NBA Fans Behaving Badly

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In a world where punching a flight attendant is considered almost unsurprising, it comes as even less of a surprise that people paying hundreds of dollars, if not more, to attend an NBA playoff game are somehow sufficiently off their civilized behavior meds as to either dump popcorn on, or worse yet spit on, a member of the visiting team. To say this crosses the line is putting it as mildly as possible.

It’s not as though basketball is the only sport where fans are prone to taking leave of their sense and sensibility. As noted a while ago, English soccer fans can go over the edge and then some. However, in this country unpleasant fan-player interaction seems to find its way into basketball arenas more often than the other three major sports. Hockey hasn’t seen much of anything wayward happen since the ‘70s. Baseball, nothing since 2000. Football? Not really. Basketball … Malice at the Palace, anyone? And there’s more.

Let’s skip ahead to this week’s messes. Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook, who for whatever reason seems to attract crazies, was injured and leaving the court when a fan in Philadelphia dumped popcorn on him. Then, Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks was spit on by a fan at Madison Square Garden. Unreal.

One has to wonder what, if it’s anything other than alcohol, goes through the mind of those who do things like this. Would they behave in a similar manner were they to meet a player on the street? In a bar, maybe; never underestimate the potential of stupid drunks after midnight. But since the last time I checked, no professional athlete has ever gone to a fan’s workplace to boo them, although one had everything but.

We’ve all grown numb to insolent online behavior; flameboys in cyberspace “bravely” hurling every vile insult and epithet they can conjure at whoever has raised their ire. Problem is we’re now seeing people in public act in a manner suggesting they are unaware they are no longer hiding behind a screen. Certainly tempers have been frayed by the pandemic along with mental health. But there is no excuse for dismissing civility from ones routine.

Hopefully the NBA playoffs can continue without further displays like what we’ve seen this week. Hopefully. Sadly, I doubt it.