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Parente: Rabid ‘Fans’ Need To Be Leashed

Monday, February 10, 2014

 

Marcus Smart was wrong to shove a fan Saturday night during Oklahoma State’s loss to Texas Tech.

He should’ve punched him in the mouth instead.

It’s about time obnoxious, borderline sociopath fans are held accountable for their words or actions instead of being allowed to treat arenas as their own online message board where they can hide behind their anonymity and flex their beer muscles knowing full well there’s little chance the players will react out of fear of the repercussions.

We don’t know all the facts yet, but we know enough to conclude this “fan” – a Texas Tech lifer and Class of ’83 alum named Jeff Orr, who, according to YouTube, is a repeat offender – must’ve said something pretty damn distasteful to provoke Smart to charge at him like an unchained Doberman during the closing seconds of Saturday’s game.

While attempting to block a fast-break dunk by Texas Tech’s Jaye Crockett with 6.2 seconds remaining, Smart stumbled out of bounds behind the basket. As he picked himself up off the floor, Orr said something that clearly got under Smart’s skin, prompting Smart to turn around and exchange a few words with Orr before shoving him in the chest. Even as his teammates dragged him back onto the court and away from the melee, Smart continued to point at Orr, who just laughed it off with the rest of the sycophants sitting behind the basket.

We don’t need lip-readers to know Orr crossed the line. The eyeball test works just fine. The short, stocky white guy with the turkey neck struck a nerve with the 6-foot-4, 19-year-old black kid. Connect the dots. Mom jokes don’t incite riots. Certain trigger words do.

Orr is well-known around the Big 10 for his antics at Texas Tech games, both home and away. He’s seen in a video from 2010 giving a Texas A&M player the forearm jerk, which is a not-so-nice way of saying “Up yours!” The worst part is the university applauds his behavior, producing videos of Orr as its “Number One Fan” glorified for driving round trip from Waco to Lubbock to attend every home game and even sometimes flying out of state to follow the team on the road.

This should come as no surprise in a society where we confuse crowd noise with intelligence and loyalty. Football fans in Seattle are considered the best because CenturyLink Field is the loudest venue in the NFL, so loud it set a Guinness World Record in December by registering a 137.6 decibel reading during a game against New Orleans.

We encourage fans to “Get Loud!” on the Jumbotron during games, but pay little attention to what they’re actually saying, and by putting fans like Orr on a pedestal, even publishing photos of them shouting at officials like childish schmucks on the university’s official website, we excuse their obnoxious behavior, and then act surprised when they cross the line.

Smart was suspended three games for his actions, which is probably the right move if both the NCAA and Oklahoma State want to nip such egregious show of emotions in the bud, but what will Texas Tech do about Orr? Athletic department spokesman Blayne Beal has already gone on the record saying “we’ve never had an issue with [Orr] crossing the line in the past.”

Apparently, Beal doesn’t watch YouTube, even though he conceded the 2010 video “did not rise up to be any kind of issue,” or own a Twitter account, where a half dozen or so former college basketball players have already Tweeted about their run-ins with Orr, including Utah Jazz guard John Lucas III, who played at Baylor and Oklahoma State and immediately recognized Orr from Saturday’s incident. “I don’t forget a face,” Lucas Tweeted, before acknowledging Orr “says a lot of crazy [stuff].”

Smart hasn’t said much since Saturday other than a contrived prepared statement, though Oklahoma State officials claim he told coaches Orr used a racial slur, and in a text exchange between Orr and a close friend of CBS Sports analyst Doug Gottlieb – Tweeted by Gottlieb himself – Orr admits “I kinda let my mouth say something I shouldn’t have.” 

If Texas Tech wants to save face, Orr needs to be banned for life. The school needs to send a message that unruly behavior will not be tolerated. If it chooses to allow Orr back into its building, the NCAA should hold Texas Tech financially and legally accountable for any future riots Orr incites. It’s the price they should have to pay for doing business with a douchebag.

And the next time the university wants to profile its “Number One Fan” it should dig a little deeper and find a real story. For all we know, there’s a single father working for minimum wage scraping together every last penny to bring his son to United Spirit Arena for home games as a bonding experience. That’s real loyalty, a trait we often misidentify as being the loudest or breaking sound decibels.

Fans like Orr are no better than paparazzi who constantly hound and needle celebrities in hopes of drawing a reaction and catching it on camera or film so they can sell it to some glorified smut magazine for a bigger paycheck. Assuming he turns pro next year, it’d be a shame if this incident hurts Smart’s draft stock, especially when the NBA still employs Metta World Peace, who – long before he went off the deep end and was known as Ron Artest – charged into the stands to fight a fan during a game in Detroit 10 years ago and has also been convicted of domestic violence.

We’re all human. We all have tipping points. We’re also intelligent enough to know right from wrong, and if there are fans out there who lack the self-control to curb their enthusiasm at a sporting event, they need to be removed from the equation, or else risk losing a few teeth the next time they rattle the cage.

 

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