With 3:41 in the first half of Oregon’s two-point loss to Arizona State, UO G Jason Calliste lost his cool.
He had just hit his head on the hardwood after being viciously close lined. To makes matters worse, the referee failed to blow the whistle and ASU scored a quick fast break bucket on the other end. Calliste was hit so hard, he laid on the floor, barely moving for nearly a half minute before making his way to the sidelines.
So distraught, he began to pace back and forth along the baseline. Riding high off their team’s huge lead on UO, ASU fans began to heckle Calliste. Then at halftime, Calliste aggressively nudged his elbow toward the student section, symbolically showing disgust for their obnoxious fandom.
In the second half, ASU fans chanted, “We want Jason,” celebrating their desire to fight the UO guard one against thousands.
In the world of sports, whether it be Zinedine Zidane’s head butt or Tiger Woods’ foul mouth, we love to criticize athletes for losing control of their emotions. And in many cases, they deserve to be criticized.
Student athletes and professional athletes are supposed to hold themselves to the highest standards of conduct and ethicality to preserve their own credibility and the credibility of the organizations or schools they represent.
However, sometimes in the heat of the moment, when playing poorly and being subjected to derogatory remarks, it seems very difficult for players to take the high road.
Case and point: last night’s game between Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
After sprinting to the other side of the court to prevent an easy dunk by a Texas Tech player, OSU G Marcus Smart couldn’t stop his momentum and dove into the stands. While looking disgusted at Smart, a fan made a remark that offended the OSU guard. The fan, Jeff Orr, says he called Smart, “a piece of crap,” but who knows if that is what he actually said or just a censored version.
Similarly, but much more extreme than the Calliste incident, Smart pushed the fan, causing universal outrage and a possible crack in the college basketball world space time continuum. Though many think he should’ve been ejected, referees do not have jurisdiction to eject players for getting into altercations with fans, so they gave him a technical foul instead.
However, Smart was suspended three games for the incident. But in a victory for college hoops players everywhere, Orr agreed to not attend anymore games this season and, whether he liked it or not, was hoisted into the public spotlight, becoming the number one trending topic on Twitter.
According to tweets by John Lucas III, this was not the first time Orr had attempted to set a player off. Lucas III tweeted, based on his experience playing for OSU, Orr “says a lot of crazy ish.” In another tweet, he said fans used to talk trash about his’ father and even called him a crack baby.
At halftime of the UO game, UO assistant coach Brian Fish and athletic trainer Clay Jamieson were spit on by an ASU fan. They proceeded to report the incident to the police but decided not to press charges against the spitter.
Though insults and spitting are out of line, neither of these incidents compare to what transpired in 2004. People seem to forget, but the Malice at the Palace between the Indiana Pacers, the Detroit Pistons and the Pistons fans morphed from a semi-out-of-the-ordinary skirmish, into one of the darkest days in NBA history because a fan intentionally spilled beer on Pacers F Ron Artest. Artest bolted into the stands, steadfast on beating the crap out of the fan. When Artest broke the invisible barrier of trust where fans reside, all hell broke loose.
After tons of punches were thrown and Pacers F Austin Croshere wrapped his arms around Artest, Indiana players tried to head to the nearest exit unscathed, but were met with flying objects aimed at their faces, as well as popcorn and more beer.
The consequences for the players was over $10 million in lost paychecks and 146 games of suspensions. Thankfully, five fans also received criminal charges for their actions and were banned from The Palace of Auburn Hills for life. However, there were certainly numerous other fans who got away with egregiously inappropriate activity.
Derogatory commentary, bodily fluid ejection and alcoholic beverage tossing should not be tolerated at any sporting event.
Because it’s impossible to regulate all fan activity and because fans are not held under a microscope like players, fans are usually able to hide behind the veil of anonymity. Hopefully Orr’s newfound infamousness and his season-long agreement to miss out on Red Raider games will serve as a lesson for obnoxious fans.
But if hecklers continue to conduct themselves in classless fashion, history will continue to repeat itself.