Reasonable Passion or Jail-Worthy Stupidity?

by Kevin Kelly
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The Simpsons :: FOX

Fans can forget that professional athletes are only human

The Simpsons provided a hilarious example of fan treatment of athletes in the classic episode “Homer at the Bat.” Bart and Lisa are taunting Darryl Strawberry when Marge says to them, “Kids, that’s not very nice.” Lisa responds by saying “Mom, they’re professional athletes! They’re used to this. It rolls right off their back.” It then cuts to Strawberry on the field, wiping away a lone tear.

Fans don’t always realize that athletes are people too and they deserve respect. Oftentimes it seems as though fans don’t know the line between reasonable passion and jail-worthy stupidity.

19 billboards were bought last week by a Tampa Bay radio station and they all read “Fire Schiano” in white lettering that is surrounded by flames. The station, WHPT, claims that they are showing fans that they are “right there with them” because many want Coach Greg Schiano to be fired.

In my opinion, the billboards manage to walk the line between being okay and going too far. The fans want a change and a radio station has decided to advertise based on their desires. However, I do agree with Tampa Bay defensive tackle, Gerald McCoy’s general ideas. Schiano is a man with a family and children to support. The team’s lack of success is not a get out of jail free card when it comes to respecting him as a human being.

On the other hand, the recent tweets by one fan at Brandon Jacobs are unacceptable and downright disgusting. The fan threatened Brandon Jacobs and his family and quite frankly, he should be thrown in jail. Just put him behind bars for a couple days and let him think about why no one should behave the way he did. Then someone should go John Belushi in Animal House on whatever device he used to tweet.

Professional athletes are people too. No one should ever lose sight of that fact. Brandon Jacobs is just one of many football players who have faced horrible treatment from fans in recent years.

Buffalo Bills’ cornerback and return man, Leodis McKelvin was one of many victims of idiotic fan behavior. Back in 2009 a couple of stupid fans decided it was a good idea to vandalize his property by painting the score of a game the Bills lost along with obscenities on his lawn. McKelvin had fumbled a kickoff with less than two minutes to play and the Bills up five in the game. McKelvin was arguably the main reason the Bills lost, but once again, that is no excuse to vandalize his property and put his safety into question.

Along similar lines, just a couple weeks ago fans in Houston cheered when Texans quarterback, Matt Schaub was injured. I honestly wish we could find a way to keep those fans out of Reliant Stadium for good. As if that wasn’t enough, another group of fans harassed him at his house and took pictures of his family during the week following the injury.

You give all of us a bad name.

Story time! Back in April I was in Atlanta for the NCAA Final Four. Before the Saturday games there were some pregame festivities for certain ticketholders held in one of the huge convention centers near the Georgia Dome. While I was there I spotted Lee Corso, one of the main college football analysts for ESPN. Corso was in one corner of the giant, dim-lit room eating some of the food provided. I looked around carefully and noticed that I was the only one who had spotted him. I wanted to talk to him, but I had no interest in bothering him. I knew he was there for the same reason I was. He just wanted to enjoy some basketball. So I sat there and just hoped that no one would bother the poor guy while he was eating and trying to stay out of sight.

I kept an eye on him for a couple of minutes and finally a horde of people noticed him and approached him. I felt terrible. However, it wasn’t horrible from what I could tell and I was not yet totally disgusted by the people because they just wanted to take pictures with him and have a little chat. Just when I thought it was all over, I was struck with utter disbelief. Almost everyone had left him alone, but one woman was left. Corso had just started to eat again and she took her phone out, shoved it in his face, and took a picture… with the flash on. Right then I lost all hope for humanity. She didn’t even want to be in a picture with Corso. She just wanted to take a picture of his face. Corso handled it all like a champ. I give him all the credit in the world.

The moral of the story is, don’t be that woman. Never be an obnoxious fan.

Oh and another thing. If you throw food or a drink at an athlete, I hope they come after you, Ron Artest (aka Metta World Peace) and Stephen Jackson style.