Lessons to be learned from and by Marcus Smart
Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart made a mistake on Saturday, his ears listened to what a yelled at him when a loose ball he was chasing found him in the stands. Marcus Smart broke one of the biggest rules every athlete needs to know, he reacted to what a fan yelled at him. Marcus Smart then broke the biggest rule for an athlete’s behavior, he physically confronted a fan.
Marcus Smart was suspended three games by the NCAA’s Big 12 Conference for pushing a fan in the stand at Oklahoma State’s game in Lubbock, Texas against Tech. At the very end of the game between the visiting Cowboys and the hosting Red Raiders, the momentum of a fast break found Marcus Smart out of bounds under his basket on defense. Smart had fouled a Texas Tech player on the play attempting to block his shot.
Despite the roaring crowd (the score was 63-61 Texas Tech with 6.2 seconds left in the game when his play occurred), Marcus Smart heard something that was said behind him. It was apparently strong enough to cause him to turn around and approach the Texas Tech fan who made the comment. Words were exchanged and then Marcus Smart shoved the fan in the chest. The fan has been identified as Jeff Orr, a so called “super fan” who travels and attends many Red Raiders basketball games.
Early reports were that Orr used a racial slur against Smart that caused the reaction. This claim has been denied by Orr and has not been commented on by Smart in the aftermath of the event. A press conference was held by the school on Sunday evening with Marcus Smart showing remorse in his actions and the school showing the firmness in condemning his actions. Speaking Sunday, Marcus Smart said, “This is not how I conduct myself. This is not how the program is run. This is not how I was raised. I let my emotions get the best of me. It’s something I’ll have to learn from, a lesson I’ll have to learn from. The consequences that are coming with it — I’m taking full responsibility. No finger pointing — this is all upon me”.
Jeff Orr released this statement on Sunday evening following Smart’s press conference: “I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere apologies to Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, Tubby Smith and the Texas Tech Men’s Basketball program. My actions last night were inappropriate and do not reflect myself or Texas Tech – a university I love dearly. I regret calling Mr. Smart a “piece of crap” but I want to make it known that I did not use a racial slur of any kind. Additionally, I would like to offer my apologies to Texas Tech fans that have been embarrassed by the attention this incident has created“.
The next time Marcus Smart will be allowed to play will be February 22nd when Oklahoma State plays host to Texas Tech.
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Calling this a “teaching moment” is an understatement. If Marcus Smart is already losing control at what fans say in college, how his suppose to handle the pro level? He was considered a good or even great pro prospect heading into this season. Oklahoma State has underachieved this year and could miss the NCAA tournament next month. Some people have used the below average play of the team and of Marcus Smart himself as one reason why what happened Saturday did in fact happen.
I agree with the concept that college is a place to learn, for students as well as student/athletes. Athletes need to understand how to deal with pressure, the pressures of potential, expectations and disappointment on the court. They also need to understand how to deal with outside distractions and outright stupidity. Players need to know that there are people, both on and off the court, who will do anything to hurt them; those who will say and do anything to bring them down in order to lift themselves up.
The fear that any coach, teammate or even family members has in a case like this is that now Marcus Smart has shown everyone you can get under his skin. Trash talking happens in every sport and in every locker room. Getting rid of a label, any label on a reputation can be tough.
We may never know what truly happened, what was said or said back, or the perception of what one or both people involved thought they said or heard. As we have said time and time before, players need to stay away from fans that talk. Maybe now rules will be put in place as to what fans can say as well; somehow, I don’t think that will happen. The all mighty dollar theory once again showing itself; if you tell fans they can’t do certain things, they may stop buying tickets.
I whole heartedly agree that players need to show restraint. Even law books, however, have rules in place for when it is acceptable to lose self-control. Players seem never to be able to lose control; fans never seem to be required to have any self-control.
Everyone will be watching the fallout of this event. If something does not change than it will happen again. Will something be done, something changed to prevent this from happening again? Probably not. As William Shakespeare said, “What is past is prologue”.