually happens in weekly pickup leagues. It can also happen in generic pickup games with savvy players who give off an aura of authority.

Points negotiators are usually older players, the general assumption being that they are wiser and more mature, and therefore better able to think and react logically. This isn't true whatsoever, but cultural ideology often takes over when conflict resolution is necessary.

Aside from the age factor (which isn't a constant), a points negotiator must have a reputation for making fair calls most of the time. Furthermore, they should have a history free of being on the wrong side of point shaving incidents. Once a player has bungled the score a few times, they lose all point tracking credibility until player turnover reaches 80 to 90 percent.

Moreover, points negotiators must have the ability to remain calm in the face of conflict. If they start cussing and yelling, the other players will lose faith in their ability to remain logical and emotionally detached from the eventual outcome. A single sneer or chuckle of disgust can appear sinister, which will lead some players to conclude that the points negotiator has some specific vested interest in the final decision. And even though that is often the case, people are often comforted by the delusion of impartiality.

Now this final point is very important. A points negotiator will many times be forced to make a ruling he either isn't sure about or knows is incorrect. Dubious decisions are made because a points negotiator is, after all, human and might not have been closely tracking the score. Incorrect rulings are made because sometimes the only way to keep the peace is to let a given team have their way, either because they've been losing all night or because most of the calls have been going against them. Sometimes making everybody happy is more important than the final score.

Unless you're on the team that got hosed.

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37 Comments:
A friend of mine always argues that the 1-point/2-point scoring system is totally flawed because it give too much advantage to the 3 poitn shooters - you need 4 regular baskets to tie two 3 pointers of the opising team while it takes only 3 regular baskets in regular scolaring...

Anonymous Gabe said...
Oh my god this is so true. How can 6-10 guys who all passed elementary school (hopefully) can come up with different calculations for a 1/2 point scoring system? This has to happen at least once in 90% of the games I play in. I keep the score every game and almost half the time my score gets overruled by the majority of players who kept the score wrong but think its the correct.

Blogger Victor said...
Pickup ball is serious business. Hopefully someone doesn't break off a table leg and throw it at someone else. Who knows what might happen then.

Blogger Dooj said...
I'm the points negotiator whenever we play and 9 times out of 10 when there is a discrepancy and I have to guess the score, I end up hosing my team to keep the other team happy.

Not sure what that makes me, but usually I paint it as the other teams fault. That way my team suddenly plays harder because they have that "chip" on their shoulder.

Does this make me a bad or good points negotiator?


Word Verification: Monine (as in: Monine is the next girl that Bawful meets in college)

Blogger Victor said...
And on a totally unrelated note, Emeka Okafor for Tyson Chandler?! I thought NO was trying to drop salary, not acquire a 5 year deal.

Blogger Lord Kerrance said...
I once got so frustrated by the constant battles over the score that I took to calling it out after each basket. I was told to STFU after about 3-2. I think people like to treat score posturing as a game within the game.

Blogger Cortez said...
"...How can 6-10 guys who all passed elementary school (hopefully) can come up with different calculations for a 1/2 point scoring system?"

Most of them are cheating.

Besides that fact, it's easy to lose track of the score in an intense game trying to remember if that 19'8.9434 footer was a 2 or a 3. Or if that basket counted when Old Man Freddy called a foul fourteen plays ago.

If someone insists on cheating us out of points I typically lower our score a couple of more baskets. Then if we win I make some smart-ass comment about how we can't be stopped or if we lose I go home and fix a sandwich.

Blogger Steve said...
I especially can't stand the guys that try to assume points negotiation without proper delegation from the other players on the court. This usually comes from the guy who thinks he's really good, but is above average at best. He's usually the most "gangster" acting guy as well.

Blogger LA Huey said...
In my experience, I've found that 70% of the players on the court are liars and know what the score is

Anonymous Gabe said...
Part of it is probably cheating, but I even get overruled by my own teammates shorting our own score! The worst part is the flow of the game getting stopped to argue score.

OpenID NarSARSsist said...
Victor - Chandler's contract is slightly bigger than Okafor's, by roughly $1 million. Since NO has been balking at that luxury tax, this does offer them a few things.

1) This saves them $2 million from the contract and the tax. (what's in the future is in the future, by then Stojakovic won't be killing their cap)

2) It makes it easier for them to slip under the cap. That would offer them even more savings, and more importantly, it would net them probably somewhere around $2 - $3 million for the kickback teams get from other teams paying the luxury tax.

3) All of the bad publicity lately about the Hornets only caring about the bottom line has probably hurt sales. This is a good way to save some money in the present while convincing people that they really do care about winning.

4) All of the talking Chris Paul has been doing lately has to have them a little spooked. Sure, Paul has no leverage to force a trade, nor does he seem to be that kind of person, but it's generally not a good thing to have an unhappy franchise player.

5) It helps them cope with some of their injury risk. I know Okafor has been injured quite a bit early in his career, but that hasn't been the case the past two seasons. Given the Hornets' tendency to get injured, having someone a little more stable sure helps.

6) They get shorter. I'm not sure why that's a good thing, but I don't think they have anyone on their roster taller than 6'10" and plays regular minutes. That has to count for something, right? Hmm.... moving on now....

7) Even though it's not some great accomplishment, Okafor is a better offensive player than Tyson "I dunk everything" Chandler, and that was on a Charlotte team devoid of weapons. I think Okafor would fare much better as a 3rd option behind Paul and David West. Defensively, Chandler is the better player, but Okafor is no slouch either.

However, I can't figure out for the life of me why the Bobcats bit on this deal. A great defensive player on a defense oriented team isn't some big boon. Gaining future cap space is fine and dandy, but they could have just, you know, not re-resign Okafor. The only thing I can think of is Larry Brown getting trade happy again.

Blogger Buck Nasty said...
All quite accurate stuff...when's the new Livin' Large coming out.

You knew that was going to happen.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Bawful you can't leave us w/ a cliffhanger like that and spend a day on these side things, update us on livin large damnit!!!

Anonymous Laurance said...
I strong-armed the point negotiator once. Then I got strong-armed in the air by some guy that thought his team got jipped. But his teammates knew he was cheating.

Being a Nate-Sized (minus all the muscle and awesome athleticism), small Asian guy, it hurt. A lot. And I think he tried to step on me too. If only I was Bruce Bowen

I now scream out the score after every basket, bc landing on your back does not feel good. But people hate me for it.

Like Starbury would say..."No hate here, where's the love" (or something to that effect.

Back to studying for finals, my friends. Keep up the good work, this site gives me a brighter outlook on this forsaken world.

Blogger benschon said...
The most painful part of point negotiation is where players, all standing around, wait while one or two guys go through a scoring summary of the last 10 minutes of play.

"Last time we called it, it was 7-7."
"Yeah! And now it's 10-9."
"OK, OK, here: Big man hit that lefty hook, red shirt over here with the baseline drive, and I hit the fallaway. So 10-10. Ball in."
"Hell, no! Big man made that shot before we called out the score last time!"
"What? You trippin'!"

And so on, interminably. Can't we just play?

Anonymous Axe Head said...
I play with guys who, when there is a scoring problem, can collectively do a score-by-score recap and re-generate a correct score. And they're not just remembering their own scores.

Blogger Buck Nasty said...
Add a '?' to the end of that earlier post. Oops.

Anonymous Marc said...
Why should the score even matter?

*puts on asbestos suit*

Anonymous Anonymous said...
So I was playing ball one day, and my team won like 6-7 times in a row, even though we subbed out 1 or 2 people (the losers wouldn't shut up, even though winning team is supposed to stay the same). Last few seconds of the game, we had 21 and they had like 14. My friend hit a 3-pointer (like his 4th of the game) and we called out game. This kid on the other team gets up in my face and says we called out 20 instead of 21, then his girlfriend freaks out when I argue with him about the score and says he should kick my ass. I'm 17, and he tells me not to think he won't do it even though he's like 19. So I'm like, whatever, let's say that we had 20, we'll play it again. So we check ball, I pass the same friend the ball in the exact same spot and he hits the same 3. I hold my hands out and slap him a five and the kid's girlfriend gets all mad at me and says she's gonna kick my ass instead so her boyfriend won't have to. I laugh and she gets even more pissed. Eventually they beat us and she calls it a 'lucky streak', at which point I call her crazy and go home. Every time I see her she makes some smart comment, which prompts me to remind her that we won 8 times in a row.

People who play pickup ball are mildly retarded in my opinion, and their girlfriends are ten times worse.

Blogger Kevin said...
@Lord Kerrance: That's generally how we do it when I play pickup at school. I don't see whats wrong with doing that at all, since it prevents a lot of future grievances (something everyone is very familiar with) and it's quite simple.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
In Taiwan, because there are usually a lot of teams waiting for the court, it has become the responsibility of the team who plays next to keep the score; this way it is always apparent who plays next and what the score is.

Games are all played to 6, with no 2's. They play with a "3-second" rule in a half court game of 3-on-3!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
In Taiwan, the level of competition is extremely low despite the fact that almost every one participates in the game. basketball is like the national sport.

and what Anonymous 3 said suddenly helped me made total sense out of the situation.

granted asians never had a chance of being even remotely competitive in bball (unless you're genetically engineered to be 7'6") to begin with; no 2's and the 3 second rules worsen any chances a kid might have to develope a practical game.

the 3 second rule prevents kids from gaining experience defending and playing in the post, and the no 2's minimizes the motivation to develope a long range game.

i was very pleased with my self when i was an 8th grader dominating taiwan college students and grown up's until i realized how pathetic the competition level is in asia, sad.

btw, more livin' large please :)

Anonymous iwearmocs said...
It depends on the age of the people you are playing with as well. pick up games at the on campus gym are usually competitive (I dont want to call people cheaters), but if you are playing say church league stuff occasionally the old guys need to argue so they wont keel over and die.

Anonymous Robawltic said...
For real, I need some big Mat, little Matt action! I underachieved during my date last night and need to live vicariously through bawful to cheer me up.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
the guy that does this where i play is named kevin. he's like 50 something. we play in a gym where there's a scoreboard that we keep track with, and yet often he's more trustworthy than whoever was keeping count on the scoreboard.

Blogger Wally Xie said...
http://rationreality.com/2007/09/25/the-chicago-bulls-logo-robot-alien-menace/

On a different note...freaky stuff relating to the Chicago Bulls.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Give us more Livin Large!

Good post though, very true

Blogger James said...
best way to settle is by accounting for all points, you say, "player a, how many points do you have?" and usually they can describe the manner in how they got those points if there's a discrepancy on THAT. then proceed to player b, c, d, and e until all points are accounted for. add those up and that is your score!

Blogger DXJ said...
can we get back to our regularly scheduled programming, i.e. livin' large?

Blogger Preveen said...
:) We only count baskets, not points, and we still loose track of the score :) But we generally don't spend time arguing, just have a quick check and go on. Sometimes if everyone has lost it (Mostly coz the shooting is so terrible that there might have been two buckets scored in the last 15 shots) we make up a score, agree on it and go on from there :D

Anonymous slap-chop said...
i like score negotiation where the past 10 baskets are accounted for by descriptions of what happened.

if the basket can't be described in detail by how many uncalled fouls occurred, chances are the guy is just making it up.

was the 1/2 scoring system in pickup devised by the old men who can hit hook shots from 3 point range and would tear their acl for the 24th time if they ventured into the paint? should this even be a question?

Anonymous RunBoilerRun said...
I agree with Robawltic - when is Livin' Large coming back!? Now that I'm newly single I need something to make me feel less pathetic!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
We want Livin Large!

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
The Bulls logo turned frowny robot reading book on bench thing was posted a while back, can't remember if it was here or on By The Bulls.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Being old and a good point guard with some style left I was always "trusted" to keep score. Lost track constantly, I don't think anyone can keep score of a pickup game correctly. The worst are the scorekeepers who aren't even playing. Part of the "beauty" of pick-up ball.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
1 and 2 point systems? weak. if you know playground ball, real playground ball, you play one point for a bucket. no 3s because blacktops don't come w/ 3 pt lines. and i'll smack the first one of you that tries to get a free throw.

Blogger Cortez said...
"1 and 2 point systems? weak. if you know playground ball, real playground ball, you play one point for a bucket."

Agreed. And no basket continuation either. If you want an "and one" don't call a foul.

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