As long as we have human beings officiate our professional sports, there will be errors. That's a given. Until we let machines call fouls or balls and strikes, there will be human error.
Some people think it's part of the game. That human error is just a given.
I think that idea is crap.
Human error happens, and I am okay with that. What I have observed though, and it is happening more and more, are officials of the major sports, namely basketball and baseball,getting worse and worse.
Whether it is a strike zone that has bungee cord edges, or a blatant foul missed in an NBA game, it is appalling to watch over and over.
One NBA referee that has drawn my ire over and over is Joey Crawford. Like a lot of NBA officials, he started out as a pretty darn good referee. Unfortunately, after years of doing it, he is at his all-time worst.
Crawford is the epitome of what I hate about referees in the NBA. He panders to the crowd, one way or the other. He will toss a player out of the game for almost nothing. Sometimes he reminds me of the scene in Billy Crystal's Forget Paris where he plays an NBA referee and goes crazy one game throwing players out left and right.
As a Timberwolves fan, I suppose I am a bit biased. I also suppose it is possible I am simply upset at the years of first-round exits by the Wolves and Crawford is the easy scapegoat for my team's inept ability in the postseason, being that he officiates many playoff games as a seasoned NBA veteran.
The fact is, Crawford likes being the center of attention. He lives for a moment when both teams, and the entire arena, sits motionless for that second or two while we wait for him to make the critical call, one way or the other. He almost wants to make his calls controversial. As if he knows what the correct call is, but has enough experience to know what calls he can get away with blowing, and he does it.
Then comes Crawford's favorite part. The part where NBA coaches and players react to his poor call and he gets to throw them out of the game.
One specific incident I am reminded of came in the 2004 Western Conference Finals. The Timberwolves were the No.1 seed and were facing the Lakers, the No.2 seed. In a critical moment, Shaq barreled down the lane and completely ran over Wolves' center Mark Madsen. Crawford blew the whistle and indicated offensive foul emphatically right away.
He was called over to the scorer's table and realized he was calling Shaq for his sixth foul, and disqualifying him from play early in the third quarter. He rescinded his call, Target Center exploded, Shaq stayed in the game and we know the rest.
That was a turning point in the series, and in my opinion, a big reason Minnesota eventually lost that series. Sam Cassell was out most of the series with back problems, that did not help either.
That is just one example of Crawford deliberately turning calls around to favor one team or the other. To be fair to Crawford, he doesn't seem to favor any specific team, he just calls games how he wants to. What might be a traveling call in the first quarter might not be in the third, depending on who is winning.
I want unbiased officiating from my referees, and I just think Crawford has been around too long for his own good. There should be a rule that refs need to retire, or be out of the NBA, after they ref for 20 years.
If you allow a ref to stay too long, they start making themselves the focal point of games. Crawford didn't start out bad, he has become bad. The worst in the NBA by far. He thinks he can call games how he wants because he deserves that right due to his long tenure in the league.
Not every referee gets this way, but it is sad when it happens because he is affecting the futures of franchises. I would like to see commissioner David Stern step in from time to time. When Crawford does blow a call, he is never contrite afterwards. In fact, I don't even think NBA refs are required to speak to the media.
There should be some formal level of accountability where we as fans can see the disciplinary action handed down. As it looks right now, we are left to think this particular ref can do what he wants when he wants and the NBA is alright with that.
Joey Crawford needs to be out of the NBA.