Marcus Smart Will Be Punished, But The Conversation Doesn’t End TherePosted by Brian Goodman on February 9th, 2014
Just when you thought Oklahoma State’s season couldn’t get any more disappointing, any more bizarre, it takes another turn.
The Cowboys’ season hit yet another low point in the closing seconds of its most recent loss. With about six seconds left in Oklahoma State’s game last night against Texas Tech, Marcus Smart fouled Red Raiders forward Jaye Crockett on a dunk attempt and fell to the ground right behind the basket. As Smart was being helped up, he turned around and exchanged words with a fan. We don’t know what was said by the fan, but whatever was mentioned clearly struck a nerve as it led Smart to break the invisible barrier between players and fans, and that’s something that simply can’t fly in the current landscape.
As we pick up the pieces, the incident immediately raises a number of questions: First of all, what did the fan say? Even though there was very little time remaining in the game, why wasn’t Smart ejected or otherwise led away from the court before things escalated? He’s certainly facing a suspension. What kind of discipline is adequate? As was raised from Richard Sherman’s on-field interview last month, is it simply too much to expect athletes to absorb everything that comes their way during or immediately following games?
The questions don’t stop there. The whole encounter also shines a much-needed light on the sociological phenomena of fan behavior. You see, through the wonderful power of the Internet, the fan was quickly identified as Jeff Orr. Orr is a prominent Texas Tech supporter who has been featured as an exemplary fan in promotional material for the school’s athletic department, but he’s also been caught by cameras in the past displaying behavior that is less than becoming of that distinction. Will he be reprimanded? If so, how? Will the altercation serve as an impetus for schools to crack down on fan behavior and reevaluate the kind of access they give to high-dollar ticketholders?
Regardless of the fallout from Saturday night, there will be no winners — at least not in the short term. Even if it’s revealed that Orr said something so vile and reprehensible as to render Smart’s reaction understandable, it doesn’t absolve him from punishment. It will affect him in other ways, too. Smart will rightfully have to answer questions and face increasing skepticism surrounding his character, his judgment, his ability to lead and his ability to keep his cool. While the shove shouldn’t define his career, it stands to reason that it will follow him wherever he ends up at the next level. Panning back to the here and now, if the remaining players on the Cowboys roster don’t turn this into a rallying point, the team could fall squarely on the bubble after entering the season as a Big 12 favorite.
It’s been a wild season in the Big 12, and even before everything went down, Saturday was no different. If not for the nasty occurrence in Lubbock, we would be talking about Melvin Ejim‘s historic afternoon against TCU, Kansas regaining control of its own destiny, and Kansas State guard Marcus Foster going bonkers against Texas. Those stories still deserve coverage, but what happened late Saturday night transcends the conference, and leaves us with more questions than answers. It will definitely be interesting to see how it all shakes out and where Oklahoma State goes from here.