Ron Foxcroft was a referee with a whistle problem
Since an injury ended Ron’s football playing days at the age of 17, he gained satisfaction as a basketball referee. Eventually refereeing became a very successful part-time career, in addition to his full-time job as President of a Hamilton, Ontario trucking company, Fluke Transport & Warehousing, which sports the famous slogan "If It's On Time, It's A Fluke." Foxcroft was in demand around the world as a referee of professional and even Olympic basketball games, but he found himself frequently let down by his one piece of essential equipment.
"I always had a problem with whistles," he explains. "They have a cork pea in them and when you blow a pea-whistle really hard, nothing comes out. When they're frozen or wet or get some dirt inside, they lose their efficiency." As a result, Foxcroft, like many other referees, sometimes found himself unable to stop play even though he saw a clear violation take place. In a fast-moving game like basketball, a whistle that fails does not get a second chance to sound. In a really big game, even when the whistle did work, the play occasionally was not stopped because the whistle's sound was drowned out by the noise of the roaring crowds.
Although the occasional malfunctioning of small plastic whistles was hardly a problem likely to cripple professional basketball, it did hinder proper enforcement of the rules, not to mention causing referees such as Foxcroft embarrassment from time to time. On one particularly frustrating occasion, a crowd of 18,000 fans (a record at that time for basketball attendance in Canada) at the Montreal Olympic finals, booed and hissed at Foxcroft when a Yugoslavian player elbowed a U.S. team member and was not penalized. Foxcroft had seen the infraction and blown his whistle, but it had failed to sound!
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