MCAT Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Practice Test 19

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Basketball, a game of constant movement and a thousand actions, is a difficult game to remember; Leonard Koppett makes this and other excellent points in All About Basketball. Football is a series of set plays, as clear in our minds as moves in chess; and the high drama of a baseball game is often distilled in a single pitch, catch, throw, or hit. We remember baseball and football actions as though the players were etched upon our minds like figures on a distant green. In basketball, by contrast, we remember movement, style, flair, but only occasionally a single play. Perhaps we recall the seventh game of the Lakers-Knicks playoff on May 8, 1970, after the Lakers had pounded the Knicks in the sixth game. Willis Reed was injured and out, it seemed, for the season; and we may remember Reed walking stiffly to the floor for that final game just minutes before warm-ups were concluded; remember the sustained ovation; remember his stiff jumps as he put the first two shots of the game through and then had to leave the game in pain; remember that the Knicks, lifted high by his courage, went on to win game seven, bringing to New York basketball a new perspective. But it is hardly ever, even here, individual plays one remembers. A basketball game plays past like a river, like a song.

In basketball as in no other sport, Koppett also notes, the referee is part of the drama. Decisions of the scorer and the timer are critical and affect the outcomes of countless games every year. But the referee is an agent, an actor; he affects the changing tissue of the drama every instant. He cannot call every infraction, but he must control the game. He needs to gain the players' and the crowds' attention, respect, and emotional cohesion. Thus, referees like Pat Kennedy, Sid Borgia, and Mendy Rudolph in the NBA became better known than many of the players. Each blew the whistle in a range of different tones and styles; each had a repertoire of operatic gestures; each had an energy and physical exuberance that added to the total drama. All won respect for coolness under withering emotion.

Basketball players are visible in every action, Koppett notes, and easily singled out by the spectators as football players are not. They handle the ball scores of times and are physically involved in every moment of offense and defense, as baseball players are not. They are subject to many more flukes than baseball or football players, for they pass and run at high speed constantly, forcing dozens of errors, breaks, and opportunities. "Don't shoot!" the coach screams in despair, his voice trailing off to "Nice shot" as he sits down.

Teams move in patterns, in rhythms, at high velocity; one must watch the game abstractly, not focusing on any single individual alone, but upon, as it were, the blurred and intricate designs woven by the paths through which all five together cast a spell upon an opposition. The eye watches five men at once, delighting in their unity, groaning at their lapses of concentration. Yet basketball moves so rapidly and so depends on the versatility of each individual in escaping from the defense intended to contain him that the game cannot be choreographed in advance. Twelve men are constantly in movement (counting two referees), the rebounds of the ball are unpredictable, the occasions for passing or dribbling or shooting must be decided instantaneously; basketball players must be improvisers. They have a score, a melody; each team has its own appropriate tempo, a style of game best suited to its talents; but within and around that general score, each individual is free to elaborate as the spirit moves him. Basketball is jazz: improvisatory, free, individualistic, corporate, sweaty, fast, exulting, screeching, torrid, explosive, exquisitely designed for letting first the trumpet, then the sax, then the drummer, then the trombonist soar away in virtuosic excellence.

The point to stress is the mythic line of basketball: a game of fake and feint and false intention; a game of run, run, run; a game of feet, of swift decision, instantaneous reversal, catlike "moves", cool accuracy, spring and jump. The pace is hot. The rhythm of the game beats with the seconds: a three-second rule, a ten-second rule, a rule to shoot in twenty-four seconds. Only when the ball goes out of bounds, or a point is scored, or a foul is called does the clock stop; the play flows on. Teams do not move by timeless innings as in baseball, nor by set, formal, single plays as in football. Even when a play is called or a pattern is established, the game flows on until a whistle blows, moving relentlessly as lungs heavy and legs weary. It is like jazz.

Material used in this particular passage has been adapted from the following source:

M. Novak, The Joy of Sports. © 1976 by HarperCollins.

1. We can justifiably infer from this passage that the appearance of Willis Reed at the seventh game of the Lakers-Knicks playoff in 1970:

  • A. brought New Yorkers a new perspective on the significance of physical injury.
  • B. played some part in the Knicks' victory.
  • C. was at the insistence of his coach.
  • D. was necessary to the Knick's victory.

2. As it is used in the context of the passage, word "operatic" in paragraph 2 most nearly means:

  • A. classical.
  • B. musical.
  • C. comedic.
  • D. histrionic.

3. Which of the following would most undermine Koppett's position on the difference between basketball and other sports like football and baseball?

  • A. Days after a basketball game, commentators cite a memorable play made in the third quarter.
  • B. After a football game, commentators cite a memorable play made in the last few moments of the game.
  • C. Following a basketball game, commentators discuss the contrasting playing styles of team members.
  • D. After a basketball game, commentators discuss a particular team member's strengths and weaknesses.

4. The author most likely compares basketball to jazz primarily in order to:

  • A. claim that because of the fast-paced and unpredictable nature of the sport, basketball players are among the most skilled athletes.
  • B. suggest that, like jazz, basketball allows for flexibility and individual excellence within a set format.
  • C. assert that basketball is a newer and more dynamic sport than football or baseball.
  • D. indicate that basketball requires athletes to be fast.

5. The primary purpose of the passage is most nearly:

  • A. to describe the unique characteristics and challenges of the sport of basketball.
  • B. to defend the ideas offered in Leonard Koppett's All About Basketball against his critics.
  • C. to compare and contrast basketball players and musicians.
  • D. to describe the crucial role of the referee in a basketball game.

6. The role of the individual athlete during a basketball game as described by the author is most analogous to:

  • A. the role of the solo instrumentalist in an orchestra.
  • B. the role of the director of a film.
  • C. the role of a member of a selective think-tank in a brainstorming session.
  • D. the role of an average student in a class.

7. The author describes the reaction of the coach in paragraph 3 in order to do all of the following EXCEPT:

  • A. provide an illustration of the various emotions that can be inspired by the game.
  • B. contrast the limited role of the coach with the central role of the referee.
  • C. indicate a limitation on the role of the coach during the game.
  • D. communicate the unpredictable nature of the game.