Saturday, February 8, 2014

Big 12 Conference: Put your money where your mouth is

I really hate the college and conference commercials played during televised college basketball games.  These commercials try to convince viewers that a particular school, or a particular conference, is somehow different and better.  The Big 12, for example, stresses “sportsmanship” (see here and here) as something that sets it and its member schools apart from the rest.  Even a moderately skeptical viewer realizes that these commercials are pure nonsense—at best, they are empty advertising slogans.  But if the conferences and the schools want to at least pretend that their commercial messages mean something, then the Big 12 and Oklahoma State need to take some sort of disciplinary action against basketball player Marcus Smart. 

Near the end of Saturday’s game against Texas Tech, with the outcome of the game still hanging in the balance, Marcus Smart decided to go into the stands to angrily and forcefully shove an older Texas Tech fan.  The fan did not initiate physical contact, nor did he retaliate.  Smart was pulled out of the stands by his teammates, but continued to jaw and point at the fan as the ref hit him with a technical foul.  Oklahoma State went on to lose the game—quite possibly because of the technical free throw made by Texas Tech.

That Smart possibly cost his team an important game is a point lost on the talking heads who are fascinated by the physical attack.  Some commentators are even trying to create issues out of thin air, pontificating, for example, that maybe the fans are too close to the court.  (Nonsense.)  One of the ESPN analysts—I can’t keep track of them all and don’t remember his name—even asserted that, even though Smart recently kicked a chair during another game, and now went into the stands to push a fan, that doesn’t mean that Smart has a bad attitude.  Newsflash: that’s exactly what it means. 

Additionally, non-athletes are often charged and convicted of crimes—especially criminal disorderly conduct—for less than what Smart did in plain view on national television.  And any speculation about what the Texas Tech fan might have said—or, more accurately, what Smart thought he heard him or someone else say—is irrelevant.  The fan didn’t make any aggressive move towards Smart, and further, his demeanor with Smart appeared to be nothing more than conversational—nothing that would warrant the physical attack.  The bottom line is this: even though we’re all curious, it doesn’t matter what the fan said; a college player can’t go into the stands and physically attack a spectator.

The last thing I want is for Marcus Smart to be charged criminally.  And realistically, that would only be a risk to the average citizen, and not to a professional or even a major college athlete like Smart.  And I wouldn’t even want Smart to be kicked off of his team.  But a single-game suspension might be a nice way for the Big 12 to at least pretend that it is serious about the sportsmanship sales pitch in its commercials.  On second thought, it’s really too late for that.  The Big 12 needs to abandon its sportsmanship mantra and find a different tune to whistle.

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