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The Philadelphia Daily News
By Sam Donnellon; Daily News Staff Writer

We all have our stories. We all know how much bigger the Marcus Smart story would be if it took place here, in Philadelphia, if Jeff Orr were our Bubba and not Texas Tech's Bubba. Most of us have seen someone, some have been that someone, who has interpreted a ticket to a sporting event as a license to behave in a manner that would have us arrested, beaten up, fired and/or shunned if done outside the gate we entered.

Orr, the Texas Tech fan Smart exchanged words with and famously pushed Saturday night during a game with Smart's Oklahoma State team in Lubbock, spends the time he is not commuting to watch Tech games as an air-traffic controller in his hometown of Waco.

Imagine if he called someone "a piece of crap" during those hours of his life.

Or the word Smart told his coach immediately afterward Orr called him.

He would have even more free time on his hands than he will now, after announcing - with some consultation from the university - that he would skip the remaining games of Texas Tech's schedule.

A comforting thought for the other ticket-paying customers at Tech's United Spirit Arena.

Not so comforting for the good citizens of Waco.

Whether he used the N-word to incite Smart in Saturday's game or used more words to imply the same thing, Orr should not be confused with any first-time offender caught up in the moment and regretful immediately afterward. Current and former players say his foul words and taunts from his seat behind the goal have gone on for years, with the school's benign approval. The school even did a video about Orr's "superfan" status over the years.

NBA star Kevin Durant, who played for Texas in college, recognized him. Indiana Pacers guard Donald Sloan, who played at rival Texas A & M from 2006 to '10, said Orr has "been doing that ever since I was there." Sloan said Orr has screamed "[Bleep] you" at him, flipped him the bird repeatedly, too. A YouTube video from 2010 shows Orr, emphatically arm to elbow, flipping the bird at Sloan's A & M teammate, Bryan Davis, as he backpedaled after ending the play with a dunk.

Now come the common-sense disclaimers. It is never OK to go into the stands and fight fans, even if that awful word is used. And it never ends well. Metta World Peace, who inflamed the ugly brawl between the Pacers and the Pistons when he went by the name Ron Artest in 2004, is still identified with that more than the NBA championship he was a part of. NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury is lucky to be part of a sport in which entering the stands to beat a man with his own shoe, as he did as a Bruin in 1979, is quickly eclipsed by excessive behavior of equal or greater notoriety.

But there has been a behavioral devolution in how we cheer and appreciate sports over the last 40 years. Some of that has been fueled, I suppose, by the cost of attending these events, even college games. Some of it has to do with the entitlement elite athletes expect and sometimes receive, and a resentment of that by a public that feels underappreciated and often underwhelmed, as well.

I wonder if we would be any more patient with the Flyers' power play or the Eagles' first offensive series if we paid less for the ticket.

Maybe.

But some of it is about how we have changed, too. How we watch sports now is more judgmental and unforgiving, whether it's the younger generation's appreciation through fantasy leagues and statistical analysis or the elders' angry disdain for a sports landscape where pro players change teams often and college players leave early.

The only time you see a lot of little kids at games is when the team is bad or the timing is. In their place we too often find these adult "superfans," who bring an agenda to the games they attend, an agenda to be part of the action, to get something in return for their devotion, even to add relevance to their lives.

Most of the backlash from Saturday night's incident was about Smart, about how he will have to contain his emotions in the future and not let words, even the worst ones, send him back into those stands.

He must learn, mature, regulate himself. Because the way it's set up now, the future is likely to be inhabited by more Jeff Orrs, not fewer.

Email: donnels@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @samdonnellon

Columns: ph.ly/Donnellon

 

February 11, 2014

 

 
 

 

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