The Palace History Will Repeat Itself

On my sports
bucket list is to be part of a court storming, to watch my team pull
off a huge upset and be part of that energy and emotion on the court.
However, something has to change when it comes to basketball because
the lessons from the ‘Malice at the Palace’ haven’t been learned. It
may be only a matter of time before it happens again.

Just a few
weeks ago Utah State upset the Nevada Wolfpack to put themselves in
position to share the Mountain West title. I called the upset
beforehand and knew there was going to be a court storming, but I
missed it. After that game Jordan Caroline was so upset with what
happened during the court storming that he punched a fire
extinguisher case. Are his actions justified? No, but it’s another
case of that line being toyed with.

I missed that
court storming because I was down in Salt Lake City watching a great
game between the Jazz and Bucks. The Jazz’s home court finds itself
at the forefront of national news because of a fan crossing the line.
The video has gone viral because of the verbal altercation between a
couple and superstar Russell Westbrook. Russ got fined and the fan
has been banned for life from Vivant Smart Home Arena. Did Westbrook
deserve the fine? Yes, but can you blame a guy for having enough of a
moron crossing the line mere feet behind him?

Players have
got to block it out, they’re always going to get hassled in hostile
territory. That is true but there are lines that shouldn’t be
crossed. Fan is short for fanatic and buying that ticket entitles you
to a lot, but there is nothing in this world that gives you the green
light to insult someone’s family, say something homophobic or racist.

No other sport
makes players faces and personalities more of a commodity for the
league’s benefit than basketball. You can see their faces, you are
right there on top of the players the whole game. There is no way to
ever guarantee that fans won’t say something stupid, they are human,
but so are the players. What if that Jazz fan really got carried away
and threw something, a beer at Westbrook? Anything Russ did would be
on him but that’s a scenario that is much tougher to happen in any
other sport. Heck, James Dolan just banned a fan for life for an
offhand comment that the entire sports world thinks. Sell the Knicks!

There’s no
netting, there’s no glass, there’s no space between fans and players.
But there’s security! Westbrook could have told security to get that
guy out of there and he shares that blame, but security was standing
right there and did nothing while that fan crossed the line. Each
year don’t we see highlights of at least some dumb fan making his way
on to a sporting field? In basketball the fans are the closest and it
doesn’t take a whole lot for some moron to find his liquid courage
and cross the line, and once is all it takes for another Malice at
the Palace.

Each level
that sports goes up the intensity, the emotion gets ramped up even
more. Any person who plays a pick up game knows exactly how that
feels. You have to be able to get yourself to their mentally, that
level is what makes players the best. You’re channeling all of that
and you have to deal with morons threatening you over a game? It
can’t be allowed to happen as often as it does.

I’m a Purdue
fan and as a Boilermaker fan I hate Indiana sports with a passion.
Among Big Ten faithful the “IU Suck!” chant has been debated as
little brother syndrome that needs to disappear. This looks like
it’ll be the last year of it after coach Matt Painter addressed it,
and the reason why? On national TV a month ago, down at Assembly
Hall, the whole world heard Hoosier fans chant “F You Haarms.”over
and over again. They were condemned but just as many people justified
it as “Rivalry.” ‘That happens everywhere.” That’s inexcusable
but that’s the mindset that fuels a moron to do something stupid just
because a player they don’t like is there.

Two weeks ago
the Boilers traveled up to Minnesota and got upset so the Barn
stormed the court, a reasonable response for a team fighting for it’s
bracket life. What did fans see on TV right after it happened? A
student ran up to Matt Haarms, threw up the two finger salute and got
shoved away only to do it again. Richard Pitino said “This isn’t
how we should act.” just like Archie Miller told Assembly Hall
after the game. When will basketball learn?

No one is
naive enough to think magically certain fanatics are going to stop
saying dumb things, but basketball needs to get more proactive. No
one will justify a player acting physically, but no one could say
they would be surprised. As a fan I don’t want to hear a jerk saying
those things and no one wants to see a player risk everything because
one night it’s just too much. It risks the stars and the general
fan’s experience. History is doomed to repeat itself if basketball
doesn’t get proactive about an impending disaster.