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Baffoe: When Is The Fan The Thug?

By Tim Baffoe-

(CBS) I was personally challenged. Maybe I should have taken a deep breath and just let it roll off my back, but I didn't.

I chose to write a column after a guy who apparently didn't learn from Richard Sherman's explanation dared me to.

So, now again, let me get this straight: Marcus Smart's reaction is thug behavior. What the fan did to provoke the reaction is not.

And Sherman said things and is a thug. The fan said things and is not.


If you're not privy about the Smart incident from last Saturday in Lubbock, Texas, Jeff Orr, a dude with a history of jackassery, called Smart "a piece of crap" (though I still have my doubts that was merely all that made a young black man stand up, turn around, and approach him in the middle of a game). Orr is a "super fan" of the Red Raiders who travels tens of thousands of miles annually to see Texas Tech basketball and football games because people who follow a college team like that are very stable people.

Current Utah Jazz guard and former OSU player John Lucas III even recognized Orr:

So some call Smart a thug. I say he was in that very moment of rage an athlete — theoretically an amateur at that — set off by a boorish potato-like thing looking down on him literally and figuratively as Smart lay on the ground after making a hustle play. And yet the predominant viewer reaction was to chide the player before the fan or maybe to call the fan out but qualify it with, "But Smart has to be better than that."

Be better than a thug. Better than Orr. Though Orr and his ilk never really get the thug label for some reason.

In what other work environment — and the basketball arena is Smart's work environment — do we tell people, "If you're being harassed, just ignore it"? Oh, but we have HR departments and superiors we are supposed to go to if we feel uncomfortable or someone is compromising our work. Thugs at our offices get handled by proper channels.

Who does an athlete have when a stranger decides to harass him or her? The ref? I'm sure the same people deriding Smart for his actions would have a very positive reaction had he walked over to the official and had him stop the game so that the fan could be dealt with. People watching sports just love random stoppages in game play. And none of them would call Smart names for that, right? But would any of them consider the fan the thug?

The "you gotta be bigger than that" or "be the better man there" or "turn the other cheek" mouth farts don't work anymore. It's so odd that the people being dehumanized are the ones we tell to be the bigger man. It's part of the game, right? This is what athletes sign up for. Like a pro's paycheck, Marcus Smart's free tuition means he gets to be verbally crapped on by courageous fans who are not thugs in person and on the Internet.

So there is a demand for a suspension to teach the player some asinine lesson about knowing his place even in the face of one of the most awful aspects of humanity directed acutely at him by a rabid college sports fan (see: "dumbass") for no justified reason. I'm sure Smart learned a valuable lesson about sucking it up when being degraded. That's how the real world works. Or at least how yours does, son.

Then there's the demand for his insincere forced apology. You were insulted, kid, so now apologize to the world for it while that fan suspiciously agrees to never show up to games again and gets largely forgotten in the coming weeks while you are scrutinized for the rest of your sports life.

Then hint at how this will negatively impact the rest of his career while tone deaf stock traders examine how this will affect Smart's draft future. Because, remember, these players are not commodities, right? They're student-athletes getting free tuition to play a game they love. Or however that massively stupid narrative goes.

They're human beings, not property, say the defenders of NCAA purity and sanctity illusions. And human being Marcus Smart reacted in a very human being way to being randomly and puzzlingly subjugated while doing his job -- err, I mean his privilege.

But the workers are considered human only when it fits the narrative, which is only when it makes us comfortable.

The fans who take humanity back a step, on the other hand, well, they paid for a ticket. Social media is free speech. It would be nice if we all got along, but, hey, stick and stones, man. Sticks and stones.

Neither you nor I can put ourselves in that position and say we'd have acted "better," because we all at some point have talked in a bar and around buddies about how we'd counter physically toward someone speaking out of line to us. But athletes aren't allowed that reaction.

And another thing, damn it…

Wait, I'm sorry. This column was a hasty reaction to someone challenging me about Smart. I should have let this go days ago. I shouldn't have let him get to me like that. I have to be better.

I shouldn't be such a thug.

You can follow Tim's inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @TimBaffoe, but please don't follow him in real life. E-mail him at

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