The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

February 10, 2014

Column: Heckling fan real culprit in Smart fiasco

ENID, Okla. — A lot has been written and said about Oklahoma State sophomore Marcus Smart’s altercation with a fan during OSU’s basketball game at Texas Tech on Saturday.

While Smart deserves his share of the blame, a significant part of it lies with the middle-aged fan who should know better.

Last season’s national freshman of the year, and the preseason choice of many as this year’s national player of the year, Smart gave a two-hand shove to a Texas Tech fanatic who admits he heckled Smart during an out-of-bounds scrum underneath the basket late in OSU’s 65-61 loss. Smart heard it, took offense, and shoved the fan.

The Big 12 Conference did the only thing it could, and issued Smart a three-game suspension. Clearly, you can’t have players mixing it up with fans, no matter how much of a loud-mouthed lout a fan may be.

Described by Red Raiders’ fans online as their “No. 1 fan,” Jeff Orr, the fan who was shoved by Smart, admits to calling Smart “a piece of crap.” He denies making a racial slur.

Orr has issued a statement saying he regrets making the comment and volunteered to not attend any more Texas Tech games this season. It’s an offer the school should take him up on and then impose an additional ban.

College sports sometimes seem to bring out the worst in fans. You can almost excuse immature behavior from students who sometimes get carried away, but there is no excusing boorish behavior from middle-aged men who seem to derive enjoyment from heckling kids playing a game. There is something deeply unsettling about fans of this type.

Smart will begin serving his three-game suspension with tonight’s game against No. 19 Texas. He also will miss games against Oklahoma and Baylor before becoming eligible to return Feb. 22 at home against Texas Tech.

The sophomore said all the right things Sunday during a press conference, and there is no reason to doubt his contrition. Obviously, he is under a lot of pressure having to carry this Cowboys’ team that has pretty much tanked over the past few weeks, falling from the Top 10 to completely out of the rankings. Smart’s emotions also boiled over in a loss to West Virginia when he kicked a chair after scoring only four points in OSU’s loss.

It’s a good bet Smart will learn from this and move on.

But the real issue has to do with fans like Orr, who are old enough to know better, acting out in ways that should embarrass any self-respecting school.

Fans such as Orr can be seen in many places. It’s not limited to Lubbock, Texas. Too many times, it appears they have never grown-up and, worse, seem to not be able to draw the line between what is acceptable and what is beyond the pale. They feel the need to insert themselves in the game and by being obnoxious, believe that they are somehow helping their own team.

Now, we’ll now see how much class Texas Tech has. The school needs to deliver a message here loud and clear.

If Texas Tech has any respect for the game, and its own reputation, it’s a no-brainer who should be suspended next.

Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at daver@enidnews.com.

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