Russ Batenhorst If you can’t say anything nice, chill out

I’ve been trying to think of what’s the worst thing I’ve ever called another person to their face. Or even from a few rows up in a crowded place. You’ve more than likely read about the Oklahoma State basketball player that shoved a Texas Tech fan near the end of a game between the two schools last Saturday. The player had dived off the court and into the seats attempting to get to a loose ball. The fan, known it seems for being a bit of a loud mouth, said something that the player didn’t take kindly to, and the quick shove ensued. Amid early speculation that it could have been racial in nature, the common consensus now is that the fan called the player “a piece of crap.”

The player has been suspended for three games and will carry the “hot head” label around the rest of his career. The fan has apologized and said he will voluntarily stay away from any other games the rest of the season.

It’s more than likely that any of us who have gone to sporting events as fans of one particular team have called players from the other team names at some time. Bum, jerk, idiot, ball hog, show off, dirty player and on and on. But, hopefully, we’ve all been content to say that to the person next to us, and not right to the person’s face. The price of a ticket doesn’t give one the right to berate a player to his face. You don’t have to like guys on the other team, but again — hopefully — we don’t carry those opinions beyond that moment.

I can recall during my college years when I stood courtside as Creighton was putting the finishing touches on a conference championship win over Indiana State. I threw a heckle or two toward their star player, asking him who he thought was number one now — or some equally wise ditty. But I’m pretty sure I didn’t call him a piece of crap. And if I did, I’d have to think it would have served me right if he had come over and given me a shove. I’ve felt a little stupid about what I did ever since. Guy’s name was Larry Bird. I hope my heckling didn’t make him feel so bad that it affected his career or anything.

There have been plenty of other times since where I might have a less-than-favorable opinion of an opposing team’s player, but if they ever ended up near me, I still didn’t think it was my place to share my thoughts with them.

Maybe it has gotten too easy for people to go on a message board, or Facebook or Twitter or any of dozens of other Internet-driven social networks and blast someone. And for some, that carries over to real-life situations and they yell out what’s on their mind. On message boards, they hide behind made-up names and titles. “Anonymous” sure can be one brave person. They surely hope being one loud mouth in a crowd of thousands will give them a similar shield. Right up until the person hears them, and takes exception.

I agree that what the player in this particular situation did was wrong. He needed to rise above the fray and just walk away. But I’m glad that comparable amounts of wrath have been leveled toward the mouth in the stands. Who among us hasn’t been told at one time or another, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” It’s not always easy. I was just watching a college game on TV this week where I said one of the reasons I was hoping for a team to win was because I thought the coach of the other team was a jerk. But you can bet if I was sitting one row behind him, I wasn’t going to holler that opinion out to him.

High school and college basketball seasons are just about to hit the post season, where emotions run a little higher. But let’s remember if we go to a game, we’re there to cheer on one team. Keep negative opinions of the others to yourself.

Copyright © 2015