Marcus Smart is a guy you’re familiar with (or should be at least).
He’s the All-America floor general for an Oklahoma State team that appears to be unraveling now having lost five of its last six. He’s the kid who quite possibly could have been the top overall pick in last year’s draft. He’s the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year who felt he owed it to Stillwater to return for one more season and follow through on a promise to advance them past the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
He’s the kid sporting a story nearly all can relate to in some regard – talented kid from a tough neighborhood whose brother was murdered when he was younger and mother struggling to make ends meet with her own medical problems.
He’s also the kid starring down the chamber of one incident that unforntunately has the power to alter perceptions and linger much longer than the front page headlines it creates. In the heat of the moment last night in OKSU’s 65-61 loss to Texas Tech, Marcus shoved Jeff Orr, a fan. Excuse me, “superfan.”
On the surface, the truth is this. Smart should’ve kept his cool. He’s played in hostile settings before and heard chants or jeers which may’ve left his blood boiling at the end of the day. And as Myron Medcalf notes, shoving Orr was the culmination of a string of recent moments for Smart he’d much rather soon forget.
Marcus should’ve behaved like an All-American. I get it. And in a sense, it holds weight.
To keep it all the way 100, however, Orr’s a lot of things, but choir boy damn sure isn’t one. Especially when admitting to texting a friend, “Yea, I kinda let my mouth say something I shouldn’t have. I feel bad.”
The friend, of course, came to the defense of his friend to Doug Gottlieb saying Orr is Tech’s biggest fan and attends every game and everyone knows him. He also claimed to receive another text from Orr stating what was said “wasn’t vulgar or the N-word.”
Attending sporting events live is a one-of-a-kind experience, in particular basketball because fans are in such close proximity to the playing field. We’ve all been there before where we’re heckling an opposing player. It’s part of the experience of being a fan. There are, nonetheless, unwritten rules to everything such as leaving family out the verbal crossfire and keeping everything on-court related. Which is why Orr saying what he said wasn’t vulgar, but still feels bad is so perplexing.*
No one feels remorse after chanting “airball” or “You suck, Smart!” Remorse only happens after crossing a line.
What I’m doing now is baiting, so I’ll stop. I wasn’t there. But to fans who were, hopefully someone heeds Fran Frachilla’s advice. Without being the leader of the peanut gallery, it’s best to allow the truth to come to light. Smart will be thrown under the microscope and the words “thug,” “nigger” and “draft stock” will come under direct fire from ESPN and other media outlets with the wrecking ball from that Miley Cyrus video. And we’ll learn everything there is to know about Jeff Orr over the coming days from how sweet and angelic of person he is to his closest friends and perhaps the real life Clayton Bigsby to his foes.
So from one camp there’s the growing allegations of improper fan etiquette (i.e. someone dropped a racial epitaph). From the other is the admittance of malpractice but not the n-word malpractice.
And somewhere nestled directly in the middle is the truth.**
Update: ESPN reports that Smart will be suspended three games for the incident. Smart and his coach, Travis Ford, addressed the media on Sunday. Smart assumed responsibility for his conduct and apologized to his teammates, fans and the university.
Meanwhile, Texas Tech “superfan” Jeff Orr released a statement in which he apologized as well, but denies using any racial epithets.
“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,” Orr said in a statement. “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.”
* – In a weird way, Orr admitting his guilt might actually serve Smart well in the long run giving him and the school an out so he (Smart) doesn’t get suspended for a long period.
** – In such a setting, only two real ways exist to draw a reaction out of a player. One, call him a n-word, coon, porch monkey or anything of the sort. And two, throw a beer on him while he’s minding his business while laying on a scorer’s table.