The fragile world of player and fan collided again on Saturday night in Lubbock, Texas when Oklahoma State star guard Marcus Smart shoved a fan in the Cowboys’ 65-61 upset loss at Texas Tech. In an attempt to block a breakaway in the final seconds of the game, Smart ended up tumbling out of bounds, only to spring up quickly to shove a Texas Tech fan after words were exchanged.
I saw Oklahoma State, and Marcus Smart, in person in the Sun Dome earlier this season and proclaimed them a potential Final Four team after they destroyed USF (and 11th-ranked Memphis before that). At that time Smart was a National Player of the Year candidate and the Cowboys were in the midst of an 8-0 start. Fast forward a little more than two months and Oklahoma State’s season is coming apart at the seams in the midst of a four-game losing streak.
It’s not like this kind of thing hasn’t happened before in sports. Here’s just a few …
… 2000: Dodgers pitcher Chad Kreuter entered the stands at Wrigley Field to fight with fans.
… 2003: Nebraska football player Kellen Huston knocked out a Missouri fan with a punch following an road loss.
… 2004: the ‘Malice at the Palace’ featuring Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers attacking fans of the Detroit Pistons.
… 2004: Texas Rangers pitcher Frank Francisco threw a metal chair into the stands and broken a fan’s nose
… 2008: Jets defensive lineman Shaun Ellis threw a chunk of snow at Seahawks fans
Fans can be brutal. Savage. Barbaric. Ruthless. Heartless. Not all of them, but certainly some of them. And trust me … after 17 years of sitting courtside calling college basketball games I think I’ve probably heard everything. But that still doesn’t excuse what Marcus Smart did on Saturday night.
He’s had a frustrating last couple of months – and no doubt was caught up in the emotion of (yet another) crushing loss. But there is no way that Marcus Smart should ever put his hands on a fan because of something they say. There’s no excuse for it. He has to be better than the Neanderthal that’s antagonizing him.
Marcus Smart deserves to be suspended. For how long, well that’s up to Big XII commissioner Bob Bowlsby or Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder. Which means the Cowboys will be without their star – just when they needed him the most.