Spending the week out of the country shifts one's perspective on a lot of things — including athletics.

And while I'm starting to think we spend an inordinate amount of time watching sports compared to the rest of the world, I have also gained an appreciation for the variety of activities and events Americans are able to enjoy.

I am also reconsidering my stance on what I heretofore thought was a stupid announcement by the NBA regarding flopping. While I'm still a skeptic on how officials would ever enforce such a rule, after watching a few international soccer matches this week, I'm beginning to believe we better nip this trend while it's still a stinking bud.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said after the NBA planned to crack down on the practice that he thought the practice of flopping and flailing to draw a foul was getting a little out of hand. And what did he compare it to?

European soccer.

I now understand the reference completely.

After just two matches, I saw more grown men writhing around in alleged pain than I did shots on goal. If another player even got within spitting distance — and had a shot at stealing the ball — the fragile athlete fell to the turf with more grace than a ballet dancer and a look of anguish that would make Clint Eastwood proud.

The alleged injuries were usually to their shins and legs, although there was the occasional stomach grab. Every time, without exception, these players eventually got to their feet and continued playing.

There was no blood. No timeout charged to the great pretenders. In fact, except for the fact that it would make you look like the world's wimpiest man, the incentive to feign an injury is huge. You get the ball back in the exact spot of the foul and the officials make everyone else stand back while you take your revenge kick.

I thought the NBA's announcement that they were going to start fining players for flopping, and even possibly assess technical fouls, was ridiculous. It was as insane as the NFL's decision not to allow cheerleaders to warm up in front of the athletes because it was too distracting.

In fact, much of what the leagues try to control to me seems off the mark. Take for instance the inability of anyone to criticize the league or officials. Players and coaches aren't allowed to honestly assess a game's officials or the way the league handles things unless they're willing to pay.

Take for instance Detroit's Rasheed Wallace, who was fined $25,000 just for calling several Piston offensive fouls against the Celtics in game 5 flopping. It appears now he might have had a point. Maybe he should ask for his money back?

I have always hated the fact that the leagues fine athletes and coaches for giving honest opinions. Isn't that what we value in this country? Not allowing criticism doesn't mean there aren't major problems.

And trying to control ridiculous aspects of athletes lives like how they dress and who they diss should be up to those who sign their checks.

As for the "issue" of flopping, I still think it's going to be almost impossible to judge what is or isn't an embellished fall.

Is a head toss too much? Will blood work in your favor? Some have suggested a panel to judge the flop — maybe on a scale of 1 to 10?

I don't want to see the NBA go the way of International soccer. I had to flip the channel to a Lifetime movie after three consecutive flops embarrassed even an Oprah-loving bawl-baby like me.

I still think it's likely not going to work. It will become like three seconds in the key — a rule in name only. I can't remember the last time I saw that called in the NBA. It will be all the rage, and I mean causing rage, next season. The attempts to enforce anti-flopping rules should be carefully thought out.

Unlike those no-looking at the cheerleader rules, the enforcement should really put the responsibility on the athletes. In fact, maybe if the offending players can't be controlled, they should warm up with the half-time acts instead of the other basketball players.

I don't understand why officials just don't give floppers the call. I can't imagine it feels good to throw your body in front of Yao Ming or Carlos Boozer with no advantage on the court. Maybe a fine won't even be necessary if officials just stop rewarding fakers.

That seems to be the case in soccer. Officials not only reward the floppers, they pick them up, dust them off and scold the player who got too close.

I've never tried flopping, so I'm assuming the benefits are why athletes would risk post-game humiliation for a call. Maybe it's a rush, like defying death over and over. Then again, it could simply be the same rush a crook gets when he cons some poor unsuspecting bloke out of his money.

One thing is for sure — I hope either through peer pressure or better officiating we can avoid some ridiculous system of assessing penalties to those who find no shame in feigning a foul to win the affection of the officials.


E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com