Tuesday's Olympic semifinal between the U.S. and Canada was one of the most thrilling, dramatic games you'll ever see. It also had some damn curious refereeing.
First, goalkeeper Erin McLeod was whistled for holding the ball too long—the rarely enforced six-second violation. (U.S. players said she had been warned multiple times about time-wasting, while McLeod says she was "reminded" by an assistant referee, which she didn't take as an official warning.) Then, on the ensuing free kick, Megan Rapinoe's blast deflected off Marie-Eve Nault's arm. A handball was called, and Abby Wambach scored on the PK, knotting the score at 3-3 with 10 minutes left in regulation.
So there's every reason for the Canadian team and its fans to be upset. (FIFA is looking into players' comments implying the match was fixed.) Enter Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox, who thinks you should all just get over it.
[L]et's move on. It wasn't so long ago that it seemed Canadian women's soccer was going in the wrong direction, and today, despite the loss to the Americans, few would say that. So let's not make it about the officiating. Let's make it about a daring, attacking team that competed valiantly but didn't quite get it done protecting their own net.
Understand what went right and what went wrong. Don't make this like Leaf fans who still believe the Leafs were robbed of the Cup in '93 by Kerry Fraser.
Cox is a hockey guy, so of course it comes back to the Leafs. But here's something that may not make angry fans feel any better about being told to simmer down: Cox admits he only watched a little bit of the game.
That'd mean he'd turned the TV off when Canada was up 1-0, before any of the shady refereeing went down. This doesn't mean he's not allowed to have an opinion. What would columnists do if they couldn't blandly "weigh in" on the pressing sports topic of the day, even if they weren't paying attention, even if they don't have a strong opinion? (In that case, they just take the contrary one.)
Then there's this, which is just flat wrong:
From the bad, four goals allowed in any soccer match, even if one was of the very dubious variety because of officiating error or misjudgment, isn't usually going to get it done. Were we really going to score five?
Well, the whole point is they wouldn't have had to score five without that refereeing. They already had three, and the U.S. was stuck on two, and that should have been enough.
Cox's overall point isn't a bad one, even if it is obvious—complaining won't change the result. But Canada, don't ever let anyone tell you you can't kick and scream over the cosmic unfairness of sports. Tuesday's game was shaping up to be, and probably should have been, one of the biggest upsets in the nation's history, and against the big bad friendly neighbors to the south. By all rights the glory, and a guaranteed medal, should be yours. And now it's not. Not because the game was fixed, but because referees are terrible sometimes, and sometimes at the exact perfect moment to crush a country's soul. It happens to all of us, and what would the point of sports be if we weren't allowed to spend a lifetime bitching about that time we got screwed? Canada 3-4 USA is part of your identity now. Embrace it, and don't ever, ever get over it.