When push comes to shove

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

His last name might be "Smart," but Marcus did something very dumb last Saturday night.

In a close loss at Texas Tech, Oklahoma State star Marcus Smart pushed a fan after he spilled into the crowd trying to collect a loose ball.

Smart was irate and immediately ran to his head coach Travis Ford and the officials and told them that the self-proclaimed Red Raider "super-fan," Jeff Orr, called him a racial slur.

The next day, Orr came out publicly and denied calling him the slur, but he did admit to calling Smart a "piece of crap."

When it was all said and done, Smart was suspended for three games--which doesn't sound like much but for Oklahoma State, it was huge.

Including the upset defeat at Texas Tech, the Cowboys had already lost five of their previous six games. They have quickly gone from a top-15 team with serious championship aspirations to begin the year to a team in real danger of missing the tournament altogether.

In Smart's absence, Oklahoma State lost all three games. The defeats to Texas, Oklahoma and Baylor completed a seven-game losing streak.

The suspension was certainly justified. It was no "Malice at the Palace." Smart didn't go Ron Artist and start destroying fans in the stands and carrying the octagon assault over to the court.

But he did break the cardinal rule in sports: never put your hands on a fan. Unless a fan initiates the physicality, you just can't do it.

It doesn't matter what kind of nasty, degrading and juvenile barbs they throw your way, you have to find a way to keep your composure, ignore it and walk away.

If you pay it just the slightest bit of attention, that fan has won. He has done exactly what he set out to do; he has gotten into your head and distracted you from the task at hand.

This will certainly be a good learning experience for Smart as he moves forward. He most likely will be playing in the NBA at this time next year, an environment where he'll have to deal with even more nastiness from one arena to next.

He has apologized, accepted his suspension and vowed to be smarter in the future. I believe him. He seems like a good kid--just a kid that temporarily lost his mind in the heat of the battle.

But Smart isn't the only one that needs to clean up his act. Too many fans these days buy tickets to sporting events and think that it gives them a license to be obnoxious ignoramuses devoid of human decency.

It doesn't matter how much you despise the opposing team, you're supposed to extend to them a certain level of respect.

You can scream at the top of your lungs to try to rattle them, and you can boo them mercilessly. Hey, that's what a good fan is supposed to do.

However, screaming disgusting and demeaning things to the players that you wouldn't even throw your worst enemy's way is classless and shameful.

So-called fans that behave that way deserve much more brutality than a simple push, but athletes like Smart can't buckle and let themselves be the ones to give it to them.

Bunch Orr in as one of these fans. Even before Saturday night, he had been known for heckling opposing teams. In a game against Texas A&M, he can clearly be seen giving the "up yours" sign to an Aggie that had just made a bucket.

As for the game against Oklahoma State, I don't know who is telling the truth. I don't know if Mr. Orr called Smart the racial slur or if he called him a "piece of crap" like he claims.

I just know that regardless of what story is accurate, he needs to really take a good long look at himself in the mirror and decide if this is the kind of man he wants to be.

I don't know how old he is. By the video, I will ballpark it and say that he's at least 50.

They have a name for a middle-aged man that goes to sporting events and calls 19-year-old college kids ugly names. It's called a "loser."

I'm not saying what Smart did was right, but please don't shed any tears for Mr. Orr.