DALLAS (105.3 THE FAN) — Marcus Smart lost his cool, crossed a boundary, and let his negative emotions (and maybe a pair of imaginative rabbit ears) drive him.
That’s always a mistake for an athlete on stage. Yes, Oklahoma State’s point guard – a highly-regarded NBA prospect — might’ve cost himself money by responding to taunts from Texas Tech “superfan” Jeff Orr in a Saturday in-game confrontation in Lubbock. More immediately, Smart’s decision to enter the stands to shove his tormentor doesn’t help his team, and therefore I’m opposed to it. (It’s a great guideline for me on all these occasions of individualism.)
“Some things are more important than winning and losing,” said Mike Holder, Oklahoma State’s athletic director, in announcing a three-game suspension for his star player. “Your respect you have, your self-image, all that that takes a lifetime to build can be gone in a blink of an eye. Playing competitive athletics is a privilege. It’s not a right, it’s a privilege. And that privilege can be taken away from you.”
Of course, it’s a privilege to attend a basketball game, and a privilege to express one’s self, and a privilege for an offended ear to lead to expression in return.
So there’s a societal issue here, too. What are any of us accomplishing by endorsing the physical confrontation of the gutless adult who hoots with perceived immunity from the stands, protected by his ticket, as if the athlete is a performer in an imaginary cage?
If the fan is a racist, is shoving him going to cause him to reconsider? (Likely, the action will have the opposite impact). If all Orr did was yell, “Piece of crap!” and you find that insulting, how does confrontation change anything?
For the record, even though I’ve heard the audio, I am dubious about the “piece-of-crap” claim being the entirety of the offense. That seems awfully innocuous to cause a 19-year-old young man to spring from the floor and into the audience in search of the offending yeller. Hey, maybe Orr was barking that while someone else yelled something worse. Or maybe Smart heard wrong.
Or maybe there’s a blurred middle ground, as in the heat of that basketball game, there were thousands of people yelling thousands of things.
Nevertheless, again, Smart crossed that imaginary line.
At the same time, I cannot and have never been able to fathom the motivation of the 50- or 60-year-old man who habitually attends sporting events and gets his jollies from taunting the participants (as is clearly the case with Orr).
I go to sporting events for work and for enjoyment. I don’t recall as an adult ever “booing’’ anyone – and certainly not anyone participating at the amateur level. Maybe I’m a Pollyanna, but I tend to root for my sons when they’re playing a game, rather than against some other dad’s sons who happen to be lining up opposite mine.
Our behavior in this arena is reminiscent of motorists who are constantly leaning on their horns. What are y’all really accomplishing their besides expression of your personal angst?
Twenty years from now, I’m going to ask Bill Simmons if I can direct the “30-For-30” that reunites Smart and Orr. We’ll share beers and tears and then laughs and apologies.
But for now, I’m going to ponder which if the embarrassing participants I find more embarrassing.
If Smart is my son? I’m displeased and hoping he can learn.
If Orr is my dad? I’m displeased and hoping I can overcome our genealogy.
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