Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rick Pitino Blames Officials, Opposing Fans: A Case Play of Scapegoating in Sports

There is a tendency in today's society to blame others rather than accept responsibility and admit one's own shortcomings. It is a trait exhibited by toddlers who throw tantrums and decision-makers everywhere who admonish others rather than admit wrongdoing.

Pitino in the 2007 Big East Tournament
Blaming others, or scapegoating, has become such a prevalent phenomenon, books have been written and associations formed to study the issue.

For the blamer, the act of passing the buck is often more pleasant than acknowledging fault. According to the Scapegoat Society, the discrediting routine known as scapegoating involves distortion of truth, vilification and separated from the incident at hand, the blamer sometimes resembles a conspiracy theorist.

Chris Allen Carter additionally has postulated that blamers are "insecure people driven to raise their own status by lowering the status of their target," while in 1953, Kraupl-Taylor concluded that scapegoating "leads to the satisfaction of unconscious scoptophilia and aggression and gives narcissistic satisfaction to the ego."

In other words, scapegoating and blaming others may temporarily make one feel better about him or herself, but in the end, it's just a psychological defense mechanism meant to shield oneself from responsibility and truth.

But this is a sports website... You get where I'm headed with this.
On Thursday night, Louisville Cardinals men's basketball coach Rick Pitino was the epitome of Kraupl-Taylor's classic scapegoater: "I have a problem with the officials ... [they] are really starting to get under my nerves. I don't know who the hell they think they are. The level of arrogance, I just cannot believe it."

Pitino was referring to officials Jamie Luckie, Bryan Kersey and Sean Corbin—though he refrained from naming any specific person. 

As for "who the hell" they are, Corbin, as ardent officiating fans might recall, is ex-NBA, having refereed at basketball's highest level for 17 seasons before leaving the Association in 2010. Corbin also officiated the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

Luckie has officiated D1 basketball since 1996, working every NCAA tournament since 2001. Speaking about Luckie's professionalism last year, ACC supervisor of officials John Clougherty—the same man who publicly reprimanded official Karl Hess last week for ejecting a fan—said, "If Jamie Luckie throws someone out of a game, the person deserved to be thrown out of the game," said John Clougherty, supervisor of officials in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Kersey is a second generation official, as father Jess Kersey's storied NBA officiating career included three All-Star games and 18 NBA Finals contests. The junior Kersey has been a tournament official for as long as Luckie has.

Just as Allen Carter posited, Pitino attempted to raise his own status by lowering that of his target, the officials, even though the box score indicated fouls were evenly distributed at 16 apiece (and that includes Louisville's end-of-game desperation fouls to get Cincinnati to the free-throw line) and each school's superstar player—Cincinnati's Yancy Gates and Louisville's Gorgui Dieng—stayed in the game with four fouls each.

Pitino is certainly not the first coach or player to blame the referees, umpires or judges for a loss or broken play.

Over the past few years, tennis player Serena Williams has engaged in several umpire-bashing incidents, including threatening to physically harm a lineswoman after the official had correctly called Williams for a foot fault and blaming a chair umpire for correctly enforcing a rule Williams had violated.

John McEnroe made a career of acting like a spoiled child and researchers recently uncovered a 1,800-year-old gladiator's tombstone that blames his death during battle on a referee's mistake.

Nonetheless on Thursday night, Pitino wasn't quite finished with his insult barrage, accusing the Cincinnati Bearcats fan-base of exhibiting "low-class behavior."

In stark contrast to the angry coach Pitino, Cardinals freshman Chane Behanan enjoyed the same behavior Pitino found grating: "That's the most electric I have seen since I used to come to games when I was younger. I've never heard it that loud."

Behanan, a Cincinnati native, additionally received jeers because of his decision to leave the Cincinnati area and play for an opposing school: "It's all part of college basketball. It was fun."

In the end, Pitino's greatest achievement in his post-game rants (which will likely incur a significant fine) is the smokescreen meant to distract critics from the Cardinals' problems Thursday night: Shooting just seven percent beyond the three-point line with 34.5 percent from the field, 14 turnovers and a few Pitino-called timeouts that failed to net Louisville any points during the ensuing possession.

This isn't Pitino's first rodeo, either. In 1989, then coach of the New York Knicks, Pitino was fined $3,000 by the NBA for refusing to leave the playing area after being ejected—maybe Pitino should take a page from former Mets and current Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine for lessons in how to stay in a game after being ejected.

Louisville is currently ranked No. 17—maybe if voters agree with Pitino that Louisville lost to an unranked Cincinnati team on Thursday because of the officiating, the Cardinals will retain that ranking.

Who knows, maybe they'll improve?


@jimlanese said...

Well written and good anlysis! This is all too often true of coaches at all levels of recreational and scholastic sports. Critism and opinion can be warranted, but blame belongs to the speaker.

nwsquid said...

Coach can't (read won't) blame his/her team...their YOUR team; they can do no wrong. You can't give credit to the other team; they are bums, who you should have wiped the floor with. It certainly isn't the coaches fault. Why else would he be paid so much, if he wasn't perfect?

Only one target left, the officials, the bums.

Anonymous said...

Pitino has a history of pulling these smoke screens to distract from his mistakes. His team should have won this game, but they didn't, thanks in part to a few AWFUL timeout calls that should have been made a play or two sooner (or not at all). But no, never blame Pitino, it's never the coach's or players' fault the team loses, never the other team for winning. It's always the referee and umpire.

Really hope Pitino gets a hefty fine for this. Who knows, maybe that's why he left the NBA - because he kept getting punished for pulling this crap.

Adam said...

Really surprised to read this. I'm a Cardinals fan but hadn't heard Pitino's comments about the officials. I watched this game and can't recall any glaring deficiencies with the officials. I do remember at one point the announcers commenting on what a good job the officials were doing, that came after an official made a good no call on a flop that favored Louisville. The fans were merciless on Behannon all night so maybe that is what he was referring too but it still didn't warrant those kind of comments.

Anonymous said...

I agree, this was a great read. Very interesting to see these underlying reasons behind what happens when coaches, players or fans say that the referee cost them the game with a "blown" call which is usually the right call to begun with...

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