By Nick Shook
Where’s the class?
College students sit through them, older fans passed—or flunked—them, but lately, fanbases big and small are missing stylish excellence and respect.
Saturday night’s altercation between Oklahoma State University’s Marcus Smart and a Texas Tech fan brought this issue to the forefront of national criticism. Talking heads have had opinions on what Smart should or should not have done and on the surrounding circumstances, but it seems like the focus is on the wrong person in this situation.
At the end of the game between Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, Smart attempted to block an opposing dunk but stumbled into the baseline seating area, feet away from opposing fans. As the video shows, Smart was relaxed and was helped up by teammates when, suddenly, his head snapped around in a reactive manner. He immediately got up and into the face of a Texas Tech fan, who said something to Smart before the Oklahoma State star shoved the man.
As expected, chaos ensued. A smattering of Oklahoma State officials escorted Smart away from the section and to the OSU bench. Smart pointed at the man as he was escorted away and reportedly claimed the man yelled a racial slur at him.
I’m not going to get into the potential racism of this issue. Racial slurs are ugly weapons that are, unfortunately, all too real even in this day and age.
But as Smart is at least partially being vilified as a “thug”—heard that word recently?—and his character is being questioned, very few are looking at the actions and past of the fan.
His name is Jeff Orr, an air traffic controller from Waco, Texas, who is reportedly also a Texas Tech super fan. And, while Kent State’s super fan cheers on her Flashes in positive ways, Orr has a notorious past filled with harassing opposing players, according to the former players themselves.
Multiple former Big 12 players took to Twitter to voice their opinion and recollections of dealing with Orr during their time in college. Former Texas A&M player Bryan Davis, the recipient of obscene gestures made by Orr in 2010, had this to say.
The same guy that talked crazy to me for 4 years. Smh but you should never put your hands on a fan.
— Bryan Davis (@B_Davis0) February 9, 2014
Following Davis minutes later was former Baylor and Oklahoma State guard John Lucas III, who currently plays for the Utah Jazz.
I just saw the video that same fan was at the games talking crazy even when I was in school I don’t forget a face he says a lot of crazy ish
— John Lucas III (@Luke1luk) February 9, 2014
Out of his mouth when u are in the game. And he is a grown man talking to kids the way he does
— John Lucas III (@Luke1luk) February 9, 2014
Clearly, Orr has a history of shouting obscene—and possibly racially charged—statements at opposing players. He is an adult who drives thousands of miles per year to watch the Red Raiders play basketball, yet he is acting much like a child.
Or maybe he’s acting like a college student.
In a similar situation, it came out Sunday afternoon that Oregon coaches are concerned about the safety at Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena. Assistant coach Brian Fish told The Oregonian that a student spit at him and a trainer during their game. He didn’t file charges, but wanted it to be known that it occurred. ASU has since revoked the student’s season tickets, but that doesn’t address the overarching issue: what happened to cheering with class?
Even folks here at Kent State were experiencing issues with a lack of class when wrestler Sam Wheeler recently tweeted anti-gay slurs regarding potential NFL draftee Michael Sam’s coming out, which resulted in his indefinite suspension. Less than two weeks ago, the University of Akron’s official student section sent offensive tweets regarding KSU. The AK-Rowdies, as they’re known, deleted the tweets later, but only after initially engaging in an argument and attempting to defend themselves against users who complained about the lack of class in the posts.
The student section’s leader later apologized, but likely only after having sat down with a university official.
Whether it’s racial slurs, spitting, or tweeting offensive statements about an opponent’s history, a common theme is developing here, and it isn’t one that I like.
It’s time for college fanbases to take a collective look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves these questions: are we considerate of other human beings? Do we want to associate our institutions with such deplorable actions?
Unlike generations of old, the current crop of college students cannot simply chalk it up to silly, college days nonsense. In the age of social media and instant gratification, nothing is a secret. Character is what a person does when no one is watching. Well, it’s time to rewrite that definition, because everyone is always watching.
And I don’t like what I’m seeing.