You don’t have to be a sports psychologist to know it happens; when a team has a superstar, that player is treated differently. For better or worse, superstars seem to be judged by a different scale. Maybe the ref will let a travel slide, or maybe he’ll send the star to the free throw line when a foul was called way before the shot. Which, of course, begs the question of how Jimmer Fredette is being treated by the refs.
After all, you don’t become the face of college basketball without generating a little bit of publicity for yourself. And the referees, although they may seem clueless sometimes, actually do know what’s going on in the basketball world. When BYU steps onto the court, the officials know exactly who #32 is, and what he’s capable of.
Complaining about officiating is normally a tacky trick played by fans of losing teams. It’s an excuse for losing close games and not living up to potential. But what do you do when you may have a legitimate gripe?
After the Air Force game, Jimmer said, "their game plan was to be very, very, very, very physical with me, to hold and grab and do everything they possibly could." Despite scoring 25 points, Fredette received a banged-up knee and a truckload of frustration off of an uncharacteristic six turnovers. "That was probably the most aggressive I’ve been played. They were very aggressive with me."
With Fredette heading to the charity stripe just four times, its clear Air Force’s physicality was being more than just tolerated by the officiating crew.
The trend continued this weekend at home versus Utah. During the game, the physicality of Jimmer’s defenders upset BYU’s star so much the normally unflappable Fredette voiced his frustration to the officials, pleading for some assistance. Official Mike Reed’s response? He asked Dave Rose to pull his star at the end of the game, saying, "he’s out of control."
Coach Rose, after the game, was very diplomatic when asked about the officiating, stating simply, "Games are officiated differently. That’s one of the keys to a great player is to adjust to how the game is called. I think Jimmer’s done a great job of that. I think tonight, Utah did a terrific job of guarding him and Jimmer did a great job responding, making winning plays. But he (Reed) just wanted to make sure the game ended on a positive note."
It’s gotten so bad that even ESPN noticed, saying,"there can be no argument that Fredette is getting the stuffing knocked out of him on a nightly basis, and this past week in particular, the whistle was swallowed more often than not." ESPN went on to add, "It appears that Fredette’s brilliance and as a scorer and ease in finding different ways to score is leading officials to make him have to work even harder than lesser players to earn the whistle."
MWC officials need to understand that this is becoming a safety issue for one of its student athletes. The eyes of the nation are watching and the MWC would suffer a huge public relations hit if it were to allow this ultra-physical play on Jimmer to continue unabated and Jimmer were to suffer a serious injury because the MWC failed to address the problem.
Hopefully this mid-week bye will give the Cougars, Fredette included, a chance to heal some bruises and gear up for the rest of the season. Because, like it or not, every game from here on out is going to be a war for Jimmer. Fortunately, BYU brings a full arsenal of weapons to the fight.