The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

February 10, 2014

Mike Pound: It’s easier to overlook OSU player’s behavior than fan’s actions

Karma, as they say, can be a disagreeable person, which is why sometimes bullies get what is coming to them.

Bullies tend to operate from positions of relative safety. A bigger, stronger kid in grade school torments other kids because there is no one big enough to challenge him.

A boss may feel free to mistreat workers because he knows none of them will risk their job by challenging him.

And a fan at a college basketball game may feel free to heap verbal abuse on a 19-year-old kid because he knows the kid can’t retaliate. But sometimes a bully gets his bluff called.

If you’re a fan of college basketball, you probably have heard about Marcus Smart and the shove.

Marcus is a 19-year-old sophomore basketball player for Oklahoma State University. On Saturday, OSU was playing at Texas Tech. It had been a tough week or so for OSU and for Marcus. The team had lost several games in a row, and Marcus was not playing as well as he thought he should be playing. On Saturday, with only a few seconds left in the game in which OSU was losing, Marcus, trying to make a play, wound up diving into a crowd of people underneath the basket. In the video of the incident, as Marcus tries to get up you can see his head turn toward a fan who apparently had yelled something at him. Marcus then did what he knew almost instantly was a mistake: He confronted the fan, and then he shoved him.

Uh-oh.

On Sunday, the Big 12 Conference — as it should have done — suspended Marcus for three games. Let’s face it, you can’t have players going into the stands and shoving fans. Marcus knows that, and he apologized.

Travis Ford, the OSU coach, agreed that what his star player did was wrong. But Travis also asked that people not judge Marcus because the kid made a mistake.

Travis was right to defend Marcus, and he also was correct to ask people not to let the shoving incident define who Marcus is.

I won’t.

I will, however, let the incident define the fan as someone who got what he deserved.

To be fair, the fan also issued an apology and admitted that it was wrong for him to call Marcus “a piece of crap,” which apparently led to the shove. The fan insisted that even though he did insult Marcus, he did not use a racial slur.

Well, all right then. All is forgiven.

But if you watch the video after the shove, the fan didn’t seem apologetic. In fact, he looked as if he was proud of himself.

According to multiple reports, the fan is well-known at Texas Tech for allegedly yelling insults at opposing players.

So on one hand you have an admittedly excitable 19-year-old kid playing a very competitive sport at a very high level who let his emotions get the best of him and shoved a guy who called him “a piece of crap.” On the other hand, you have an adult who allegedly seems to take pleasure in routinely insulting young men playing the game, and he went after the wrong guy at the wrong time.

In his apology, the fan offered to stay away from Texas Tech games for the remainder of the season. A nice gesture, except for the fact that the university likely would have barred the fan from the games anyway.

But I think Texas Tech should take things a step further. I think next year, if the fan wants to attend Texas Tech basketball games again, he should first be forced to take in a game at OSU. I’m sure OSU could find a spot for the fan somewhere in the student section.

You know, next to someone named Karma.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at mpound@joplinglobe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.

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