I can’t believe I’m about to say this. In all my years as a sports fan and in my short time as a blogger, I’ve said a lot of crazy, indefensible things, but this is the worst. I hate myself for even thinking it. It’s reprehensible and I probably won’t be able to show my face in many places again. But here goes: everyone is overreacting to Illinois fan’s behavior at the IU/UI game on Thursday night.
Now here comes the expected caveat to that statement. What Chester Frazier did was stupid and immature, and a coach with any balls whatsoever will have him running suicides until he thinks it’s 2004 and he’s Dee Brown. Or Bobby Brown. But we all know exactly what kind of coach Bruce Weber is. Also, the fans who threw things at the Gordon family – intoxicated or not – are probably representative of the intelligence level of the average Illini fan, but that’s beside the point. I’m not here to make fun of the disabled.
On Friday morning, everyone and their cousin Jethro were piling on Illini fan for booing lustily and creating a hostile atmosphere in Champaign Thursday. Even Jay Mariotti got in on the act. Then, late Friday, the University of Illinois apologized to Indiana University and the Gordon family for the atmosphere. The question is: why? They didn’t pull a Maryland fan (who could? They set the bar) and the worst they did was pull an Oregon fan.
College basketball is a special environment. It isn’t like professional baseball or basketball in that the crowd has a completely different makeup. People pay a lot of money for seats close to the field or court at the professional level, but often students don’t pay very much, but get great seats so the home team will get an extra advantage. It’s done on purpose by the university and the athletic department. They cram the students in there and everyone knows they’re supposed to be as loud and crazy as possible. It’s expected.
So when some “extra-special” chants come out of a student section, such as the Orange Crush, why does everyone get so upset? The atmosphere at some NFL stadiums is so toxic, people purposely avoid going. I’m looking in your direction Philly, Oakland and Cincinnati. And those are mostly grown men. At least the college kids get to have some fun.
Maybe a lot of unsavory things get said at games these days. But if that’s the worst that happens, there are far more important crimes in the college sports universe that need to be addressed. The recruiting process for all the major collegiate sports, for example. None of this terrible, horrible, no-good behavior would happen if everyone weren’t so obsessed with recruiting.
Either way, the bloodletting needs to stop about loud noise and chanting at basketball games. Yes, some things were done on Thursday night that shouldn’t have happened. But they can be controlled. Crowd noise and derisive chants, however, were not one of them. College basketball is nothing without the atmosphere. Take that away, and it’s just the NBA.
I will now go stab my eyes out for defending Illinois fan.