On Joe Crawford and Tim Duncan
The Sixth Man: SML will on occasion sub-in for one of the starting five, give them a quick breather.
There is no debate on referee Joe Crawford’s just announced suspension from basketball. One just has to watch the video of an incredulous Tim Duncan sitting on the bench, first laughing at another ridiculous call, then completely shocked at being tee’d up and ejected from about 30 feet away. Crawford’s history of questionable officiating and ethics has already been covered in detail by this site in the last post.
Of course, the bigger issue, and there is one, is renegade officiating in general. Well, “renegade” if you believe it’s not pre-organized; regardless of whether you are a person who believes that sometimes refs act as if they are above the game, or whether you are a person who believes those refs are acting as part of a deeper conspiracy, the point is we have all seen bad refereeing. Anyone that has ever played sports of any kind, at any level (professional, amateur or recreational), has had a run-in at some point with a referee who was power-tripping, or worse. But this is becoming a very big issue in major sports right now.
On his old site, dwil had this post about a referee from the Georgetown-UNC game. Another recent high-profile example was high school referee Mike Lazo from the OJ Mayo incident, in which he almost succeeded in getting OJ Mayo in a heap load of trouble, were it not for the video of the dramatic “bump” that emerged on the web. Here’s another post on refs in the NBA, and note that dwil specifically calls out Joe Crawford. This appears to be a problem throughout basketball, at all levels.
And it’s not just basketball. Non-basketball examples include Seattle Seahawks fans who still feel robbed by calls in the Super Bowl a couple of years back; actually, you can ask the fanbase of pretty much any football franchise, and they’ll have a game they’ll cite as an example of bad calls costing them a game. The question is whether this issue will gain the momentum needed in order to effect change.
Then, and this is admittedly a bit of a tangent, there is the matter of Tim Duncan and his legacy. I’ve said this before, and truly believe it: In 30 years, when people are discussing this era (the post-Jordan to mid-00′s era), the man they will be discussing and idolizing is the same boring man who won’t get mentioned on the highlight night-in, night-out. While Kobe will probably be the player us fans will mention to our kids and our grandkids, it falls upon the sportsmedia of that time to determine the historical greats of our era. And I believe they will pick the blandest superstar of our era, not the most divisive. In a way, it makes sense – if you are a young writer, looking up great players from the past, and your research finds one player everyone (writers, fans, everyone) agrees is a fundamentally-sound winning machine, and the other player nothing positive can be said or written about him without three critical rebuttals being posted immediately, who are you going to believe is the better player? This is how history will come to love Duncan, while Kobe will slowly get less important as memories of him fade. This also fits in with the Santa-Clausification of star (minority) athletes that you saw hnic and jweiler mention in posts earlier this week.
So, if this little episode with Joe Crawford leads to some sort of progress in the NBA, or in sports in general, on the issue of bad officiating (and I don’t believe it will immediately, but it is the first major public condemnation of bad officiating in a very long time, and another episode in another major sport may lead to a full out movement – certainly the sportsmedia and politicians could use a new scrapegoat to supplant the now subsiding steroid outrage), you can bet it will be linked back to Tim Duncan, and added to his legacy. That Tim Duncan struck the first blow in the fight to clean up sports from egotistical referees. Any excuse to turn him into a larger than life player.
For the record, I do believe Tim Duncan is one of the three greatest players of the post-Jordan era (along with Shaq and Kobe) and is probably a good person in general; it’s just that I can see the media turning him into an icon greater than his actual legacy, to be used to bring down other players in the very same fashion that Hank Aaron is currently being used by sportswriters against Barry Bonds. And I fear that.