February 12th, 2014 | Uncategorized
I’ve been heckled quite a bit in my sports career. At low major D1 basketball most of it is pretty good natured and humorous, and honestly I enjoy a little banter with the crowd. Gets you kind of jacked up to play plus its worth a good laugh if done well. Probably my favorite thing opposing fans ever did was sing “Born in the USA” and the Star Spangled Banner at me while I was shooting free throws. A creative crowd sign or taunt is all in good fun. Course other places I’ve played haven’t been nearly as tame. One away game in Israel stands out in particular. The crowd sat about 5-10 feet behind the benches, and for the better part of the two hours we spent at the game they hurled obscenities and threats at our team. Needless to say it wasn’t the most comfortable place to play.
I bring this up because last week one of the top players in collegiate basketball, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, got into a physical altercation with a fan. You can read a bit about it here http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/10426105/marcus-smart-oklahoma-state-cowboys-shoves-fan . There are varying accounts of the interaction that preceded Smart pushing Texas Tech superfan Jeff Orr. I heard Smart allege that Orr called him the N word while Orr maintains he called Smart a “piece of crap”. Personally I can’t believe Orr any less. Trust me when I say Smart has heard far FAR worse than piece of crap; I doubt he would snap from hearing just that. Also, do people really think Orr is going to walk into the national spotlight and tell the world he’s a racist bigot and called Smart the N word? Can anyone possibly believe that? Might as well give his interview wearing a KKK outfit. We’ll never find out what he really said, but I have to believe Orr said something worse than piece of crap. Alas, I digress.
What I really wanted to say is that time and time again we see fans at all different types of sporting events cross the line interacting with athletes. Because they’ve paid for a ticket all of a sudden people think they have free license to say and do whatever they want. I understand the thought process, but it’s gone much too far. You are paying for a service/experience and are “getting your moneys worth”. But what fans seem to forget is that athletes are people too. They have friends, families, and all the different emotions we all have. Most of them are alpha-males who have reached the pinnacle of sport through hard work, talent, and incredible competitiveness. When you throw vulgarities at someone with insane amounts of pride, aggression, and an unwillingness to back down there are going to be consequences. Do I think athletes should get into physical confrontations with fans? Of course not. But fans treat athletes like animals at a circus. No fan would ever have the balls to say similar things to an athletes face outside the sporting event. They know in real life the consequences would be dire. That’s my new rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t yell the same taunt while locked in a room with an athlete you probably shouldn’t be shouting it during a game.
The atmosphere surrounding big games is incredible, but fan interaction is growing bolder by the year.. it’s only a matter of time before athletes retaliate. Hopefully it doesn’t take another Malice in the Palace for people to realize it.