Aaron Craft and His Legacy of Madness

By Johnny Ginter on March 7, 2014 at 2:30p
GET ANGRY
52 Comments

For nigh on four years now, Aaron Craft has been making people angry. Usually in life that's not a great plan for success, but when you're an athlete, it turns out that it's actually pretty awesome.

I've often wondered about why that is. It's weird to me that a seemingly innocuous point guard or quarterback or left fielder or whoever can generate so much angst and hatred simply by being themselves, but today what I'd like to attempt to do is break down the common complaints against Aaron Craft (and others) over the years to better understand where this big ol' bowl of haterade comes from. Starting with the most controversial, because hell, I'm not made of stone.

"He only gets attention because he's white."

Sometimes I think that when some people see Aaron Craft's name in any writeup of any game, no matter how benign, a very particular synapse fires in their brains and anything they read looks something like this:

(AP) LITERAL NAZI GERMANY- In a victory for Aryans everywhere, noted white person Aaron Craft had five points, three rebounds, and two steals as he led the Ohio State men's basketball team to a glorious victory over the assorted mongrel races of the world. Craft's pleasing features, startling intellect, and easygoing nature once again proved to all that a white person can do anything that they set their minds to, even going 2/4 from the free throw line.

Craft's other, blacker, teammates somehow managed to score 58 of the Ohio State's 63 points, but otherwise were of no real help at all.

To an extent I understand it. Craft definitely benefits from being a white, affable, handsome, white, Christian, and white basketball player at a big name school, given that he's playing for a mostly white Christian audience.

Still, it's also a fallacy to dismiss his achievements as only being notable because of his skin color, as it would be for any other player in his position. Tebow, also a very white and very outwardly Christian player, happened to compile maybe the most impressive resume of any college football player of the last 15-20 years. Did he not deserve to be recognized for that?

What I think this particular complaint boils down to is that people feel that non-white players of similar skill levels get overlooked because they're not as palpable to the general sports watching audience. That's valid. A guy like Brian Rolle, who in some ways is very similar to an Aaron Craft, never got the attention that he has. But that also doesn't mean that Craft isn't worthy of attention on his own merits.

"No one is really that stereotypically nice or good."

There are tons of positive Aaron Craft stories out there, be it his volunteerism, his engagement, or his GPA, or whatever.

And actually, here's a quote from the ESPN article that I just linked. See if you can detect the POORLY HIDDEN DISDAINFUL SUBTEXT:

You know that guy. While most college-aged males are barely one evolutionary step above zygotes. ... Said dude is always finished with his credits and pursuing a master's degree by junior year, at which point he starts his own small business, participates in a wide range of campus activities, volunteers at the local dog shelter. ... He parties, too, but never too much. His shirt is usually tucked in. He has real silverware in his apartment, which is always clean. You really want to hate him, but you can't, because he's way too nice.

YEAH! SCREW THAT GUY!

Look, just because we're mostly all gross pillbugs on the dirty kitchen floor of life doesn't mean that we always have to take potshots at the people who aren't eating crud for breakfast. It's a weird phenomenon where we take guys like Craft, Tebow, or even someone like Tim Duncan, and rip them apart for not being as miserable and churlish as we are. We know they don't deserve it, but we're so insecure in our own lives that we just. Can't. Help. It.

"They let him get away with everything."

This one is fun, because it's the easiest to take apart. Black Heart Gold Pants had an especially butthurt piece up about Aaron Craft back in November, and it's been a rallying cry for all who hate the kid that he's only good because he gets away with everything, unlike every other player on the court.

Which is funny, because I wonder if any of these perceived fouls were ever called during the course of an Iowa basketball game. Maybe, maybe not, but the truth of the matter is that yeah jerks, I'll admit that Aaron Craft has his share of hand checks and whatever that are never called which contributes to the perception that he's good at the sport of basketball.

Just as long as you admit that literally every other player attempts to get away with exactly the same fouls in the same manner every single time that they step on to the court.

Here's the thing: Thad Matta's teams are some of the most least-penalized squads in terms of fouls on a yearly basis. If you want to indict Craft, you have to indict the entire team.

"He actually kind of sucks."

Ah, the last refuge of the desperate. Aaron Craft is who he is, a below average shooter with incredible man defense who hits just enough clutch shots to make you really mad during Big Ten season. But he doesn't suck; no one racks up that many steals or shuts down that many premier offensive players without having at least a small amount of basketball magic running through their veins.

Sometimes we need guys like Aaron Craft and Tim Tebow and David Robinson and LeBron James and whoever else we're mad at this week to suck. We know they don't, but them having a bad game or season or career justifies our reflexive dislike of the media attention that they get. Did Aaron Craft ask ESPN to take all that video of him solving a Rubix cube? Did Aaron Craft force the color commentators of basketball games to wax on about his leadership over and over? Is there a contractual obligation for networks to plaster Aaron Craft's sterling academic record everywhere?

No, but there he is, being all awesome right in our faces by doing something we can't or didn't do when we had the chance. Because really, that's what Aaron Craft's legacy of madness is all about. It isn't jealousy, or real hatred, or anything that base.

It's more an acknowledgement that we could've had it all too, if we had similar luck and drive. Some people take that as inspiration to push themselves to do better things in their lives. Others see it and get Real Mad on the internet. At the end of Aaron Craft's career, I'm choosing the former.

52 Comments

Comments

SeattleBuckeye20614's picture

I was in Chicago last year for the B1G basketball tournament and St. Pattys day. Watched the OSU / MSU game at the bar surrounded by spartan fans. People LOVE to hate Craft. They were complaining more about him than the actual loss after the game. I got a lot more "Fuck Craft" comments than any other complaints while celebrating with my friend Jameson. 

+3 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Left Coast love for the Buckeyes

Buckeye Chuck's picture

I guess I can understand how Craft might be irritating if he didn't play on my team. As a confirmed Yankee-hater, I found the national sob-a-thon over the impending end of Derek Jeter's career one of the most nauseating events of recent years, one that will surely be exceeded when he finally leaves the field for the last time.

There's another factor in here too, which is that the Buckeyes are, or were, consistently dominating. Craft represents continuity through the era when we were perennial national title contenders; he, Buford, and Lighty were the only key players of the era to stick around for 4 seasons. Doug Etzler ticked off a lot of the same boxes as Craft, but there wasn't much point in carrying on a burning hatred for someone that played for a bottom-feeder. Craft is unpopular first and foremost because of all those wins he's had a hand in.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

+9 HS
pomerene's picture

@Buckeye Chuck: good point on Buckeye success factor, and very well put. 

beber1271990's picture

Don't forget your man Diebler and Lenzelle Smith Jr. He's frustrated me at times (mainly last year when he went cold this time of year but just kept jacking up threes) but I'm going to miss him. He was scrappy too and has hit a few big shots this year. But we're going to miss craft big time next season

+2 HS
Ethos's picture

all I know is, Lebron likes Craft, and when someone with that much talent pays attention to a guy like Craft, it isn't luck or favoritism.

"What do you need water for, Sunshine?!" - Coach Coombs, if you don't love this man, you have no soul.

+11 HS
Breakawayspeed's picture

Our culture does not celebrate over-achievement.  Instead we are to pity the underachievers and those "unfairly left behind".   AC has his shit together an it drives the egalitarians crazy.  

+7 HS
Breakawayspeed's picture

Sorry computer acting up ( and operator error)

Jack Fu's picture

The first one listed comes the closest but only glances at it: people believe that he gets media attention incommensurate to his skill level. And they're probably right: on top of being constantly praised in every OSU broadcast, the media actually named him to the preseason first team all Big Ten this year. After having actually watched the season play out, he'll be lucky to make the third team. Some of it might be Ecksteinian attention because he's the little gritty scrappy white guy, but regardless of the reason, Craft has garnered tons of media attention in his four years, probably more than his actual value would dictate. That's the #1 reason opposing fans hate him so much.

He also does get away with a little more on defense than most others. To ignore that would be to stick your head in the sand.

-10 HS
BuckeyeCrew's picture

Gave you an upvote, because I agree with most of what you said.. except on two issues:

1)  You said, "he's the little gritty scrappy white guy"?  You're certainly one of many people I've heard, allude to him being the stereotypical "white runt" in the context of big-time basketball.  No.. Jack.. AC is 6'2", and around 195lbs.  One can see he is built like a SS, and based on the way he plays defense, I'm guessing he is very strong. (And I don't mean that in the sense of bench press max; I am referring to power)  He knocks people off the ball consistently, and wins most 50/50 situations on loose balls.  That's not only due to being "scrappy", I assure you.

2) Elite defensive players are often minimized, in sports.  I don't agree with this, but I suspect it's attributable to aspects of the average American sports fan, some of which are peripheral to sports.  I LOVE awesome defensive players.  I think the value they bring to a team is underappreciated by most fans, because the benefits often don't show up as a stat (i.e. a tangible which the fan can nod at, and say "YUP YUP!").  I don't believe most fans go beyond A-->B effect in a game, and don't comprehend situations where what elite defensive players do in the first half, has a palpable effect in the second half.

Just my thoughts.. and hey, even if he does get away with "more", is that his fault?  He's not being dirty, in being aggressive.  It's up to the refs to mediate "fairness" on the court, not AC.  (I'm sure you agree)

+2 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

Hell to the YES, Crew! Here's my take: Which point guard in the B1G would you take ahead of Craft? Appling? No thanks. The freshman from Meatchicken? Nope, I'll take Craft. Wisconson's PG? Pass. Iowa's Gesell? Maybe, tho the guard at Iowa that I'd want is their SG, Marble.

So yeah, he may still garner first, or at least, 2nd team All-B1G. I can't think of anyone that should start over him. Maybe I forgot someone....

 - License to kill gophers (wolverines, badgers, etc) by the government of the United Nations

+1 HS
Jack Fu's picture

He's viewed as the "little scrappy white guy." That's what I was saying.

I agree that elite defenders are often overlooked. For some reason, Craft has been the polar opposite of overlooked.

I didn't say it was his fault that he gets away with a little bit more on defense than most players do. I just said it's one of the reasons that opposing fans hate him so much.

IGotAWoody's picture

IF he gets away with some fouls, then some, if not all of those, are balanced by the number of times he GETS fouled and doesn't get the call. But ALL guys get away with some fouls that don't get called, but also get called for "fouls" that were NOT fouls. It really truly does balance out in the end. Especially over the course of a season, or career.

 - License to kill gophers (wolverines, badgers, etc) by the government of the United Nations

Jack Fu's picture

This makes no sense.

-1 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

Hmm. It's maybe not my best writing, but it certainly should be pretty easy to see what I'm saying. But whatever.

 - License to kill gophers (wolverines, badgers, etc) by the government of the United Nations

OSUFlash's picture

Disliking a basketball player because he's white is about as racist as they come. Maybe Craft does get too much air time, has a poor jump shot, he's too squeeky clean or too religious but would he still be just as disliked if he was all those things but not white? I could be wrong but I think the answer is possibly no. Tim Tewbow gets persecuted for being too religious and for being a very poor QB. Troy Polamalu is a very spiritual man seen on TV over and over blessing himself with a squeakiy clean image and plays defense like a terror but never is a negative word spoken about him.

Basketball and football is what these guys do it's not who they are. Since when is being a hard worker at whatever you do and being a good hearted person towards your fellow man and towards animals a thing of the past?

I wish Aaron and Lenzelle a great, safe game on Sunday. They will both be equally missed.

osuflash

+5 HS
mobboss1984's picture

I for one think craft is "just a great defender" as far as his game goes. His personality and character is outstanding as far as I've seen. He has contributed alot to Ohio State basketball. He gets far too much credit sometimes. His numbers aren't that good, but he contributes by playing defense that suffocates opponents. I think he is "ok" overall. He would be valuable in the NBA. As a black male I can care less if your black, white, mexican, or what ever.  If you have game, you have game. Craft has game! Give credit where credit is due. 

Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.
Bruce Lee
 

+4 HS
Waltbuck's picture

Others may dismiss his talents, but he will be in the record books for a long time.  Thanks for a great career Mr. Craft.  You will be missed.

+2 HS
ticodillo's picture

Forgot the biggest one! He plays for TOSU, and that is already a negative in the eyes of the people of other unwashed, butthurt masses of the other lesser schools.

+7 HS
AngryWoody's picture

Aaron Craft is a beautiful man.

Our Honor Defend!

+2 HS
German Buckeye's picture

Any human who receives a scholarship to play Division I sports (like I mean ANY sport) is an outstanding athlete and shames 98% of those reading here or reading a Twitter feed.  I know my son who is a great high school athlete, two sport, multi year varsity football and wrestling, all conference honors in both, is being recruited by Div III and NAIA level schools now, but couldn't hold a candle to Crafty or any Div I level athlete.  Aaron Craft is a superb athlete, and rare in that he is competetive, articulate, smart, thoughtful, spiritual and happens to excel on the floor.  The whole package as HUMAN BEING, that's why I like him. 

+2 HS
skid21's picture
  • I get so tired of hearing this. Do you have any proof whatsoever that Craft isn't just a better defender? Please show me proof that he "gets away" with more? I seriously believe I've seen him called for unjustified fouls more often than any other player. Can I prove it? No. But neither can you. Put up or shut up. I'm so tired of this shit.

He also does get away with a little more on defense than most others. To ignore that would be to stick your head in the sand.

+3 HS
brandonbauer87's picture

1. If you disagree with him, do so the same way you would if you were standing face to face. 

2. He's right. Craft gets the benefit of the doubt when he swipes. He plays better defense than anyone else, but he still fouls. He's even admitted that he tries to see how much officials will let him get away with. 

-2 HS
skid21's picture

So what proof do you have that Craft gets the "benefit of the doubt" When did Craft ever say that?  WTF do you mean if I was standing face to face? I'd have no problem with that . Again. Still waiting for proof that Craft gets more calls than others. Why not just provide those facts?

+4 HS
brandonbauer87's picture

There's no proof. You're asking for proof of ghosts. If you can't watch it and see it, there's nothing I can say. Also, I see you internet tough guy. We're all so impressed. 

-1 HS
Buckeye5000's picture

Did I miss something? I didn't see a post where Skid21 was trying to be an "internet tough guy". I am not trying to support or condemn either one of you just asking....what did I miss?

Go Bucks!

+2 HS
Jack Fu's picture

You're asking Brandon and I to prove something that is literally impossible to prove one way or the other. Just because we can't show some kind of empirical evidence of this - which is, again, impossible - doesn't mean anything. If you honestly think he doesn't get away some handchecks and bumps because of his reputation, then I don't know what to tell you.

FloridaBuck's picture

Lol, what do you want him to do? Punch him in the face through the internet?  And where is this proof that craft fouls more often than anyone else?

+3 HS
BuckeyeCrew's picture

I'm with you on both of your points.  I just don't agree with dismissal of his elite defensive abilities (or trying to "knock it down" by stating it's overblown), while maintaining any pretense of objectivity.  The game-tapes speak for themselves. His lateral movement and acceleration to a spot make him a most potent defender, when combined with his vision and bball intelligence.

And if I may be blunt.. HELL YES he gets called for fouls that are just bunk.  I'm fair; I admit he gets away with some over-aggressive play, but I'm not sure if it's more than any other great defender.  Nevertheless, there have been instances, even this season, where he has been called for a "non-foul", or even a "phantom-foul" (i.e. where he never even touched the opposing player).

+1 HS
Shayla39's picture

Rick Reilly made me ill last year out in LA for the tournament when he asked Deshaun Thomas what was the most irratating thing about AC.

The look on both of their faces was priceless.

Seems like everything is upside down.  Be a good a good citizen & student and you are a target for ridicule.  A person of faith, horrors!

 

 

 

 

+3 HS
elitesmithie's picture

I think the reason for some of his coverage is alot of commentators used to be coaches and coaches LOVE players that play defense and play hard. He plays basketball "the right way". Therefore he gets a little more airtime than he probably should. Also, people are jealous of people who have their stuff together. Hes athletic, smart, well behaved, good looking etc. Jealousy. 

+5 HS
Jack Fu's picture
-1 HS
skid21's picture

Still waiting on you to prove he gets away with more than any other defensive player. Those of us with our heads in the sand want to know.

+1 HS
Jack Fu's picture

You just keep it there. You obviously would either way.

Go1Bucks's picture

I was about to comment when I realized that what you wrote was the perfect summation of Craft and his game that all love to hate.  There is nothing I can add so I will just say "Thanks".

 

Go Bucks!

Go Bucks!

ScarletNGrey01's picture

People who achieve excellence typically are able to tune out the pettiness and negativity of Hater Nation.  The kid is a great student, human being, tries hard on every play and you know what, fans of other teams hate him but every one of their coaches would love to have Aaron on their team. 

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

+1 HS
Doc's picture

Aaron Craft is the embodiment of what it is to be a Buckeye. The dude is smart, good looking, good at what he does and wins. Making him hated by everyone else. If Crafty played for Puke or UNC, or God forbid AACC the national media would be on his Jammie like stink on manure, mark my words. But he isn't, he plays for the cheat ingest bunch of cheats that ever cheated. He plays for The Ohio State University, and he is a hated man because of it. Relish it my friends, because there is a fine line between love and hate. In the words of one Diamond David Lee Roth, "Everybody wants some, do you want some too?"

Thanks for being you Aaron, and thanks for being a Buckeye. 

"Say my name."

+3 HS
BuckeyeCrew's picture

I like your commentary, Doc, but I have one minor disagreement.  If Crafty played for Duke, UNC, or some other high profile bball university, with an excellent academic reputation, he would be even more despised.

+2 HS
Jack Fu's picture

If Crafty played for Duke, UNC, or some other high profile bball university, with an excellent academic reputation, he would be even more despised.

This is 100% true. If Craft played for Duke, OSU fans (and the rest of the country) would absolutely despise him.

Doc's picture

You guys are prolly right.  I would hate him if he played for Puke.  I hate Puke as it is now, I couldn't imagine what it would be like having Craft playing for them.  I'm just glad Aaron is our choir boy and no one elses.

"Say my name."

Doc's picture

You guys are prolly right.  I would hate him if he played for Puke.  I hate Puke as it is now, I couldn't imagine what it would be like having Craft playing for them.  I'm just glad Aaron is our choir boy and no one elses.

"Say my name."

Seattle Linga's picture

I could not stand Bill Laimbeer growing up and if had stayed with the Cavs for his whole career - I would probably love the guy. I met him at the Q years ago and he's a very nice guy. If AC had played for MSU - they'd love him.

+1 HS
Jelligrim's picture

Would love to see him play a year of football!  What a gifted student athlete!

+1 HS
ghalephoto's picture

Craft is the kind of guy who gets out of his car , goes to the door, shakes hands with his dates parents and floors them with his charm.  99% of his haters honk the horn or wait until their, date/sister climbs out of the window or just meets them down the street.  @fake hustle guy is a perfect example.  Craft has class and does thing right and he plays for us everyone besides us hates that. 

 

+4 HS
FloridaBuck's picture

Honestly no one cares if he's white.  This bullshit is perpetuated by people in the media with nothing else to talk about. If we want equality, it's probably a good idea to stop consistently undermining it by pointing out differences in levels of melanin. Some white people are good at sports and some black people completely suck at sports. I know, shocking right?  Also the whole making fun of yourself for being white and accrediting more athleticism to other races is intrinsically racist and completely moronic. In summary, Aaron craft is pretty good at sports and stealing the basketball. 

+2 HS
Smithy's picture

There's not much question about Aaron's character.  Being a Buckeye makes it easy to see what a fine young man he is. What we need to learn from this is how we treat or respond to a similar person that happens to be on a competing team.  Tebow is a good example. Herbie comes to mind. Even Desmond, by all accounts a fine person.

Somehow belittling others seems to make us feel bigger. The truth is just the opposite.

BuckWylde's picture

A friend who's close to the OSU program told me that Craft was strongly suggested to Thad by Sully and other black recruits with whom he played on championship Ohio Red AAU teams. I for one am glad Thad listened, since no single player has been more valuable over the last 4 yrs. than AC. We humans tend to live by comparison in order to massage our egos through finding flaws in others. With that being said, I'd be almost disappointed if Craft didn't have a multitude of haters, since that would suggest people not seeing him for all that he is. Thanks Aaron for a great 4 yrs; and thank you even more for your erratic, ugly-ass jump shot, because without that flaw there's a slim chance that nobody would like you! . . . OH- 

BuckWylde

+1 HS
Sleepy's picture

Don't know if it was mentioned above, but a ton of the anti-Craft sentiment's gotta come from the verbal fellatio he receives from play-by-play guys.  Every.  Single.  Game.  The "Brett Favre Effect," if you will.

+1 HS
GregB's picture

Must confess to some of the same feelings years ago about Bobby Hurley and that kid from Kentucky (Rex?) I can't remember now.

I think what we have is a media that loves to find sensations (and will create them if they have to) and consumers who get a little jaded and skeptical of hype.  

Mortc15's picture

I had an argument with an MSU fan a few weeks back about Aaron Craft and I quote "Craft won't be remembered by anyone after this year, left alone in 25 years, because he sucks as a player and isn't any good."

I just had to laugh and point out that, at that time, Craft already had the buckeyes all-time assists record, and was within about 20 steals of the Big Ten record. I do not think AC will soon be forgotten, by Buckeye fans OR the rest of the country or conference.

Buck-I4Life

+1 HS