Get Smart

I cannot imagine how many athletes have wanted to do exactly as Marcus Smart did on Saturday, shoving Texas Tech fan Jeff Orr.

(Heck, enjoy this great Michael Hudson story from The Classical, which connects Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Ron Artest, and Frankie Francisco.)

Dave Zirin, of The Edge of Sports, wrote a must-read article on the Smart incident.  Among Zirin's ten points:
7.  In a just world, Marcus Smart would not be suspended at all.  Instead the NCAA would enact a FIFA style response.  That means they would either bar Jeff Orr for life from ever going to another Texas Tech game, or, if it is found out that "the n-word" gets dropped from the stands in Lubbock like it's open-season on black players, then make Texas Tech play in front of an empty arena for the rest of the season.
(I'm mentioning this because I really like this as a punishment for racially-abusive fan bases, even though I know we would say as an American society, "It was a select few, and why let a select few idiots ruin it for everyone?"  We're big on saying things like that.)

Oh, and Dave also wrote this:
8.  A lot of former players are saying the equivalent of former NFL player Donte Stallworth who tweeted "You don't get a free pass to say/do whatever you want to athletes because you're a fan... just save that faux tough guy ish for the internet.  If you talk about a players family, fire a racial slur or throw a drink on them, right or wrong, you shouldn't be surprised at retaliation."  Players are tired of enduring this, and they should not have to.
Dave and Donte and Marcus, like Babe and Ty and Frankie, are all on the retaliation side of the argument, advocating the notion of "If someone hits you, hit them back harder."  Retaliation sometimes might stop a fight immediately, sure, especially if it's on a TV show or in a movie.

In real life, retaliation leads to escalation.

Consider the Ron Artest/Ben Wallace incident.  Artest hits Wallace, Wallace shoves Artest.  Was it over?  Hardly:  Stephen Jackson loses his temper, the situation escalates, a fan throws something at Artest, players end up in the stands, and awful chaos ensues.  Or consider this example, Peoria at Dayton in 2008:  The Chiefs hit a Dragons player, the Dragons player slides in hard at second base, the managers start screaming at each other, the players start screaming at each other, and pitcher Julio Castillo fires a baseball (intended for a Dragon) into the packed stands as a battle erupts.

This is why it doesn't matter what a fan says or does -- spitting on Oregon coaches for example, which also happened over the weekend -- you cannot retaliate, or things will get worse in a hurry.

As I wrote at the top, Smart's shove was cathartic.  My gosh, a leather-lunged fan screaming the worst things he/she can think of, they're practically begging to be shoved, if not punched outright.  Most every player would love one free shot at a fan... and, if you're in New York or Philadelphia or other notoriously hostile atmospheres, probably more a couple of free shots.

Marcus Smart, n-word shouted at him or not, had to be suspended, otherwise his shove was condoned.  Players, who get screamed at all the time, watch these things carefully.


Turning our attention to fans:

Unsportsmanlike behavior goes on in cities all over the country, vitriolic screaming that is endured if not outright encouraged and taught.  Are we happy with this, to give fans carte blanche?  Smart's shove may not be condoned, but profane language sure is.  Whatever the line of decency is, fans cross it -- and, my gosh, we applaud them for it.  Hey, that Black Hole in Oakland sure is intense!  Hey, these New York fans sure are passionate!  Man, no one loves their football team like Green Bay Packers fans!  And if you, as a fan, shove a fellow fan in the stands, you're darn sure going to get shoved back.

Yes, Dave Zirin and Donte Stallworth, it is a double standard.  It's unsportsmanlike and undignified.  Jeff Orr is keeping his tickets, and Marcus Smart's future opposing crowds won't be quiet and respectful.

If you'd like somewhere better to bring your family, there's always the Lego Movie.


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