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It's Our Turn: Fans cross the line far too often

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This past Saturday, another incident between a fan and a player rocked the sports world when Oklahoma State star guard Marcus Smart shoved a fan near the end of a loss at Texas Tech University.

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Smart, one of the best players in the country, will serve a three-game suspension for the incident. The Big 12 Conference had no choice. They had to suspend him because Smart crossed a line that players can’t cross. Ultimately, though, these confrontations wouldn’t happen if fans would stop acting like buying a ticket gives them the right to say whatever they want.

Fans cross the line of what should be considered common decency on a daily basis with these players. The anonymity that comes from sitting behind a computer screen turns everyone into a tough guy on the Internet.

Death threats, vulgar insults, shots at players’ friends and family on Twitter? That’s just another Tuesday for athletes at the college and professional level. Then when a player like Smart reacts during an emotional moment in a game, we’re surprised, and he’s the villain.

Take a look at the play leading up to this incident on Saturday. Texas Tech was up by two with less than 10 seconds left and had a fastbreak dunk attempt that would have sealed the win for them. Smart sprinted the length of the court and made a play on the ball. He fouled the Red Raiders’ Jaye Crockett and forced him to make free throws to put the game away instead of giving up an easy basket.

The primary trait we ask of athletes at any level is that they play hard. Smart did that by not giving up on the play after a turnover by his teammate on the final possession.

The reaction to that of Texas Tech “super fan” Jeff Orr was to shout an insult at Smart. Orr did his best to save face a day later. He issued an apology, said he won’t attend anymore home or away games for Texas Tech for the remainder of the season and assured us that he didn’t yell a racist phrase at Smart like had been suggested.

No, all he did was call him “a piece of crap.” Whether or not that’s what Smart thought he heard, I don’t know. He held a press conference on Sunday and apologized while taking responsibility without going into details.

Smart accepted the blame, but none of this happens if an adult doesn’t shout an insult at a 19-year-old during a basketball game. Think about that. I use the term “adult” loosely in this situation.

This is a grown man, 50-something years old, who sits a few rows behind the basket and harasses college players. Orr was also caught on camera making an obscene gesture at Texas A&M’s Bryan Davis a couple years ago.

Smart made a terrible decision by responding to an idiot. Now he’ll pay for it with a suspension and possibly in his draft status.

Jeff Orr? He’ll enjoy Texas Tech games from the comfort of his living room for the rest of the season. Then he’ll likely be back in his same seats again next year.

There’s no way Texas Tech should allow that to happen. At minimal, Orr should never be allowed to sit within earshot of the court again. Perhaps that would send a message that universities are taking these issues seriously, because this won’t be the last time we see this.

The fans’ ability to contact players on Twitter and the false sense of entitlement that some think comes with buying a ticket all but guarantees that.

• • •

“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

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Eric Morken
Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.
(320) 763-1229
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