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.
As a college basketball fan who hates scrappy white kids, at least Aaron Craft will cry himself to sleep tonight. Solace.— PeterFrancis Gainesi (@seniagetep) November 29, 2012
"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."
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.
LOL at Aaron Craft complaining about a foul. A foul on the arms at that.— Deans Dome (@DeansDome) March 2, 2014
"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.
Aaron Craft is one of the most overrated players in the history of overrated players. I don't get the fascination with his game at all.— Brett Regan (@brettregan) January 8, 2014
"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.