By Jon Cole
It happens in all phases of your life at one point or another. It may come from a superior, those who you work with or even from yourself. It is called criticism.
We have all received it, whether it is on a research paper, job proposal, a work presentation or even simply the way that we go about our everyday lives.
Saturday night’s incident involving Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart and a fan at Texas Tech immediately made me think back to a couple of instances when opposing fans may have “pushed the buttons” of members of The Citadel basketball team to make an immediate reaction.
The instance that stands out most in my mind occurred during the 2010-11 season when The Citadel visited New Mexico. When entering The Pit, then freshman guard DeVontae Wright was greeted in the parking lot by a fan of the Lobos and asked in a scruffy screaming voice “are you ready for this??? I don’t think you are ready for this tonight…..because it is going to be loud…..are you ready for this???”
This Lobo faithful, in very close proximity to Wright’s ear and face, received no response from Wright despite the fact that the individual, known as “Snake,” was interfering with his personal space.
One year prior, while visiting Missouri State, The Citadel’s Cameron Wells drew the attention and “affection” of a fan sitting in close proximity to the team bench. Wells was constantly badgered by the middle-aged fan, even questioning me the following morning “why was he all over me during the game? I was so sick of hearing it from him.”
Sitting courtside at the scorer’s table, it is professionally ingrained in me that I am not allowed to cheer and make gestures about the game. And I certainly would not respond to any of those jeering fans with comments of my own as to their treatment of The Citadel. However, that does not prevent me from hearing the comments that fans have made over the course of the last five seasons.
I have heard the chants of “West Point rejects” come from several unnamed Southern Conference schools. There is also the occasional “come on Chuck, even ‘Lefty’ wouldn’t argue that call” when Coach Driesell is under the impression that he was on the wrong end of a referee’s decision.
The experiences are not all negative as there are the respectful schools such as Michigan State, who stood alongside The Citadel cadet-student-athletes as the alma mater was played at McAlister Field House in 2009.
As the age of social media grows, the references to individual players get more intense, even so much as to ask how their parents (ex: Tom and Mary) are doing when someone is at the free throw line.
While the physical response that Smart made is not for me to judge, it is important to note that these are college basketball players, ages 18 to 22 normally, who are constantly being badgered by opposing fans in 40-minute long intervals.
These players, the programs they represent and the coaches they play for are forever critiqued based on their reactions to heat of the moment encounters.
So as you purchase your seats to football, baseball, basketball games or any other event for that matter, cheer for your team—but remember to do so in a classy manner as you reflect not only your school but impact the way that you are perceived by visiting schools.