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An Open Letter to Joey Crawford

During Game 6 of the conference semifinals, an old foe of the Spurs appeared; the same man who'll be reffing Game 3 in Memphis tonight. But does he have to be an enemy?

Ronald Martinez

Dear Joey Crawford,

Have you seen the Kneau Reeves movie Constantine? I totally understand if you haven't. You are busy being an NBA referee, and you obviously devote all of your free time preparing for dance competitions. But considering you are such a fan of Halloween parties you might like it.

The general premise is that angels and demons are real and they've agreed not to fight each other. Instead they use human intermediaries to take baths with cats. (So maybe that was an overly obscure reference, but the 12 people who got it are really enjoying themselves right now.)

Now admittedly it does oversimplify the conflict between good and evil. But there is one complicated character. His name is Papa Midnite and he owns a night club where all the demons and angels go to get their drink on. He used to work for the cause of good but now he is neutral and spends his time making sure that people from both sides play by the rules. I imagine that referees are something like that.

Every NBA ref probably has a team, or player whom they like. Conversely there must be teams, players or coaches they dislike. How could this not be the case? Referees are students of basketball, and know more details of the game than most of its hardcore fans. As a result some feeling towards the game is only natural. However they suppress these emotions in order to call the game fairly and neutrally. It must sting to foul out a favorite player, but I imagine it happens. Referees are master poker players who don't let their expressions betray their emotions.

Except for you, Joey Crawford. You do not appear to be neutral. Just look at this video, that is emotion clearly being shown in a profession that requires a stone face when hundreds of people are yelling "You suck, ref!" People know who you are. Did you know your name was trending on twitter a few nights ago? Do you know any other referee that happens to?

More to the point, Spurs fans know who you are. If you were to ask the average Spurs fans to name as many referees as they can, they will probably say "That bum Joey Crawford and um..." There is a reason for this. Spurs fans don't like you. Actually it is more than that. The very mention of your name brings up the kind of visceral rage reserved for the prospect of waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

And let's be honest, Joey. You probably deserve it. You once ejected the most legendary Spur ever, for laughing. Laughing! So you can understand that people think the hostility goes both ways. Or put more simply: when you ref a Spurs game an unfair game is expected by many.

There are two theories explaining your unfairness in respect to the Spurs. The first theory paints David Stern as Spur Killer Numero Uno and you as his loyal henchman. People who believe in this theory imagine David Stern scheming of ways to undermine Pop and the Spurs. He then calls you into his office and says "Joey take care of those pestilent Spurs." And then you say "Yes my lord" and slink off hunched over and sneering.

Proponents of this theory say "Joey Crawford always seems to officiate the most important playoff games for the Spurs". Game 6 of last year's Western Conference finals is their trump card in terms of evidence. And while that idea is mighty convincing, there is another more probable theory.

You're just a loose cannon. And something about Tim Duncan and the emotionally reserved Spurs just sets off your gunpowder. David Stern knows this and uses it to his advantage. But it doesn't mean that you are his puppet. You are this phenomenon that not even Stern can control.

I mean, just look at this dance. What kind of minion acts like an inebriated lunatic? David Stern is smarter than that. If he has a referee in his pocket, that referee is someone who is practically unknown. They would be like some kind of corrupt phantom.

So this is why I am writing this letter to you. I don't think you are part of some grand conspiracy. You are just a guy. There are actually a lot of good things about you. First off your name is Joey. How many evil Joeys do you know? I can't think of any. In fact I can only think of cool Joeys.

There is Joey Gladstone from Full House, Joey Tribbiani from Friends, and Joey Ramone from well duh. A quick Wikipedia search reveals that you are currently the longest serving referee in the NBA. You have been in the league since 1977. This means that you have blown whistles and yelled at the majority of basketball's most legendary players.

As a fan of the NBA, I genuinely think it would be awesome to have a conversation with you. You observe details that a television cannot possibly capture. This would have to wait, of course, until you retire. As a fan of the Spurs, I am obligated to be enraged at the very sight of you. I'm sure you understand.

It doesn't have to be this way though. Perhaps in your last years of being a referee you can mend this bridge. There will come a time when you are yet again standing courtside during an important Spurs game (tonight for instance). How about relaxing during this one? You have two other coworkers who can busy themselves with calling fouls and debating over the intricacies of lane violations. Enjoy yourself. Take in the atmosphere of the game for once. Drink a beer. Hey drink twenty. I am sure they will be free.

Any Spurs fan will give you a brew gratis as long as you just sit in a lawn chair near the scorer's bench and read the latest issue of Referee Gazette. (That's a thing right?) Of course even if you do that, there are bound to be some Spurs fans who will complain about how you stood by as the Spurs were pummeled. When that happens just know that it is nothing personal. It is all routine at this point. In a few years or so, time will eventually erode this hostility.

Until that day I am required as a Spurs fan to send you this letter ...

With all my hate,
Wes Thorne