Cardinals' Rick Pitino Blames Referees, Cincy Fans: About Scapegoating in Sports

Gil Imber@RefereeOrganistAnalyst IIFebruary 24, 2012

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 31:  Rick Pitino the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals reacts to a foul charged to his team during 69-62 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena on December 31, 2011 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

When things don't go our way, there is a tendency in today's society to blame others rather than accept responsibility and admit one's own shortcomings. It is a trait exhibited by toddlers who throw tantrums and decision-makers everywhere who admonish others rather than admit wrongdoing.

Blaming others, or scapegoating, has become such a prevalent phenomenon, books have been written and associations formed to study the issue.

For the blamer, the act of passing the buck is often more pleasant than acknowledging fault. According to the Scapegoat Society, the discrediting routine known as scapegoating involves distortion of truth, vilification and separated from the incident at hand, the blamer sometimes resembles a conspiracy theorist.

Chris Allen Carter additionally has postulated that blamers are "insecure people driven to raise their own status by lowering the status of their target," while in 1953, Kraupl-Taylor concluded that scapegoating "leads to the satisfaction of unconscious scoptophilia and aggression and gives narcissistic satisfaction to the ego."

In other words, scapegoating and blaming others may temporarily make one feel better about him or herself, but in the end, it's just a psychological defense mechanism meant to shield oneself from responsibility and truth.

On Thursday night, Louisville Cardinals men's basketball coach Rick Pitino was the epitome of Kraupl-Taylor's classic scapegoater: "I have a problem with the officials ... [they] are really starting to get under my nerves. I don't know who the hell they think they are. The level of arrogance, I just cannot believe it."

Just as Allen Carter posited, Pitino attempted to raise his own status by lowering that of his target, the officials, even though the box score indicated fouls were evenly distributed at 16 apiece (and that includes Louisville's end-of-game desperation fouls to get Cincinnati to the free-throw line) and each school's superstar player—Cincinnati's Yancy Gates and Louisville's Gorgui Dieng—stayed in the game with four fouls each.

Pitino is certainly not the first coach or player to blame the referees, umpires or judges for a loss or broken play.

Over the past few years, tennis player Serena Williams has engaged in several umpire-bashing incidents, including threatening to physically harm a lineswoman after the official had correctly called Williams for a foot fault and blaming a chair umpire for correctly enforcing a rule Williams had violated.

John McEnroe made a career of acting like a spoiled child and researchers recently uncovered a 1,800-year-old gladiator's tombstone that blames his death during battle on a referee's mistake.

Nonetheless on Thursday night, Pitino wasn't quite finished with his insult barrage, accusing the Cincinnati Bearcats fan-base of exhibiting "low-class behavior."

In stark contrast to the angry coach Pitino, Cardinals freshman Chane Behanan enjoyed the same behavior Pitino found grating: "That's the most electric I have seen since I used to come to games when I was younger. I've never heard it that loud."

Behanan, a Cincinnati native, additionally received jeers because of his decision to leave the Cincinnati area and play for an opposing school: "It's all part of college basketball. It was fun."

In the end, Pitino's greatest achievement in his post-game rants (which will likely incur a significant fine) is the smokescreen meant to distract critics from the Cardinals' problems Thursday night: Shooting just seven percent beyond the three-point line with 34.5 percent from the field, 14 turnovers and a few Pitino-called timeouts that failed to net Louisville any points during the ensuing possession.

This isn't Pitino's first rodeo, either. In 1989, then coach of the New York Knicks, Pitino was fined $3,000 by the NBA for refusing to leave the playing area after being ejected—maybe Pitino should take a page from former Mets and current Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine for lessons in how to stay in a game after being ejected.

Louisville is currently ranked No. 17—maybe if voters agree with Pitino that Louisville lost to an unranked Cincinnati team on Thursday because of the officiating, the Cardinals will retain that ranking.

Who knows, maybe they'll improve?

Gil Imber is Bleacher Report's Rules Featured Columnist and owner of Close Call Sports, a website dedicated to the objective and fair analysis of close or controversial calls in sports.