Being an NBA ref is a pretty thankless job. The public’s eye only shines after you mess up, and if anyone’s screaming your name in the arena, it’s usually prefaced with an inventive bit of cursing. This goes double for noted fan of the limelight, Joey Crawford, who appears to delight in his infamy. It’s a shame it was disgraced former referee, Tim Donaghy, who got to punch him in the face.
We don’t condone violence, but sometimes a good punch will knock some sense into a person. It’s still hard to be happy about any of the characters involved in the hysterical anecdote (by way of SB Nation) John Canzano recounted in his fifth, and final, article in a series about NBA refereeing he’s written for the Oregonian.
Canzano’s final installment revealed Mark Cuban hired a former FBI agent to investigate the NBA after that disastrous bit of officiating in the 2006 Finals. While the story was mildly interesting, it wasn’t that surprising; Cuban has long had a hostile relationship with the league and the refs.
The story Canzano recounted at the end of his piece about a flare-up between Crawford and Donaghy was a lot more hysterical. The scene is a Hilton Hotel in New Jersey, where NBA refs are meeting over union matters in 2001:
Crawford gathered half the group in a meeting room at the Hilton, and was trying to get the event started. The rest of the officials, including Donaghy, O’Donnell and Tommy Nunez, Sr., were out in the lobby, talking. A wedding party was gathering in an adjacent ballroom.
According to witnesses, Crawford yelled, “Let’s go! Meeting’s (expletive) starting!” Donaghy ignored him, pretending not to hear. Crawford again raised his voice, and again Donaghy pretended not to hear him.
“I’ll admit,” Donaghy said. “I was being a (jerk). Joe and I had been good friends, but we were arguing on this issue. We didn’t see eye to eye and we’d had a bad argument on the telephone about it in which one of us hung up.”
Crawford apparently had enough of the disrespect. He walked up to Donaghy and slapped him across the face. The left-handed Donaghy took one step back, wound up, and dropped Joe Crawford with a left hook.
Crawford spent the rest of the meeting with a bag of ice on his eye.
“We patched it up later. We apologized to each other,” Donaghy said. “But I’ll never forget, Tommy Nunez Sr. walks by me with Joe on the ground, doesn’t even look at me, and just says, ‘I’ve been waiting 20 years for somebody to knock him on his ass.”
The slap is what sealed it for us. We’re guessing Crawford didn’t want to injure his whistle hand.
Spurs fans, and probably every other fan — or employee — is right there with Nunez Sr., but we wish it had been anyone other than Donaghy. Crawford is a prima donna in a profession predicated on the honor of remaining invisible, but at least he never broke the very tenets of the game and sports in general.
What do you think?
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