Sometimes fans get a little carried away with their enthusiasm at games.
On Christmas just this past year, the Cleveland Cavaliers played the Los Angeles Lakers in a marquee NBA matchup. Down 20 points with a little over four minutes remaining, Lakers fans decided to let the refs (and to an extent, the Cavs) know how they felt. Suddenly, objects began to rain down on the court in a flurry of fan fury.
On Feb. 3, the Pittsburgh Panthers squared off against their bitter rivals, the West Virginia Mountaineers, at the WVU Coliseum. The Mountaineers were in control, but when Pitt got close, the fans reacted. Objects could be seen flying onto the court from all over. It got so bad that WVU coach Bob Huggins had to grab the microphone and tell fans not to throw objects.
However, Pittsburgh assistant Tom Herrion was later hit in the face by a coin thrown from the stands.
The most recent, and arguably worst incident, happened a few nights ago in an SEC thriller in which the Mississippi State Bulldogs were thwarted on their own floor by John Wall and the second ranked Kentucky Wildcats in overtime. It was clear from the abundance of boos that the Bulldog fans were not pleased with the game’s officiating crew.
However, fans in the student section took it a few steps too far by hurling water bottles onto the court. And we’re not talking empty bottles consumed at the games. Several full water bottles were thrown, coming close to John Wall and within inches of referee Mike Kitt. These are the types of things that would have likely garnered felony assault charges, had the makeshift missiles met their marks.
Sometimes the referees get it wrong. Just about every diehard sports fan at some point in their lives has echoed this sentiment. Does this mean that the refs got it wrong? Sometimes. Does it warrant verbal tirades? Sure, sometimes fans need to let refs know how they feel. Should fans throw things to show their displeasure? NO.
Quite simply, one of the worst deeds a fan can commit is to toss objects onto the playing surface at a game (unless, of course, we’re talking hockey and a hat trick is scored). Most fans are pretty good at keeping their potential projectiles in their possession. However, these recent incidents have brought this problem into the spotlight.
So whose fault is this recent rash of boorish behavior? First off, these actions cannot be blamed on an entire fan base. Most fans would never dream of engaging in this childish behavior. Yet, a few idiots can go and tarnish a reputation of the fanbase with one moment of immaturity. Another oft-blamed group is the media.
Some fans would argue that networks like ESPN intensify hatred by building hype before a game. Maybe if they focused less on games, the fans would be less likely to overreact at games. There are only two words that need be spoken to this group: Come on.
Does anyone really believe that if sports networks would reduce coverage and not hype important matchups that the fans would behave differently? That’s ludicrous. No amount of media coverage is going to make the UNC basketball fan hate Duke more. Same goes for just about every other intense rivalry in the country.
There really is only one person to be blamed for the moronic conduct of fans that throw things on the court. The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the people who threw the objects, plain and simple. If these fans could replace their infantile manners, the problem would dissipate into thin air.
Why blame all Mississippi fans for the couple of bottles heaved onto the court? Why blame ESPN for exacerbating a heated rivalry. Only the person who consciously decides to cast items at the court is to blame.
If these offenders could just use this anger to do something creative, then the atmosphere at these games would keep the same intensity without getting a team’s fans associated with thuggery. Imagine if, instead of throwing an object on the floor, a fan yelled, “Hey ref! If you had one more eye, you’d be a Cyclops!”
This type of statement includes no vulgarity and is sure to elicit laughs from the surrounding fans. Or what if these fans just yelled from the start of the game right up until game’s end? Show opposing fans in the arena that your fans bring the intensity. This would reap massive amounts of respect for the team as well as the fan base.
West Virginia senior starter De’Sean Butler said it best when he addressed reporters after the Feb. 3 game against West Virginia.
"It was uncalled for. There is a time and a place for stuff like that, but one place is not the basketball court. Take that outside if you're going to do it. I don't know what the fans are trying to prove whether they're tough or not but it's not what we do. I would appreciate it if they would stop. It might cost us a game."
He’s spot on with this remark. Technical fouls can be assessed if this occurs. What would happen if a team lost a game by a single point because an idiot threw something on the court and the team was given a technical? Fans should not be angered at the ref for doing the job. Take a step to the plate and disbar the fan that doesn’t understand the difference between intensity and aggression.