Joey Crawford and the tragedy of referee relevance

Without having to watch the beginning of the game for the formal introductions, even the casual NBA fan recognized a familiar face on the floor Tuesday night during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. Not those of the world-famous LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, or even Roy Hibbert. The face I’m referring to belonged to infamous NBA referee Joey Crawford.

The fact that Crawford, or any referee for that matter, is a household name should be seen as a disaster. There is no issue with the hardcore fan knowing the name of certain referees, but there are certain officials who are known even by casual fans.

Joey CrawfordOff the top of my head I can think of certain referees who come to mind as well-known. Along with Crawford this includes the NFL’s Ed Hochuli, college basketball’s Ted Valentine and baseball’s C.B. Bucknor. Each of those guys is known for different reasons, but for the most part, being a well-known official is an issue.

Hochuli is included because his name is well-known among fans of the NFL, but it is tough to put the blame on him. We all know who he is because he’s the most muscular ref in sports. NFL referees have their names displayed on television whenever they announce a penalty, so they get much more exposure. That takes some of the blame off of them.

The media is always going to be at fault for publicizing the names of certain referees but there are those who simply put the notoriety on themselves.

A perfect example of this is C.B. Bucknor, who is famous thanks to his reputation as an awful umpire. Any game with him behind the plate typically draws at least a few negative comments from the announcers.  A poll conducted by Sports Illustrated in 2006 showed that players rated Bucknor as the worst umpire in the league. ESPN conducted a similar poll in 2010 and the results were identical.

Bucknor is not alone in putting attention on himself. Joey Crawford and Ted Valentine, both basketball referees, are household names due to their horrid performances on the court. Both Crawford and Valentine are “eccentric” on the court.

Just look at Crawford in the following video:

What the hell was that? I don’t know if he is aware that the fans are not, in fact, there to watch him make calls. Crawford even once kicked Tim Duncan out of a game for laughing on the bench.

Cut to Ted Valentine in the next scene of the show. He has been given the nickname “TV Teddy,” which is a name no referee should be proud of. Check out this delightful performance by “TV Teddy” when giving an explanation:

He must have been reminded he was on television when checking the monitor so he needed some extra time in the spotlight.

While I did point out the media plays a role in publicizing the names of the aforementioned referees, it can’t all be put on the media. For Crawford and Valentine, their ridiculous behavior puts them in the spotlight. How could the media not point out their antics?

Any referee as eccentric as Crawford should be fired. Thanks to the NBA referees’ union, it isn’t that simple, but keeping Crawford around is a mistake for the league. Fans go to games to watch their teams, but when Crawford is a referee they have to worry about how he will impact the game.

Not only will Crawford make bad calls calls, but he will let fans know that he is making the calls. Whether that will be by running down the court to make a block call, or jumping up and down to show it was a travel.

Referees should be the impartial judges of games. Last time I checked, no one watches court cases for the judge. Also, judges do not jump up and down to announce decisions. They are simply there to uphold the rules.

The names of referees can be announced at the beginning of the game, but broadcasters should not have to say their names during the broadcast, and writers should not have to name them in postgame reports.

With the ever-increasing world of round-the-clock media coverage the names of referees will continue to be publicized, which will only make things worse.

About Steve Kubitza

Being a native of the Cleveland, Steve Kubitza has endured many years of sports torture. He is a die-hard fan of his hometown teams, and also is a fan of professional sports in general. His articles will cover many different stories regarding the latest news, along with his opinions, in the world of sports. He also gets into the world of professional wrestling, offering his views on the current landscape of the WWE. Follow him on Twitter (@KubitzaMSF) to hear his opinions on everything from Cleveland sports to the WWE.


  1. Bob Hamburger says:

    Am a referee myself and go to several camps attended by NBA offcials. In the official’s opinion, Crawford is the best. Have heard this from likes of Javie, Wunderlich, Callahan, Malloy, Zorba and Lindsay. Yes, he has a quck trigger, but he is very well respected.

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