Bad calls happen in all sports. Horrific, unfair calls, too.
Injustice, though? Maybe, but it's a stretch to come up with a conspiracy theory in which a Norwegian referee works in concert with the U.S. national women's team to produce an Olympic victory over Canada. This just doesn't feel like Josef Kompalla in '72.
Here's the bigger point; staying focussed on the very, very iffy calls late in the Canada-U.S. game on Monday should not be the way in which the Canadian team's efforts should be remembered, both good and bad.
From the good point of view, Canada struck early and often offensively, and how great was it to see a Canadian soccer team so dangerous with the ball. This wasn't sit back and play for penalty kicks against the powerful Americans. This was a Canadian team going for gold in an aggressive, exciting way. An inspiring way.
From the bad, four goals allowed in any soccer match, even if one was of the very dubious variety because of officiating error or misjudgement, isn't usually going to get it done. Were we really going to score five? As good as Canada was offensively, it lacked defensive efficiency and judgement, at least partly, quite likely, because of a slew of key injuries on the back end.
Beyond that, Canadians can be offended if they want that IOC officials are "investigating" what was said and done post-match, and sanctions may be forthcoming, but ripping the refs post-match is going to get you in trouble in any sport. Fines and suspensions for beaking off about the officiating are not uncommon in the NHL, NBA and other major North American sports. Serena Wiliams, Lord knows, got in a heap of trouble for verbally attacking a U.S. Open lineswoman.
Was it understandable that some of the Canadians went off? Sure, even more so because this is a tournament that comes along once every for years. They don't get another shot at the Americans next week. There's raw emotion out there.
But that's the bargain you make when you compete, that the calls may not go your way but when it's all said and done questioning more than just the calls but questioning the integrity of the process and the competitive landscape is out-of-bounds. Hey, the British team was openly questioning the officiating during their loss to Canada last week. They thought the Canadian team was getting away with murder. This time, it's Canada that doesn't like how it went down.
To me, it sure doesn't sound like members of the Canadian team said anything that egregious, or anything that deserves suspensions from the bronze medal match. It's doubly tough when athletes not used to intense media attention have to handle so much of it on such a large stage. But you still have to watch your tongue. Saying the wrong thing is never going to be right.
So let'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.
Anything else is, ultimately, pointless. Going for bronze is now the only point.