We smell a rat

Coaches always say there are no moral victories.

What I want to know: Are there immoral ones?

If so, does Boston College's 63-60 overtime win over Holy Cross fall into that category?

I am convinced there are such games. I know it for a fact. And I suspect this was one of them.

We're not talking immoral in a Howard Stern sense, or in a Boston College betting scandal way. We're not saying the players or coaches did anything wrong.

The ones we are wondering about are the officials.

Too many times I have watched refs call a game as though they knew who was supposed to win.

Too many times the fouls are lopsided because the guys in stripes come in with the predetermined opinion that the team from the small conference can't possibly actually be playing as physical as the big boys unless they are fouling.

Maybe immoral is the wrong choice or words. It might not be as blatant or conscious as that word might imply. More likely it is a subtle influence, one a ref could deny while attached to a lie detector without ever moving the needle.

It happens nonetheless.

I'm not saying that is what happened to Holy Cross last night. I was not there, it was not on TV. Maybe the Crusaders really did hack away against the Eagles. Maybe they really were fouling while BC was just "playing physical." Maybe Saddam really did have weapons of mass destruction.

Like I said, I have nothing but circumstantial evidence to support my suspicion. And it I just that: a suspicion, not an accusation.

I look at the reports I can find on the Crusaders loss, and I see the pattern. I look at the stories I can find from people who were at the game, and I can't come up with a witness.

That doesn't mean it didn't happen. This country has a long tradition of witnesses to crimes being afraid to come forward to speak the truth. If you think the same doesn't hold true amongst sports writers, you are kidding yourself.

For some reason, in this country, the mainstream media is loath to criticize the officiating of a game unless there is that one blatant missed call that can be verified by the instant replays. Even then, they only write about it if it is the one play that changes the game.

It's worth noting, by the way, that is not the way it is everywhere. An old friend (and star of the legendary but now defunct Hoop Time 3-on-3 team) Dave Angstadt (father of Brown women's player Stefanie) spent over 10 years playing in Europe. His scrapbooks are full of boxscores from sports publications over there that include referee evaluations. They give them rankings similar to a film critics' "stars" or a restaurant critics' "forks" and include comments. They are not afraid to flat out call someone a homer if that is what they see.

Our system of fining coaches for commenting on the officiating also stifles criticism of the stripes. Coaches are hesitant to say anything on the record. Outside of the postgame press conference, though, they will tell you exactly what I am saying. Too often the officials call games like they have a preconceived idea of which is the better team.

Here's as close as I could come to evidence of this happening last night from the stories in the papers today.
"The Eagles ruled from the foul line, holding a 30-15 edge in free throws made, and that made the difference."
That came, by the way, from Michael O'Connor's column in the Boston Herald.

Actually, O'Connor got that wrong. If you look at the box score, you will see that those numbers actually represent how many foul shots each team took, not converted. BC was 22-for-30 from the line; HC 7-of-15.

One could argue, I suppose, that if HC had shot foul shots even reasonably well they would have won in regulation. The Crusaders shot below 50 percent (5-of-13) from the line in regulation.

That might be so, but it does not deny the fact that Holy Cross got called for 50-percent more fouls than BC (24 to 16) and BC got to shoot twice as many free throws. This despite the fact, that by every account, the Crusaders outplayed the Eagles in every facet of the game other than free throw shooting.

The AP story read like this:
"The Boston College Eagles needed Steve Hailey's improbable basket to help them win on a night when they were outscrapped and outhustled.
Michael Vega in the Boston Globe said:
"Statistically speaking, the Eagles had no right winning this one"
Mike Shalin of the Boston Herald put it this way:
"BC coach Al Skinner looked at the stat sheet after the game and saw his team was outrebounded (41-39, 19-9 on the offensive boards), outhustled (Holy Cross had 13 steals) and also lost the turnover battle (BC had 18, the Crusaders only 12). But the Eagles, who host Boston University tomorrow night, are 6-0 and Holy Cross fell to 4-3."
Was the officiating solely responsible for HC's loss. Heck no.

We already mentioned how the Crusaders' foul shooting left them down. And only a fool would fail to mention Holy Cross' 4:26 scoreless stretch late in regulation after they battled back to take a 51-48 lead.

Ralph Willard pointed to another problem when he talked to Jennifer Toland of the Worcester Telegram-Gazette (no link because they require a subscription):
"Coming down the stretch, we had to throw the ball inside and we didn’t do that. Kevin Hyland was 5 of 7, Nate was starting to score and we didn’t make the plays we said we were going to make in the last six minutes of the game. It’s mind-boggling we didn’t throw the ball inside."
Toland, though, also mentioned:
Holy Cross scored 34 points in the paint.
Go ahead, call me a conspiracy theorist. Tell me I should be wearing a tin-foil hat.

All I know is that I have watched a ton of basketball over the years, and it is not often that the team that is dominating inside is the one doing the preponderance of the fouling.

I'm not saying Holy Cross got robbed. But that doesn't mean it didn't happen.


Army 75, SUNY Maritime 59 -- (box score) I love this line from the wrap on GoArmySports.com
"The Black Knights improve to 2-6 . . ."
As they say in the chat rooms: ROTFLMFAO.

Improved? A win over a winless D-3 team in a game that was actually tied with 4:25 to play in the first half. The fact that anybody could refer to that as "improved" tells you just how horrible the Cadets are.

On tap:

Two games tonight, two more tomorrow on a light schedule as finals loom. Colgate plays host to Harvard and Lafayette visits Marist.

The most interesting matchup of the weekend comes Saturday afternoon in our nation's capital, when Ohio U. visits American. O.U. is coming in off its first loss, an 83-74 setback Tuesday night at St. Francis (Pa.). AU holds a win over that same St. Francis team. But that was at home, and anybody who has ever been to Loretto can tell you, it's a whole different ballgame when you are in the Maurice Stokes center. Look up "homered" in the dictionary and it says: See St. Francis (Pa.) basketball.

Saturday night, Stony Brook will try to improve to 3-0 against Patriot League teams and to claim at least a share of the Commander in Chief's trophy (they already beat Army) when the Sea Wolves visit Navy.

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