We've had a rash of bad fan behavior in the last few days. Playoff basketball and hockey aficionados have been boorish, clueless or both at record levels.
On Sunday, fans in San Jose booed the Canadian national anthem before Game 5 of the Sharks' series against the Edmonton Oilers. That broke one of those obscure little unwritten rules of etiquette that make global relations so fascinating and delicate.
The rule: Don't boo anybody's anthem, you morons.
It was less of a potential international incident in Cleveland Monday when Cavaliers fans cheered lustily when Rasheed Wallace rolled his ankle trying to defend a LeBron James drive to the basket. Wallace, the Detroit Pistons forward who had renewed his quaint playoff habit of guaranteeing a victory for his team in Monday's Game 4, was grimacing as he limped off the court, the cheers building with every step.
That one was a lot lighter on the old boorishness scale. Wallace was more or less OK. It's not like fans were cheering over his unconscious form as paramedics worked feverishly or anything. And Wallace does pretty much ask for road-crowd hatred with his hotheadedness on the court and his boasting off of it. He's a guy you love to hate if he plays for the other team. Good fun.
But, boy, it's kind of ugly to cheer an injury, isn't it?
Rookie broadcaster Reggie Miller was doing the game on TNT with Dick Stockton. Miller knows a thing or two about being a hated figure on the road.
"You never want to see anyone get hurt, Dick," he said. "I really don't like the fans cheering this. I know Rasheed has kind of opened up a can of worms with his comments."
"Well, I'm going to give them credit," Stockton responded. "I'm going to say they're cheering LeBron James' layup more than they're cheering Rasheed Wallace getting hurt here."
"I'm glad you're saying that," Miller said, "but being in the heat of the moment before, I know exactly why this crowd is so invigorated right now. It's because the Mouth has gone down. Rasheed Wallace."
Duh. Good for Miller not to go for Stockton's Pollyanna routine, which has no place on the excellent coverage of TNT, whose studio show after the San Antonio-Dallas nightcap Monday began with Charles Barkley saying, "Congratulations to the Dallas Mavericks, but the NBA officials: They suck."
Now I suppose you could say that I'm being inconsistent by cheering Barkley's vulgar commentary and booing the San Jose and Cleveland crowds' loutish behavior. Our culture has simply become coarse, you might argue in that way you have, and booing an anthem, cheering an injury and saying NBA officials "suck" on national TV are just points on the same spectrum of incivility.
I suppose you're right, and by the way if I ever form another band I hope you don't mind if I steal from you and call it Spectrum of Incivility.
But I'm not here to condemn incivility. I spent the early part of my journalism career trying to get the word "suck" into a headline at a major metropolitan daily newspaper. I failed, but then again that newspaper has for all intents and purposes ceased to exist and I'm still here typing away. Suck suck suck.
A little uncouthness is perfectly fine and plenty of fun. We're talking about games and entertainment here, after all, not matters of state, even if they do insist on playing national anthems before ballgames. You know those contests where a fan tries to make a half-court shot or shoot a puck through a tiny mouse hole from center ice? When those people fail, I like to boo them.
Especially if they're children.
But somewhere along that spectrum there's a line over which the fun and games have stopped and a crowd is starting to act like a menacing mob. Booing another country's national anthem would be well over that line. Booing the minor injury of an obnoxious opponent is a lot closer to the line, but I'd argue it's on the wrong side.
And we haven't even talked about the jaw-dropping cluelessness of the San Jose fans in booing the Canadian anthem as a way of razzing the Oilers, when the Sharks dressed 10 Canadians for the game, including their three leading scorers, Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo and Patrick Marleau.
Nothing like giving the middle finger to your beloved heroes.
And because I learned in columnist school that if something happens three times, it's a trend, I want to bring up one more example of bad fan behavior, though this one was just pure, victimless cluelessness.
The Mavericks, playing at home in Dallas, were leading the Spurs 123-118 with 25.1 seconds left in overtime and 17 seconds on the shot clock when they inbounded the ball in the frontcourt. The Spurs had to foul, but inexplicably didn't.
The Mavs played keep-away for a while, the crowd barely reacting as the game clock ticked down to 10 seconds, all but killing the Spurs' chances. Jerry Stackhouse drove to the basket and put up a crazy layup attempt to beat the shot clock, and there were only seven seconds left when the Spurs picked up the rebound.
Michael Finley ran to the frontcourt, the crowd noise just barely increasing, and launched a long, desperate three-pointer with three seconds left.
Hey, Dallas fans. The game has been over for 10 seconds! Your team has won! They're up three games to one over the defending champions. You can cheer now. The rebound bounced around, and the fans began cheering in earnest as the buzzer sounded.
I realize Dallas Mavericks fans aren't used to winning games over San Antonio this late in the season, but come on, folks. Pay attention to the game.
That delayed reaction: It sucked. Boo!
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What about when it moves from first to third? [PERMALINK]
Jack Morris was sitting in for Bert Blyleven as the color man on the local Twins broadcast during Monday afternoon's home game against the Chicago White Sox. He and play-by-play announcer Dick Bremer were talking about the expected rainy weather that was awaiting the Twins in Detroit.
"Michigan gets a lot of our weather," said Morris, a native of St. Paul. "Especially when it moves west to east."
Well, yeah. Especially then.
Morris is pretty good on the air. Kind of a poor man's Jim Kaat.
Previous column: The blundering Knicks
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