But the home crowd deserves chastisement for the way it acted Monday night during Game 4. And if the subsequent talk around the water cooler runs along the same whining tone, then, everybody around here needs to snap out of it.
Classless is the first word that comes to mind in describing fan behavior Monday night. It was classless and pathetic. And, man, I'm from Philly.
I don't get wrapped up in what the nation thinks about Utah, even though it's my home. In fact, I couldn't care less, but the sports-interested part of it, those watching on ESPN, got an eyeful and earful during Game 4. And it wasn't much of which to be proud.
I've gotten e-mail from around the country, and much of it has ripped Jazz fans.
It went beyond the crowd repeatedly chanting, "Refs, you suck . . . Refs, you suck," although that was childish enough. (One of my least favorite moments was when Andrei Kirilenko tipped a Spurs pass out of bounds, a play that was originally called Jazz ball, but then reversed after the officials converged to discuss it, and the crowd started in with its chant, again. It was clearly the right call.)
The outrage at every whistle that went against the Jazz is what I'm talking about. Every whistle. Contrary to what some people think, the refs do get most calls correct, no matter what any of them see through their true-blue lenses. Nothing wrong with booing calls, but not every single one of them.
As I heard and saw the chaos and contempt in EnergySolutions Arena, I reflected back on the old Boston Garden crowds of the Larry Bird era. Those were knowledgeable fans who picked their spots to let the refs hear and know about their displeasure. But it wasn't constant. It wasn't incessant. It wasn't paranoid, booing as though somebody was out to get them.
The Jazz's home building has long stirred a reputation as a tough place to play, an intimidating setting for opposing teams, and maybe for officials, too. But the crowd loses credibility when it reacts the way it reacted Monday night. When it conjures the refs-you-suck chants - and ES Arena isn't the only place where such chants erupt - I figure that probably doesn't go a long way to favorably redirecting the manner in which a game is being called.
Neither does hurling obscenities at the refs.
Chucking debris onto the court isn't a great move, either.
One fan, seated near the floor, repeatedly flopped around in his chair like a flounder on a hot griddle. The vile words spewing from his mouth might have sheered the protective lacquer off the hardwood.
I saw the game, I know the Spurs shot 25 free throws in the fourth quarter, and the Jazz shot only two. But a lot of that had to do with the way the Spurs were aggressively attacking the Jazz defense. And the way the Jazz really were fouling the Spurs.
Some people said, "Yeah, but did you see the way Paul Millsap was mugged, or the way Manu Ginobili flopped?"
Yeah, I saw it. And I saw Deron Williams flop and I saw Tony Parker get smacked across his forearms on a shot attempt where no whistle blew. There was an assortment of missed calls - just like always, for and against each team.
Still, on the whole, the game was properly officiated. The calls reflected most of what was happening on the court. Jazz fans might hate Steve Javie, one of Monday's three officials, but he's one of the better refs in the NBA, even if he's willing to make difficult calls against the home team, and he tolerates little nonsense from coaches and players.
Bottom line: Don't blame the Jazz loss in Game 4 on the referees. Fight the inclination to automatically think your team is somehow getting hosed or ripped off. Leave the persecution complex in the minds of those who need medication.
Maybe the worst part of it was what my colleague Kurt Kragthorpe astutely pointed out in Tuesday's column: It was a shame that Jazz players left their home court Monday night, likely for the last time this season, under a shower of boos - aimed at the refs.
Among all the hate and paranoia, their crowd had forgotten them and their great run in these playoffs, focusing instead on imaginary injustice and outrage that blinded them, again, one last time.