Columnists, Sports

Fish and Chipps: Art of fanhood

Before the start of the NCAA Tournament, University of Kentucky basketball super fan Tyler Austin Black was so adamant that his favorite basketball team would win the NCAA Tournament, he decided to tattoo it on his leg.

Crazy? Yes. Stupid? Almost genius. Love? You tell me.

Black inked a UK 2014 National Champion symbol on his calf with the belief that his Wildcats would somehow make an outrageous run to the Final Four, Aaron Harrison would suddenly become the best guard in college basketball and John Calipari would decide to become a good college basketball coach again.

Indeed, sometimes it is better to be lucky than to be good.

Maybe Black is a psychic. But more than likely, Black is a product of the 21st century fan, one that is compulsive, aggressive and has lost touch with reality.

Black’s tattoo may be seen as an act of stupidity and a waste of money, but his guarantee of Kentucky’s ninth national title (which UConn snubbed on Monday night) is another perfect example of the state of fanhood in America.

Crazy tattoos of his or her favorite team. Yelling racist words towards players. Getting into fights with opposing teams’ fans. Making inappropriate gestures. Storming the court without any disregard for the safety of players and coaches.

Where does it end?

In February and March, three major incidents in college basketball regarding fan and player altercations gained national attention and spurred the ongoing debate of fan etiquette.

After a game between Oklahoma State University and Texas Tech University on Feb. 8, OSU star guard Marcus Smart was suspended three games by the Big 12 Conference for an altercation involving a Texas Tech fan.

According to Smart, the Texas Tech fan yelled a racial slur toward him after he was pushed out of bounds, which led to Smart going into the stands and pushing the fan in retaliation.

A few weeks later, a brawl between fans and players erupted after Utah Valley University defeated New Mexico State University, 66-61 in overtime. After the overtime win, a New Mexico State player threw the ball toward a Utah Valley player, which led to a heated exchange between the teams.

The brawl was sparked after Utah Valley fans stormed the court and began taunting the New Mexico State players, leading to multiple punches being thrown and several fans leaving in handcuffs.

On March 6, a fan attending the University of Hawaii vs. University of California-Santa Barbra game stormed onto the court and got into the face of Hawaii coach Gib Arnold after a technical foul had been called against him.

These three incidents are just some of the many examples in college sports where fans have showed poor etiquette and crossed the line between passionate supporters and destructive masses.

Have we lost sight on what it means to be a fan?

There was a time in this country when fans attended sporting events in suits instead of football jerseys, drank expensive cocktails instead of Bud Lights and clapped quietly rather than scream like crazies after a great play.

Times have changed, and so have sports. But the “fan” has radically changed, and the fan experience is unlike anything we’ve seen before.

Today, we live in a sports world where fans believe they are entitled to complete access to the players and teams they support. With the help of Twitter and other social media outlets, the fans have become so obsessed with their favorite sports team that the idea of fan etiquette seems like a thing of the past.

There was a time when going to sporting events as a fan was enjoyable, fun and well worth the price of admission.

But today, I honestly struggle to find the joy I once had in attending sporting events, both college and professional.

When I go to a college football game, all I see are inebriated fans who would rather yell at referees and opposing team players than supporting their own.

How do we control the chaos? Can we control the chaos?

Maybe the reality is setting in: fan etiquette doesn’t exist anymore. But that doesn’t mean that we as fans should interfere with the games we love and make the sport about ourselves.

As fans, we must not forget our place in the sports world. There’s a reason why we sit in comfortable seats and eat countless hotdogs while the athletes work tirelessly to show us a good time.

So the next time you’re attending a college sports event, remember what it really means to be a fan. Chances are, not only will you have a more enjoyable experience, but you’ll find some peace of mind as well.

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