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Sportsmanship: Not just a player issue

Sportsmanship.  It’s what all little kids are taught when they start playing sports for the first time, learning the rules of the game and the behavioral conduct at which they are supposed to adhere.  The whole point is to uphold the spirit of the game and keep it as a game; not some televised form of war or a street fight.  The rules of the game are set to outline how the game is played, and most players and coaches follow the rules (while some act unethically in their attempts at skirting the rules, sometimes successful but only for a short while).  Behavioral conduct that makes up the ‘unwritten’ rules regard sportsmanship.  

Terrell Owens, being a drama queen for all his seasons, is highly regarded as unsportsmanlike in his diva-like calls for attention. From bashing his teammates, creating hostile environments within the locker room, to calling a press conference while on suspension to televise a workout.

What most people don’t see, and likely choose to ignore, is that players are not the only people that have to abide by (and oftentimes choose not to) guidelines for sportsmanship.  There is a difference between acceptable conduct by the fans and what steps over the line.  Waving thunder sticks behind a backboard during free throws to simply booing are pretty much the norm, and acceptable by our society’s low standards for sport.  There are times where the fans go over the line and well beyond anything a player has done to earn distaste and negative scrutiny.  It happens all the time, and players stoically take the verbal, and sometimes physical, abuse in stride.  Other times, however, they do not.

Ron Artest once charged the stands to beat up a fan, but sadly, it was the wrong fan.  Instead of grabbing the guy who threw the cup of water at him, he grabbed some other guy.

Another situation happened many moons ago with respected NBA player Steve Kerr.  He was an excellent basketball player, the most accurate behind the arc when he retired in 2003.  His father, Malcolm Kerr, was a well respected academic and was president of the American University in Beirut.  Sadly, Malcolm Kerr was assassinated by the group within the Palestine Liberation Organization, PLO.  Steve Kerr was still a freshman at Arizona, and prior to the game after his father was killed, he was seen crying on the bench.

This is where Arizona State University tops the chart for having the most vile and wretched fanbase in college sports and deserves its own medal made from the flaming fecal matter of an ebola victim.  When Steve Kerr stepped on the court, he received a barrage of ASU fans chanting “PLO,”  “Where’s your dad?” “Go back to Beirut!”  I’m not sure how or why anyone there thought that to be appropriate, but there is a distinct line of respectable conduct at any sporting event, and delving into the private affairs, especially a political murder, for a chant, is simply despicable, and every fan that took part deserves malaria.

Fans need to understand that outside the games they play, they have lives and problems just like anyone else, and jumping into their private lives to criticize their wives, friends, parents, or the deaths of anyone important to them is simply unacceptable.  If you call them out for being a terrible free throw shooter, like Shaq or Dwight Howard, that is keeping it within the realm of the game.  But chanting “rapist” at Kobe Bryant when a (now revealed to be a gold digger of epic proportions) woman accused him of rape is stepping into territory best left untouched.

Sportsmanship is about the sanctity of the game.  Without the fans, the game wouldn’t exist on the level that it’s played.  And without the players, there would be no fans.