Fans, it’s time to do better.
On Saturday night, Marcus Smart, of the Oklahoma State University basketball team, went to block a shot, fell into the crowd and then, seemingly provoked, went further into the stands and pushed a fan. Oklahoma State and Smart were playing the Texas Tech University Red Raiders and the game was in Lubbock Texas. And, like most places, the crowd was hostile toward the visiting Cowboys.
Life on the road in athletic competitions, at every level is rough. As teams have worked to make the home court advantage as big as possible, fans have gone from simply rooting for their team to actually becoming apart of the game. Teams go to great lengths to encourage fans to “affect the outcome” of the games. From T-shirt giveaways, to organized cheers, fans have come to believe that they are, in fact, part of the action.
Away from the arenas and stadiums, life has further changed in relation to the player/fan interaction. Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, have made athletes more accessible than ever before. In real time, from the comfort of your own couch, you can let Player X know how you feel about that turnover he had or that shot he missed. And with social media in general and internet based interactions (seriously, to keep your soul clean, do not read the comments on an article/story of any remotely controversial topic), getting worse and worse, it’s no wonder that players have started to put their guard up full time.
In the old days, players got yelled at while playing, but now, it’s constant. And this is where the most vile offenders will respond and say things like, “Don’t listen to it” or “Ignore it” or “Tell Player X to not get on social media.” Really? Is that what it’s come down to? At what point did treating your fellow human beings with respect become such a hot button issue? What happened to cheering your team to victory without degrading and dehumanizing your opponent? When did that level of loathsome behavior become acceptable?