Nothin' moves the meter like celebrity. To some, I think it's bigger than the action itself.
It can sprout from something as simple as a personal revelation on lifestyle (Mike Sam), or the new direction an athlete's life journey will be taking with an impending retirement (Jeter);
Sometimes it's a combo of lifestyle & accolades that feeds & fuels the mania (Tebow);
Sometimes it's no more than a routine play (PD) that mushrooms (pushy handshake + choke-sign + hostile interview) and is cleverly maneuvered into an on-going, self-serving pronouncement onto which others with an agenda can hitch a ride (Sherman).
And on rare occasion the celebrity spotlight swings onto an incident giving unwanted notoriety to...well, at least ONE of its principals (Smart & Orr).
And that's what transpired on Saturday night at United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, home of the Texas Tech Red Raiders' basketball programs.
On the brouhaha scale, this one measures about...oh, a 6.5.
After attempting a shot block, Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart took a tumble, starts to get to his feet, appears calm enough, then Red Raiders' self-appointed "super-fan" Jeff Orr hurls a verbal insult Smart's way, the angry visitor then confronts Orr, gives him a slight shove, Orr's female entourage give the player a tongue lashing and Marcus is escorted away wondering why no one listened to him.
Then what happened has all too often become SOP in these incidents: the reactor is called on the carpet, removed from the field of play, made to give his mea culpa and gets handed a lengthy suspension for good measure (three games). Uh huh.
And the guy who instigates the fracas, baits the player, the fanatic who claims he said "pile of crap," not the "n-word" Smart recalls (like POC puts him in the clear), to a man who can't fight back, while taking shelter behind his female friends when the shat-hit-the-fan, he gets off with a self-imposed, open-ended ban. Weakness never looked so...opportune?
I don't know if they still use this one on kids but when I was a gerbil we were taught that odd li'l idiom (say that five times fast): 'sticks & stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.'
Nobody ever really bought it, not even adults, but it was ally to kids who weren't from the "school of hitters (Lewis)" and did teach all of us something about perspective, helpful at any age.
At recess we didn't get so much idioms & advice of our elders as much as we got a taste of the real world, a world where we controlled our own destiny, to some degree, anyway.
It wasn't exactly "Lord of the Flies ('54)" but an island where police, teachers, referees, crossing guards, all those persons who help keep lid on things were outta' the picture.
And when one kid hassled another, verbal or physical, and the other kid had some self-respect, followed his instinct and fought back, we all understood. If the instigator got what was coming to him, we understood that, too and tried to keep it civil.
Playground justice. Adults out-grow it, less concerned w/ fairness, more with damage control ($). I appreciate the standard: short of self-defense, physicality, off the stage, is a no-no.
But these are athletes who have heightened emotional states, work in highly charged environments and are trained to respond quickly & decisively. They need understanding, non-arbitrary resolutions (punishments) when conflicts arise and avoidance of that tired 'slippery-slope' excuse. They deserve brave leadership, sportsmanship, not the compliant media coverage we usually get and knee-jerk discipline from the educated elite who run the show and cash the checks.
Remember the movie "Overboard ('87)?" In real life, "Dean Proffitt (Russell)" would've gone straight to the clink for what he pulled on "Joanna Stayton (Hawn)." But that didn't stop all of us viewers from cheering on Dean & Sons for getting back some of what that "rich bit...(person)" took from them earlier in the flick. A tempered cheer, to be sure.
What that means is, when the one-sided, harsh punishments are handed out in these instigator-fueled fights between players & fans (players), judges are not acting from the heart, they may not even be acting on what they truly believe.
On Smart's ledger, he has a history. The Cowboys sophomore needs to hone his people skills and enhance judgment capabilities. He should've sucked-it-up, refrained from any physicality w/ Orr, as minor as it was, though he was smart enough to hold back from what he really wanted to do and that was punch the ignorant blowhard, so I'd guess.
As for Mr. Orr, he's got a history, too. Like fellow instigators Byron Hout (Blount) and Marco Materazzi (Zidane), he'll pay a price down the road, one way or another. He hurt Tech where it hurts most: lost revenue. For a time anyway, Lubbock's gonna' be low on coaches scheduling totem poll. Cufflinks should've nipped this one in the bud sooner.
And those cufflinks, whether they're in the Big 12 or anywhere in the country, the meekish manner in which they handle these incidents is a national embarrassment.
Hostile fans and baiting competitors are a growing menace. Lowering the boom on only the reasonably reactive, while instigators who cross-the-line go unscathed (or allowed free-reign by do-nothing security (Filomena Tobias finger-freak on Joakim Noah ('13)), should be an unacceptable outcome to the sporting elite who govern our games.
The added fact that Johnny College doesn't get paid nearly enough to suffer these aggressive moronics only presses the point after this latest trouble in the Lone Star State.
The brave edict here: As an equal deterrent, a one game suspension for Smart and school expulsion of Orr from the next five games, home & away, would've been in order.
Photo Credit: Marcus Smart, OSU, 2013-14