By T.J. Simers
Everything has to be black and white. And it’s sickening when taken to extremes.
And before you say so, I know especially when the criticism comes from a white old man.
Bad enough that I’m talking about women’s basketball and most people don’t care. Maybe fewer now the way the NCAA Women’s Championship was officiated.
They staged a game for the masses Sunday, one that had the attached magic to make it mainstream instead of just another girls basketball game. They had Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, hitting four threes early on and from the next zip code. LSU, meanwhile, had the coach who dresses flamboyantly and who wears every emotion on her dynamic, contorted face.
Enter the three referees, all women to complete the feel-good story, and they just wouldn’t shut up.
It was a championship game but they blew their whistles like they had a cousin sitting on the end of the bench who wouldn’t play unless foul trouble sent them in.
They put three fouls on the only player on the court that people who never watch women’s basketball might have heard of—Clark. Who takes out the showstopper at a time when most have tuned in only to watch her?
They should have had Barkley and Samuel L. Jackson courtside riding the officials—-would make a great commercial.
Three of Iowa’s starters had four fouls entering the fourth quarter and LSU’s best player sat on the bench in the second quarter in foul trouble. The referees clearly wanted to be noticed.
They stuck a fourth foul on Clark, the showstopper, at the end of the third quarter when she tossed the ball behind her to join a team huddle. The referee called a technical foul on her, prompting both TV announcers to say no one on either team should have been charged such a foul in a situation like that.
That’s kind of unheard of, the feel-good announcers calling out the refs. They should have demanded their removals; they lost a grip on where they were.
Everyone was wondering if LSU and Iowa were ready for prime time, but it turns out it was the referees who weren’t up to it. The NCAA ought to be embarrassed, squandering such an opportunity to show case their game.
It got so bad at one point that the irritated LSU coach made contact with one of the referees while the game was ongoing and the referee shrugged it off. Couldn’t shrug off Clark’s tossing the ball behind her in a dead ball situation, I guess, but let the LSU coach mug her.
It got worse. LSU won, and with 10 seconds to go and winning by 13 LSU’s Angel Reese tried to get into Clark’s face to mock her. She began with the universal basketball signal of covering her face to mean I can’t see you. Clark has used the same motion albeit a motion usually directed at the crowd. But she has used it—during the game.
Reese did it in the spirit of horrendously bad sportsmanship, and then just couldn’t stop there. She held her up her hand to show Clark where she would be wearing the championship ring. It’s not Clark’s fault she is the most dynamic performer in women’s basketball, but that’s how LSU treated her.
Reese was classless, but I know as a parent I would have been embarrassed while getting ready to celebrate.
Then the tweets started rolling in: It’s all right when Clark does it, but when the black girl does it, she’s wrong.”
It has nothing to do with color. Clark’s arrogance, including waving off any attempt to cover South Carolina in the semis, was too much, too. But it’s endearing in the heat of battle for some. Besides the next time Clark plays defense will be her first in a game.
But Reese was doing what she did to denigrate a great player whom she had just beaten. It was childish and proved nothing beyond kudos to Clark for not losing her cool.
White or black? It has no place in this discussion. If Reese had just taken a flyby Clark, maybe no one notices. But she turned it into a spectacle, and then added the bling topper. A great show for young girls everywhere wondering how they should celebrate a grand championship. STICK IT INTO THE FACE OF THE LOSER.
I know this, they learned something from watching Clark handle devastating defeat.
And I know what the response will be, sure the white girl was great but the black girl who won gets ripped. The Black and White of it, she deserves it.