Let’s talk about the elephant in the MLS room:
(And, yes, we’re going to discuss referees. Again.)
It’s David Beckham’s treatment by the men in the middle. And possibly by the league, where the question of “double-standard” may be getting a big test.
For all the good things we can say about the Galaxy, worthy champs in 2011, ambitious club that pushes others to be better, attendance drivers, etc. … they’ve long had a victimization complex. When things go wrong, it’s too often someone else’s fault. They are the victims.
Only, things frequently do go the Galaxy way. They get the benefit of the doubt as much as anyone else. Obviously they don’t believe so – but who ever does?
Now, regarding Beckham:
He gets away with stunts that most players don’t. Bad tackles last year and early in 2012 that went unpunished or under-punished are perfect examples. And we could talk about the times put his hands on an opponents face or neck with impunity … but, in all honesty, Thierry Henry and Dwayne De Rosario often get away with that mess, too.
That’s the star-double standard at work; we see the same in other sports.
Beckham is also allowed wide latitude in the amount of demonstrative carping allowed. That man will get in a referee’s face more than an eye doctor.
But whatever. Those are tricky, in-the-moment decisions by referees who aren’t stupid; everyone knows Beckham’s value to the league, to sponsors and ticket sellers, etc., and the men in the middle do, as well.
But Wednesday … this is different. We’re about to see, for 100 percent sure, if a double standard is at work. Because Beckham went on the record, cameras rolling, with stinging criticism of referee Jair Maruffo.
Here’s what he said:
Unfortunately, we had someone in control of the game tonight that, every time we’ve had him, he wants to be the star, and that’s what happens when you have a referee who wants to be on ‘SportsCenter.’ That was disappointing.”
I’d say the “wants to be on SportsCenter” is going too far. Then again, I’m not on the Disciplinary Committee.
Let’s hit the WABAC machine. There are plenty of examples of players / managers getting suspended or fined for criticizing referees. Let me draw a circle around a couple I can find.
Here’s what RSL manager Jason Kreis said in 2008 to get suspended:
After three successive weeks of game-changing decisions, it’s time we vent a little bit and put things right. I have a team doing their best to reward fans through a frustrating time and a frustrating few years. I feel the players are doing what they need to, the coaching staff is doing what they do, but being wronged by critical referee decisions is unacceptable.
“It’s about time they start first off trying to be right, and then being fair. It’s too many game-breaking calls, all of them against Real Salt Lake.
“Inconsistency is when it goes one way one week and another the next week. (Decisions) are consistently going against us.”
And here’s what Timbers manager John Spencer said last year to earn a one-game suspension: (The referee in question in Abbey Okulaja, whose fitness is being called into question here.)
My 67-year-old mother-in-law can see it from the club deck. There’s an official standing right there, and you’re asking me why I’m having a go at the fourth official?”
“The referee was getting tired. He couldn’t cover the ground. And I said that to the fourth official, ‘He can’t cover the ground. He’s blowing calls from 50 to 60 yards away.’ Poor, poor performance by the referee.”
“You can’t keep brushing this . . . under the carpet . . . and hoping it’s going to go away.”
You’re on the spot, Major League Soccer. Beckham has put you there. What say you?