College Basketball Caucus: Deciphering the Marcus Smart altercation

Once a week, USA TODAY Sports asks its network of college basketball experts to analyze the biggest topics around the country.

BRACKETOLOGY: Projecting the field of 68

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This week, the panel dissects Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart’s altercation with a Texas Tech fan — his subsequent suspension by the Big 12

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— and determines whether the incident highlights a growing fan negativity towards players in collegiate basketball.

Nicole

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Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
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:
I’m not sure if it’s a growing negativity. Fans have always gotten (perhaps irrationally) mad when their team’s coach or players make mistakes or lose games. But the difference is — and I’ve had this discussion with countless friends and colleagues in the wake of Smart’s shove — that in our digital/Twitter age, fans seem more comfortable hurling insults directly at those coaches and players. Fans tweet horrific stuff after missed shots/decommitments/etc., and they sometimes tag the person they’re talking to by their Twitter handle, thereby guaranteeing that if that person checks their account’s mentions, they’ll see it. I don’t understand that, but I think it partly explains what happened at Texas Tech. On Twitter, people respond instantly and emotionally to things, often feeling that they are anonymous and that there are no repercussions for their comments. I think the same is true at games, or at the very least, fans allow that mentality to creep in at games, too. The things I’ve heard people yell … well, I know players and coaches are supposed to remain stoic and block it out, but sometimes it’s hard when some of the comments cross the line. That line is different for each player/coach, but it exists. With fans so close to the court, it can become dangerous — as we saw. So, I’m not sure if it’s a growing problem (it’d be difficult to quantify) but it’s a problem that’s been a hot topic all week. Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde has a nice breakdown here
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of ways schools/individuals/coaches can help curb what he terms “fan abuse.”

Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports

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: This situation fascinates me because it could have happened to anyone in college basketball like say, Marshall Henderson (remember this?
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). But it happened to a player with, in my opinion and many coaches’ opinions
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, a great character and head on his shoulders. We all get frustrated and pushed to the brink at times whether it be in traffic driving to work or in a chat room on the Internet. Smart was in a bad situation (playing in a game that was already over and having a ridiculous fan add salt to the wound). That’s Travis Ford’s fault. But Smart is just getting a taste of what’s to come in the NBA with fans, and not to mention the Reggie Miller-esque trash talking from opponents each game. Now, does this highlight a negativity towards fans? I don’t think so. I think it highlights what we’ve always known and that’s the fact that fans want to be a part of the game — whether it’s the Cameron Crazies or an obnoxious Texas Tech fan. The ability to get in another player’s head has been a goal of fans for a long time. And avenues such as social media only cater to a die-hard fan’s obsession with becoming a part of the game. Yet at the end of the day, I think shows that players are human and have a limit with how much they can be disrespected. Marcus Smart is not Metta World Peace. He’s a dude who passed up being the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA draft to stay in college. That’s as humble of a decision as an athlete can make when you consider the financial and family implications. I just think it highlights fans’ ability to get lost in the moment and their emotions just as players like Smart do. It shows that they want to win as much as the players on the court. It’s passion. Just because a fan isn’t wearing a uniform, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t want the team he’s rooting for to win as badly as the coach with his job on the line or the players who’ve worked all season for it. That’s the true beauty of fandom and it’s why some players have a shot at making millions of dollars. In the same light, just because a player is wearing a uniform, it doesn’t mean there’s a force-field around the basketball court and they’re immune to pain and frustration. They aren’t gladiators. And we should stop treating them that way.

Paul Gotham, Pickin’ Splinters

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: A 19-year old student-athlete from a visiting team falls to the floor among spectators at the end of a game which his team will lose. He overreacts to a comment directed at him. Should we be surprised? We talk about the passion and emotion these guys show on the floor. Do we expect them to flip a switch and not respond to a negative comment? Are we also surprised the comment was made? Over the last few weeks trash talking has been celebrated in the media. Warren Sapp and Shannon Sharpe (among others) were asked about their favorite trash talking tactics. Is there a connection? Ticketholders read this stuff and think it’s entertainment. The Marcus Smart incident doesn’t indicate fan negativity toward collegiate basketball players any more than it does with other sports. The only difference between college hoops and the NFL, for example, is proximity: cozy gyms where ticketholders can be a part of the action as opposed to stadiums with barriers which provide distance between players and those in individuals in the seats. Thick Plexiglas separates fan negativity from players at hockey games . The biggest surprise is this doesn’t happen more often. Schools offer court side seats for the purpose of revenue. The problem Saturday night was not just what was said, but that a ticket-holder had the opportunity to say something in the ear of a player.

David Aldridge, Duke Report

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: Fan negativity toward players has been awful for a long time, but now we’re seeing it more frequently because of increased access to sports all over the world. It used to be that we relied on news networks to tell us about these stories. Now, Twitter offers an outlet for anyone with a recording device who can document when something happens. The biggest problem with this negativity is how much it carries over outside the lines of competition. Social media has changed the game. High schoolers receive death threats when they decide where they’re going to college. A player is told he should kill himself because he misses a shot or commits a foul that hurts his team. And family and friends of athletes have to put up with incredible ridicule for simply having a relationship with the individual. The Marcus Smart incident didn’t do anything to show increasing fan negativity toward players. We crossed that line a long time ago.

Randy McClure, rushthecourt.net

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: I don’t know about this one. Fans have always been fans — that is to say, fanatical — and I’m not sure that we’re seeing any more negativity nowadays than we did before. The key difference today is that ubiquitous television cameras, camera phones, and the immediacy of social media can serve as a tinder box for insta-outrage that can turn a relatively minor incident between a frustrated player and an overzealous fan into a 24-hour news cycle unto itself. As this article in the wake of the Malice in the Palace shows
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, players and fans have been quite literally fighting each other for years. What’s more disconcerting from my point of view is how cliched the narrative, driven by social media, has become
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. From the kneejerk initial reactions to reports of reports of reports of insiders to all the self-righteous indignation among the Twitterati, it’s become increasingly tiresome. I for one was pleased that I was away from the echo chamber on Saturday night, enjoying some time with friends and family rather than dissecting the intricacies of another overblown media creation.

ALL THE COLLEGE BASKETBALL ACTION THIS WEEK


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Article source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaab/2014/02/11/college-basketball-caucus-deciphering-the-marcus-smart-altercation/5394193/

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