Over the past few weeks, there have been several examples of inappropriate fan behavior displayed at sporting events. At a University of Missouri men’s basketball game, a group of students known as “The Antlers” were kicked out of a second straight game for “a pattern of inappropriate chants”. Mike Alden, the athletic director at Missouri, stated that the students had violated the school’s core values, which include respect and responsibility. At a men’s basketball game at Texas Tech, Oklahoma State guard, Marcus Smart, charged into the stands and shoved a Texas Tech fan after claiming the fan directed a racial slur at him. The fan, a 52 year old air traffic controller, Jeff Orr, denied using a racial slur, but claimed he did call Smart, “a piece of crap”. Smart was subsequently suspended for three games and Orr agreed not to attend any more Texas Tech basketball games this year. Orr has a history of taunting opposing players and using inappropriate language and actions directed at these players. I could go on and on.
We have all heard these stories and unfortunately they are becoming more and more frequent. Why? I believe there are several reasons. First, I think we have a societal problem with respect. Or should I say a lack of it? It is not just in sports but in all areas of life. Inappropriate language and behaviors are being displayed at sporting events. It doesn’t matter if it is a youth sports game, a high school, collegiate or professional competition. I have written several newsletters over the years about role models in sports and how adults need to become aware of not only what they say, but how they act not only as coaches and teachers but as parents and most importantly as human beings. Second, I think many people believe that when they buy a ticket to attend a sporting event, they feel that gives them the right to say or act any way they want. Often, many of these individuals go over the edge. Typically, this is verbal but can also become physical. As a psychologist, I believe a lot of this is displaced anger they have at others that they feel they can express at a game. Third, sports is a competition and it often gets fans more excited than the participants. Throw in alcohol and it is a path to problems. I also feel a lot of fans feel they have a sense of entitlement at sporting events. They don’t feel the rules apply to them.
So what do we do about it? I feel there has been a great deal done over the past few years about educating athletes and coaches about sportsmanship. But what about the fans? Once in a while, I hear an announcement about fans displaying good sportsmanship at a professional or collegiate game, but I really doubt that anyone really pays attention to it….until they have to deal with an unruly fan around them. I think the solution to this starts with taking personal responsibility. Marcus Smart had a press conference after his suspension and admitted that he acted inappropriately and needed to change and learn from his actions. If Jeff Orr did use a racial slur, he denied it. But, he did make a derogatory statement towards Marcus Smart for no reason other then he played for the opponent. Marcus Smart is 19, Jeff Orr is 52. Who will learn more from this behavior?
As always your opinion…