In the Cheap Seats

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

April 18, 2007 - Yesterday was a bad day to be named Joe.

First, veteran NBA referee Joe Crawford gets suspended for challenging Tim Duncan to a fight, then ESPN commentator Joe Morgan says something even stupider.

Crawford, with his bald head and quick temper, is one of the most identifiable NBA referees. Some will say he's one of the best. I guess it just depends on which side of the court you're watching the game from.

Crawford's main problem on Sunday wasn't tossing the Spurs' star out of the game for laughing on the bench - though that's bad enough - his biggest sin was doing it on national TV.

He has done far worse. He threw out Mavs' coach Don Nelson AND assistant coach Del Harris in a Western Conference finals game in 2003. He was given a talking to then - but wasn't really penalized.

NBA commissioner David Stern isn't going to come down too hard on any ref who sticks it to the Mavs.

That's part of what stinks about the whole Crawford incident. He should have been disciplined for what he did - but he should have been disciplined years ago for the way he acts. As a matter of course, there are several referees who should be booted out of the league for the way they run games.

But, Stern isn't concerned with that. He isn't concerned that Bennett Salvatore took an NBA Finals victory away from Dallas last year with his phantom foul call that gave Dwayne Wade two free throws with virtually no time remaining.

David Stern is as crooked as Highway 11. I wouldn't trust him to run a game of musical chairs, but he is the supreme commander over the second-most popular league in the world.

And as long as he is, there won't be fairness in the NBA.

Many people of my generation know Joe Morgan as the second baseman for Cincinnati's Big Red Machine in the 1970s. Today's generation knows him as an ESPN commentator.

All generations should be appalled by what he said Tuesday during Dan Patrick's radio show on ESPN.

Morgan compared the massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech University to the insensitive comments made by Don Imus last week.

You won't find Morgan's comments anywhere on the ESPN website, because the network obviously doesn't want them replayed. But, Morgan said that the incidents were basically the same because young, innocent students were going about their business and were attacked without reason.

Morgan obviously hasn't learned the difference between words and action, between life and death itself.

Imus was fired for the derogatory things he said. Rightfully so. You have a right to free speech in the U.S., but there are also consequences for some of the things said. When you say something stupid, you pay for it.

Morgan also should feel those consequences for the insensitive things he said. But, don't look for it happen. In fact, don't expect to ever hear anything else about it.

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