For those of you who don't know, Marcus Smart is a 19 year old college basketball player from Ohio State, who upon entering the crowd during a recent game, shoved a fan. According to a sportscaster, Smart told his coach that the fan had called him the N word.. Understandably, the internet was set ablaze, from athletes weighing in on how the youngster should have conducted himself, to others who were arguing if you use the N word against a black man, he should be able to make you pay, no matter the context.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to save face with fans and the NCAA, Ohio State decided to suspend Marcus Smart, and issued a press release saying as much. The sleeping volcano erupted as the townspeople of the internet all begin to react to this perceived slight anew. Racism, the black people cried. Fairness, the not black people cried. As flaming conversations fell around them, mankind began to consume itself in sheer anger. And still, no one asked any questions. At least not any truly pertinent ones.
Questions like, what kind of person is Marcus Smart? What's been happening with him lately? More importantly, has Marcus Smart shown himself to be angry before? Why would he be angry enough to push a fan? One more very important question: in today's world, if a non-white fan calls a black player the N word, within earshot of others, why did no one else step forward and at the very least corroborate his story? So no one stood up and said, hey man, that's messed up. Okay, I can believe that. But no one, not even one fan heard a man call another man a slur? I know it's a loud arena, but I have a hard time believing that.
The news cycle doesn't reward asking questions, for pretty obvious reasons. If you're among the first to throw an news story/opinion out, more people will turn to you for the story, and the more people who look to you for the story, no matter how wrong it may later prove to be, the more you can be paid. That's how the news works. We all know it. The news is what it is because we made it that way. The news gives us what we want. It's our fault collectively. As I said at the outset, I'm not going to pretend that I'm above it all, that the world is full of idiots who are beneath me. I'm right in the midst of it, and I'm as guilty as anyone else.
After it was all said and done, ESPN ran a story about how the fan is saying he said "a piece of crap" or some such, and honestly, part of me wants to believe that fan. Sure he has reasons and motivation to lie, but no one heard what happened. At least no one has come forward to say they have. There were at least two people in the same area as Smart, and they haven't said if they heard anything. But again, who asked?
As far as Marcus Smart's reaction, well...one of the best things to happen to sports was the Malice in the Palace. Say what you will about Metta World Peace, but at the end of the day, he is a grown man, and he reacted like a grown man would to having a bottle thrown at him. There's a difference between sitting at home, yelling at a television and sitting in an arena yelling at a real people. Real people have feelings, and if you don't want to respect them, that's okay, just know that those real people with real feelings have real fists and might just give you a real good reason to shut up. I know, I know, the brawl in Detroit marred the image of the NBA for years after. So much so that the Pacers didn't even play in Detroit for another three years. It was a terriblly brutal example of the fact that NBA players, while they may be marketed as products, aren't products, they're people.
When I get angry at my laptop, I call it the N word. Loudly. A few times, I've smacked it around. That's because my laptop is a product, not a person. You can't treat people who play sports, professional or amateur, as if they are products. That's just the way it works. You mistreat a person, that person has a choice. There's been a lot of talk about college athletes having more to lose than fans, and frankly, I think that speaks to the sad state that college athletics is in, but fans need to have something to lose. If I told you that for fifty bucks, you can go and yell at 19 year olds all you wanted, throw things at them, and generally take all of your problems in life and yell them out with no consequences, why wouldn't you? This is what happens in college arenas around the world. It sounds terrible. Which begs the question: why is this acceptable?
For those who say the fans are just wrapped up into the passion of the game, I say this: remember when Richard Sherman, someone who actually PLAYS in the game got passionate during an interview with Erin Andrews? What did we say about him? He's a thug, right? Why is Richard Sherman a thug, but Texas Tech fan Jeff Orr isn't? Both are college alumni. Both care about a sports team. What's the difference between the two?
Look, at the end of the day, Marcus Smart will go on to be an NBA player, Richard Sherman still has a Superbowl ring and Jeff Orr...well, he's a white male. How many more advantages can he have?