In the heat of the moment, emotions can erupt in an explosion of fiery passion. No more is this true than in competitive sports.
On Saturday night, Oklahoma State University basketball standout Marcus Smart let his emotions get the best of him. Trying to keep his team in the contest during the waning seconds, Smart was called for a foul after attempting to stop an opposing player’s breakaway dunk. The worst was yet to come for the sophomore.
After his momentum carried him into the stands, Smart ended up with his back facing Texas Tech University fans. As he was helped to his feet, a nearby spectator said something controversial and the Cowboys’ guard immediately turned around, coming face-to-face with the Red Raider fan. The two engaged in a heated verbal altercation and then Smart did the unthinkable. With both arms extended, he laid hands on the Texas Tech supporter and shoved him back into the crowd.
Clearly, the sophomore star was out of line. Nowhere, at any time, is it acceptable for an athlete to enter the stands and harm a fan. It is simply intolerable, no questions asked.
However, I can understand why Oklahoma State’s No. 33 snapped.
Sure, he was frustrated that his No. 19-ranked Oklahoma State squad was about to lose to an unranked foe. Sure, he was upset that his team’s losing streak would be extended to a season-high four games. But above all else, Smart acted out due to an aspect of the game that doesn’t play into effect on the actual court itself.
I’m talking about the fans.
Smart was fed up, once and for all. He was sick and tired of being treated poorly by unruly spectators in opposing gyms. And the supposed slur that Smart claims the fan used finally ignited the fuse that led to his outburst.
Athletes everywhere, from the soccer pitch to the basketball court, are constantly heckled, harassed and disrespected when they compete in a hostile stadium. Even on our own campus, in our gym, it happens. And it’s unfortunate. More often than not, athletes can’t escape the hate when they hit the road.
Fans might say that it’s just a joke, a way to get into the opponent’s head. Others might say that athletes should just tune out the obscenities voiced their way. But is it really all fun and games for everyone involved? I don’t think so. I can’t imagine, nor do I think other fans imagine, what it must be like to be called out, insulted or offended every time a player has to compete on the road in front of boisterous crowds.
Now, Smart has to know better. He has to keep his cool when the action heats up. But taking a step back, I feel for the athletes who have to deal with hateful words uttered to them by those squawking just a few feet away.
Contact Brendan Weber at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.