Coupled with Marcus Smart’s run-in with a Texas Tech fan, Liam Day says the backlash new Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans faced from Auburn fans indicates that some of them just need to get lives.
Last week, Rob Scarborough commented on The Good Men Project about what happened in the waning moments of the Oklahoma State v. Texas Tech men’s basketball game earlier this month. Oklahoma State star Marcus Smart fell into the crowd under Texas Tech’s basket during the last minute of play and, as he was getting up, got into a jawing match with a fan, whom he subsequently pushed. Getting into a physical altercation with fans is something of a no-no for athletes, so Smart was suspended for three games.
The fan in question turned out to be Jeff Orr, who has been described by Texas Tech as a superfan. In a profile of Orr that appears to have been removed from the university’s website, but was quoted by Bleacher Report before it was, we are told:
“The 1983 Texas Tech graduate drives roundtrip from Waco to Lubbock for just about every Red Raider basketball game. He also makes most away games and he’s a serious football fan as well.
That translates into 32,000 miles in 2008—22,600 driving and 9,800 flying. In 2009, the totals are 15,100 miles—13,900 in a car and 1,200 in the air. Orr has traveled to 31 states and Washington, D.C., for basketball and 20 states for football games.”
Smart claims Orr called him a racial epithet and, though he’s denied doing so, Orr has confessed to calling Smart a “piece of crap.” Orr is 53 years old, Smart 19.
Roughly about the same time this was happening, another set of events was transpiring in the football-mad state of Alabama, home of four of the last five NCAA BCS football champions.
The instate rivalry between the University of Alabama and Auburn is intense under the most benign of circumstances. Even when one of the schools is suffering through a subpar season, as Auburn did just 2 years ago, when it finished 3-9, the annual Iron Bowl game between them is the biggest on the schedule for both teams. When both schools are undefeated going into the game, as was the case this year, it becomes the biggest in the country.
The tension between the two schools often spills over into the recruiting arena, which only makes sense as you can’t beat the other school if you don’t recruit the better players. And one of the best players out there to recruit this year was linebacker Rashaan Evans, whose father, Alan, just happened to play for Auburn when he was younger. Not only that, but Rashaan played his high school ball in the city of Auburn, where his father now owns a corner store.
To the shock of many, and the dismay of the local fan base, Rashaan chose not to stay home for college, but to play instead for Alabama. The backlash was both instantaneous and predictable. According to ESPN, people on Instagram have said they hope he tears his ACL, people on Twitter have said how much they now hate him, and there have even been calls to boycott his father’s store.
What makes this story more depressing is that, as Rashaan points out, most of the people expressing their disappointment and frustration are grown men:
“It’s hard for me to go out and chill with my friends like I have always done because people keep coming up to me telling me I made a bad decision. It’s grown men. They are asking me why I did this to them.”
Following both of these stories, I’m reminded of the old SNL skit with William Shatner. In it, he is attending a Star Trek Convention. Jon Lovitz, Dana Carvey, and Kevin Nealon play obsessed fans who can’t wait to ask the man who played Captain Kirk questions about arcane plot points from episodes that first aired, even then, more than 20 years earlier. Growing more and more exasperated by the ridiculousness of the questions asked by grown men obsessed with a two-decade old show, he finally blurts out:
“GET A LIFE, will you people? I mean, for crying out loud, it’s just a TV show! I mean, look at you, look at the way you’re dressed! You’ve turned an enjoyable little job, that I did as a lark for a few years, into a COLOSSAL WASTE OF TIME!”
When I hear about 53-year old men calling 19-year old kids pieces of crap or asking them why they would do such a thing to them as not choose their alma mater to play football at, I can’t help asking William Shatner’s question. Get a life, will you people?
In Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Road Trip into the Heart of Fan Mania, Warren St. John spent a fall following some of Alabama’s fans, who routinely arrive in their RVs on Wednesday or Thursday for a Saturday game and would, as one father in the book did, skip their daughter’s wedding if it coincided with an Alabama football game.
I’ve written before about my ambivalence toward sports as I’ve gotten older. Being a sports fan at 41 somehow seems less dignified than being a fan at 21. In my piece for GMP’s First Love series last week, I speculated as to whether having children helped to keep the fires of fandom alive because raising them in the faith, so to speak, keeps one connected to the teams you fell in love with yourself as a child and, by extension, keeps you connected to the child you once were.
But when rooting for the old U. actually causes you to miss your own daughter’s wedding, then that isn’t connecting to family through a shared love. That’s obsession. And I mean that in a clinical sense.
There are many reasons to cheer for the home team. When played at a high level of skill and intensity, sports can grip you in a way that great art grips you. Watching the replay even now, I get goose bumps when Chris Davis returns that last second field goal attempt for the game-winning touchdown at last November’s Iron Bowl.
In this way, sports can lift us out of our ordinary lives, which, even under the best of circumstances, can seem mundane. After all, five days a week we get up at roughly the same time, follow the same morning routine to get ready for work then the same route to get there, spending most of our waking hours in the same office/cubicle/laboratory/plant/etc, only to follow the same route home in reverse to eat dinner and go to bed. Adam and Eve fell from grace and we’re now forced to work for our sustenance. If even for a few hours, sports provides a break from the ordinary.
All the more reason, though, that we should worry more about improving our lives and less about the 18-year old prospect that might improve the football team at the college we attended. Sports provide respite, but like any good coach will tell you, it’s the practice between games that counts.
So, once again, I’m forced to ask. Get a life, will you people?
AP Photo/Butch Dill