Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl writes about out-of-control fan antics this week. As I was reading the article Thursday night, an Arizona fan threw a bottle of water at the Southern Cal bench and almost hit coach Tim Floyd. Arizona coach Kevin O’Neil handled it well. He grabbed the mic and asked for the fan to be identified and kicked out. He apologized to Floyd and the Trojans.
If you have watched college basketball lately, you are aware of the incidents Wahl writes about. Oregon fans made idiots of themselves when Kevin Love and UCLA came to town. Illinois fans did the same against Indiana and Eric Gordon. There is something about the mob mentality and athletics that make it easy for people to turn ugly.
- Missouri’s Antlers and Duke’s Cameron Crazies started this, as far as I can tell. Most of it is fun and part of the atmosphere. But it’s too easy for fans to get juiced up on the desire to influence the game and get on TV and go rogue. Why do they do it? Probably because the media tells them they influence the game and TV talking heads love to do live shots in front of crazed students (even though it makes it hard to hear). Everybody wants to be on TV.
- Schools are setting themselves up for a bad scene by putting fans court-side in big-money seats. Press row can serve as a buffer. Some places have moved the press from court-side (which is fine as long as I have a good view of the action I’m supposed to describe) to other areas. How long will it be before the wrong player chases a loose ball into the wrong loud-mouthed fan’s area – and it’s go time? In the MVC, I can see this scenario taking place at SIU, where the crowd gets jacked up and teams are on edge because of the physical play. Creighton is a danger zone because the fans sit at tables behind the benches and next to the working media. The Qwest Center serves alcohol. Will it surprise anyone when a buzzed Bluejay fan and a rival player get into it? Schools need the money and those seats are prime real estate – I understand that. At some point, things are going to get ugly.
- More coaches need to take the lead and get involved in shutting up some of these clowns. Maybe it’s not Ernie Kent’s job, but he probably could have helped the situation by telling Oregon fans to cool it on Love. I always like former Wichita State coach Mark Turgeon for his willingness to tell the students when they crossed the line. Enthusiasm is one thing. Acting like a fool and embarrassing your school is another.
- The first student body that called the cell phone of a rival player was funny. Now, it’s a cliche. So is a lot of this stuff. Â Cheer. Paint your face. Make a sign. That is all great. If you are going to the game with the sole purpose of getting inside the head of a 20-year-old, you need to relax a little.