By now, the college basketball world has started to move on from the Marcus Smart incident. Except, you know, Marcus Smart. Because he’s been suspended for three games. He had to apologize to his team and the Oklahoma State fan-base for shoving a jerk, named Jeff Orr, who called him a “piece of crap”. He had to apologize to that very same jerk.
I’m still not sure that Smart should have been suspended. It’s a common trope to say that because fans pay money, they have the right to say what they want, however boorish or vulgar. Some folks have even said that Smart should’ve/would’ve been suspended for his response even if a racial slur had been used. I find this to be an abominable standard.
I guess it all depends on where you draw the line. I think it’s one thing to call into question a player’s play. His decision making, strategy, maybe even his hustle. I don’t mind when opposing students taunt players. As long as it revolves around the game. Chants of ‘airball’, boos even. But to hurl invective at a player, to impugn his character, to call into question his very integrity, especially a 19-year old KID – this is repulsive. This is not how we as college sports fans should conduct ourselves.
The conduct must start with fans. Especially in college athletics. If Jeff Orr truly loved Oklahoma State, if he remembered what it was like to be a student, to be an athlete (heh), to be dumb kid trying to figure it all out with the added burden of the national spotlight, perhaps he would have had some empathy for what Smart goes through. Instead of acting like an entitled jagoff.
Marcus Smart does indeed need to learn how to weather criticism better, especially if the NBA doesn’t work out and he has to take a ‘real’ job someday. But college sports ain’t the real world. I wouldn’t have minded one bit if Smart had pulled an Eric Cantona on Orr but all he did was give him a shove. Just a shove.
I’ve been a Pitt football season ticket holder for 15 of the past 16 seasons (including 4 years as a student at Pitt) and a Pitt basketball season ticket holder for the past 3 seasons. I’ve heard worse than what was said to Marcus Smart. I’ve probably said worse than that so I’m not claiming to be above the fray. But I can do better. We all can do better.