Sunday, April 4, 2004

How to ruin a great game

I'm upset. I feel cheated. And it's not because UConn rallied to beat Duke last night in the Final Four. It's because the referees tried to ruin the game by calling the most ridiculous fouls ever. They had UConn's premier player (Okafor) benched after playing 3 minutes in the first half by calling two ticky-tack invisible fouls. My Duke team, not to be overlooked, get just about every starting player in foul trouble using the same method. Randolph and Williams, our two big men (not counting Horvath, who, while good, isn't either of them), fouled out with seven minutes or so left in the second half, leaving Okafor completely unchallenged to lead a comeback.

Incomprehensibly, the referees called only the fouls that weren't there, but ignored some amazing hacks. The one that comes to mind most clearly is the hard foul on Redick in Duke's last possesion. You don't see Krzyzewski, a class act of a coach, often on the sidelines screaming, "That's bullshit! That's bullshit!!" When he's lost his cool, you know there's something wrong. And what is wrong is this game could have been classic. It could have been magical. Instead, thanks to three stupid zebras, we got two championship-caliber teams fighting it out with one arm tied behind their backs.

Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post was there, and his column says it pretty good:
    They came close to ruining the game. With eight minutes to go half the people in the Alamodome, some with no rooting interests whatsoever, began chanting, "Let them play! Let them play!" David Hall, Olandis Poole and Ted Hillary apparently never heard the sentiment that zebras should be seen but not heard.

    There was never any kind of flow or back-and-forth rhythm to the game, even though Duke and Connecticut are polished teams offensively. And neither is particularly physical or foul-prone. UConn vs. Duke isn't Michigan State vs. Oklahoma. UConn and Duke rely on skill; they play beautiful basketball. They don't hack it up. Yet, the game was ugly, perhaps even unsatisfying, because the officiating was embarrassingly, even unforgettably awful and actually prevented the teams from playing to the level they'd shown through the first four games of the tournament. All three of them should have been taken from the court at the half and been replaced during intermission.
It's too bad. I'm pissed, but what can you do? (Answer: see Hellboy today, that's what!)