Let’s get this out of the way first: Marcus Smart was wrong to retaliate.
The sophomore Oklahoma State star pushed a Texas Tech fan at a basketball game Saturday night after Smart ended up near the stands in the end zone trying to prevent a Red Raiders dunk.
Smart exchanged words with Jeff Orr, the Texas Tech fan, then shoved him before being restrained and slapped with a technical foul late in the Cowboys’ upset loss.
Athletics is about discipline and self-restraint. Smart displayed neither. Sports also require being reactionary, but only to things that happen between the lines, between the whistles and within the rules and framework of competition.
The incident brought to mind Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey. Rickey famously made sure Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, would not retaliate to the racist behavior he was certain to face.
The logic was, if Robinson gave in to the understandable temptation of fighting back, he would lend legitimacy to everything he was trying to disprove.
Smart must have forgotten that lesson in the heat of competition. The three-game suspension he incurred will probably help him remember to keep his hands to himself from now on.
But, this too: Smart was, in fact, retaliating. He was not unprovoked.
There exists a sense of entitlement among some who attend sporting events that suggests if you fork over your own cash for a ticket, you can check your common sense, tact and civility at the door and say and do things that would, in any other context, embarrass anyone with any self-respect.
This can be seen — fortunately, usually without escalating like it did Saturday night in Lubbock — at high school games here and probably everywhere else, too.
Some fans seem to think it’s OK to pay your $5, then walk in, holler at officials all night and even heckle high school players.
Again, thankfully, this doesn’t describe all fans, but it’s no longer true that it only happens in a few places or that it’s just “crazies” who do it.
Yeah, civil discourse is at an all-time low, but anyone who spends enough time in high school basketball gyms can tell this behavior is widespread enough by this point it’s approaching a societal problem.
We don’t know exactly what Orr said. It’s been reported Smart said Orr used a certain racial slur that begins with the letter “N.” Orr refuted that Sunday, saying he called Smart a “piece of crap.” (Not that that’s much better.)
Orr also was filmed using a vulgar gesture toward a Texas A&M player during a game in 2010. Not a first-time offender.
Smart did not take questions after giving a statement at a press conference Sunday night, and Cowboys coach Travis Ford wouldn’t comment on what Smart says Orr said.
But the exact language Orr used isn’t really the point.
Smart set a poor example for young people who will at some point face adversity, be it in the form of something so minor as a fan running his mouth in their face, or whatever much greater challenges everyone’s lives eventually hold.
Orr set an equally poor example for anyone who attends sporting events in which children or youth are the principal participants, not only by whatever exactly he said, but just by the fact he thought it was perfectly reasonable to engage a 19-year-old stranger in clearly negative conversation.
This, by the way, is not a freedom of speech issue. We are blessed enough to have the concept of free speech in order to prevent atrocities like government oppression, not to allow people free reign to make fools of themselves without consequence.
At any rate, those who regularly attend youth and high school sporting events have the opportunity and the responsibility to show participants and onlookers that behavior like and leading up to Orr’s is boorish and wrong.
Let’s all try to think about that the next time we want to yell at a referee or a kid who happens to be wearing opposite colors than we are.
ZACK KLEMME can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658.
Let’s get this out of the way first: Marcus Smart was wrong to retaliate.
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VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights
Fleming County defeated Lewis County, 66-58, and Ashland beat Greenup County, 81-61, on Monday night at Morehead State University to set up tonight's championship matchup. Tipoff is set for 7.
Ashland cruises past Greenup to 16th Region championship game
Tyler Stewart is known for his unrelenting hustle as one of Ashland’s glue guys.
When the senior guard can pitch in some offense too, as he did Monday in the 16th Region Tournament semifinals, that’s just one more problem for Tomcats opponents.
Stewart scored 20 points, senior Steven Friley posted a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Ashland outscored Greenup County 21-9 in the third quarter to break open what was a seven-point game at halftime and cruise past the Musketeers, 81-61.
Fleming battles back to 16th Region final
A healthy Wilder Williams this season has given Fleming County a whole new dimension.
Prior to his sophomore year, Williams sustained a football injury that resulted in three ankle surgeries and limited him to bench duty last season while the Panthers made their run to the 16th Region championship.
A physical 6-foot-3 player, Williams is making his presence felt around the basket as Fleming County looks to return to the Sweet Sixteen.
AARON SNYDER: Will the next hero be unmasked?
Who will the bat signal shine for tonight?
Or, should I say, the Cat signal?
In the third installment of a trilogy that might rival the Batman three-pack of “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Fleming County and Ashland will battle in a matchup that has produced a classic clash in each of the last two 16th Region Tournaments.
If the first two collectively served as a gradual progressions to tonight’s scene, the climax could be off the charts.
Corey Gregg was Ashland’s superhero in 2012, when the senior confidently fired a perfect 3-point shot from the right corner. The triple thrust the Tomcats and Panthers into overtime, from which Ashland emerged 79-73 in a first-round game.
Central wins, Lawrence falls in 15th
The biggest concern for Lawrence County coach Josh Cook was staying out of foul trouble.
His team stayed in it all night, and it cost them a spot in the 15th Region title game.
Shelby Valley senior Tyler Carr led four players in double figures with 19 points as the Wildcats knocked off Lawrence County, 72-60, in the semifinals of the 15th Region Tournament at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
“This one hurts,” said Cook. “We’ll learn from this, and I have no doubt that our kids will get back here and finish the job.”
- Fleming hangs tough to beat Lewis Fleming County locked into another fight against Lewis County, which beat the Panthers earlier this season, before winning 66-58 on Monday in Morehead. Wilder Williams posted a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Panthers, who face Ashland on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
- GALLERY: Ashland gets by Greenup County, will meet Fleming in region final Ashland's Steven Friley scored 21 points Monday to lead the Tomcats to an 81-61 win over Greenup County in the 16th Region semifinal in Morehead.
Kittens clamoring for more at state
Ashland girls basketball coaches went the extra mile, and a whole bunch more, to get a first-hand scouting report on the Kittens’ opponent for the State Tournament.
Head coach Bill Bradley and assistant Phil Wittich drove all the way to Henderson — 5 hours, 20 minutes one way Bradley said on the way home — to take in Sunday’s Second Region championship game.
Henderson County, playing on its home floor, defeated University Heights 67-54. The Lady Colonels went unbeaten in their region this season and are 24-5 overall.
EKC hands out hardware
The Eastern Kentucky Conference handed out its 2014 awards on Monday afternoon at a luncheon at Carter Caves.
Barracudas earn kudos from coach
Ashland Area YMCA swimmers impressed coach Ryan Ferguson from start to finish in the three-day Kentucky Y Competitive Swim League State Meet.
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