The howls of outrage Friday greeting Christine Sinclairs four-game suspension from womens international soccer play are as pathetic and ridiculously short-sigted as Sinclairs whining after the national teams loss to the United States in the semi-final at the Summer Olympics in London.
Was there some dubious officiating by the Norwegian referee particularly in the final moments of regulation time? No question.
The free kick awarded because the Canadian keeper took too long to move the ball is rarely called but it is in the rule books and the Canadian keeper had been warned about it earlier in the match.
There are plenty of rarely-enforced penalties in other sports that create controversy when called.
In hockey, there is a rule for an excessive curve on the blade of the stick. This penalty was called on Marty McSorley of the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup final in 1993, the Montreal Canadiens tied the game on the resulting power play and then won the game in overtime.
In tennis, a foot fault from stepping on or over the line while serving is rarely called, too, but it was on Serena Williams at the 2009 U.S. Open. The penalty -- on match point in the tournament semifinal, no less -- cost Williams the match and cost her $10,500 in a fine for the temper tantrum, where she threatened to shove a tennis ball down the line judges throat.
The free kick was called by the referee in the Olympic semifinal, where the Canadians clung to a one-goal lead late in the second half.
Then a second dubious call, for a handball by a Canadian defender. A far more common call but still questionable, since there is no sign the defender moved her arm in a motion to block the ball, She had her arms up and the ball struck her in the wrist.
Still, well within the rights of the referee to call a hand ball in the penalty box. In this case, the penalty kick brought with it the tying goal. The Americans scored a beautiful goal in extra time and broke the hearts of the Canadian squad, who played bravely.
Up until the free kick, the match had been called well, Maybe, too well. The referee hadnt used her whistle much and allowed a physically aggressive match to play out and she either missed or ignored a Canadian player stepping on the head of an American player.
The officiating in extra time was faultless and the winning goal was well-played by the American player and there was no questioning its legality.
Yet after the game, Sinclair vented publicly against the referee.
We feel like we didnt lose, we feel like it was taken from us, the veteran captain said.
Other Canadian players also made disparaging comments after the game but there is only one captain and those players followed Sinclairs lead.
FIFA, soccers international governing body, did not disclose whether Sinclair received the suspension (a harsh one by international standards but still within precedent) for those comments or something else she may have said to the referee immediately following the game.
Too much of this support for Sinclair is brainlessly patriotic.
Our poor Canadian girls - sniff - had those evil empire Americans beaten and then - sniffsniff - that bad Norwegian ref screwed us.
The refs calls were dubious but theres no question about Sinclairs actions following the game.
She showed poor sportsmanship and made deplorable comments about an official that brought disrepute on the match and the game. For that, she deserves punishment. Sinclair is fortunate she was allowed to play the bronze medal game, where Canada defeated France 1-0. A strong case could be made that FIFA should have suspensed her immediately, pending the results of an investigation. She certainly deserved it.
This is not a case of free speech, this is a case of sportsmanship. Sinclair is free to say there were questionable calls made but she is not free to state the game was taken from us, a blunt way of saying that the referee was not only incompetent but made a conscious decision to make calls to lead to a Team Canada loss.
This kind of talk would never be allowed at any level of professional or amateur sport, starting from the Rotary Soccer Fields, so why is it ok for Sinclair to mouth off at the Olympic Games?
Sadly, it is a black mark on Sinclair, an amazing talent who scored all three of Canadas goals in that semifinal game.
It is also a black mark on Canadian athletes and supporters who have blindly protested along with Sinclair in the days after the game and now again, with FIFA laying on the suspension.
Sports provides many life lessons for both athletes and fans. Most fans and other athletes quickly condemn players who cry the blues and say the ref made them lose.
Thats exactly what the reaction to Sinclairs outburst should have been, rather than the overheated cries of injustice from across the country.
A novel response from Sinclair would be to admit she behaved horribly after that match, made unsportsmanlike comments and embarrassed herself and her team in the process.
That would be a real example of sports leadership.
-- Managing editor Neil Godbout