The word fan is short for fanatic. With that being said, most fans know there are still both acceptable and unacceptable methods of expressing your fanaticism for your particular team. It’s OK to prioritize never missing a UK basketball game for nineteen straight years ala the late “super fan” Bob Wiggins. It’s also fully justifiable to get a championship 40-0 tattoo even before your team wins the championship as did Rock Wright in 2015. What isn’t acceptable, however, are egregious acts such as an Alabama fan poisoning the oak trees on Toomer’s Corner in retaliation for perceived affronts by rival Auburn fans. Kentucky fans allegedly making death threats against referee John Higgins for disputed calls he made in the North Carolina game also cross the proverbial line of decency.
I experienced my own mini version of “fandom run amok” after UK’s big victory over USC this past weekend. As a member of the media, I opted to take advantage of a post-game stadium-to-parking lot media shuttle the University of South Carolina was providing for all working members.
I knew something was a bit amiss when the golf cart shuttle driver drove right past me with a distinctly unwelcome scowl on his face. Regretfully, I never noted his name, so from here on I’ll just refer to him as Mr. Scowly-face. I caught up with Mr. Scowly-face as he stopped to pick up a couple of other media types. I asked him if he were going to the media lot, to which he abruptly replied, “Yes, but not for you.” After a brief moment of confusion, I realized he was staring directly at the UK logo plastered on my blue UK shirt. This guy was a die-hard Gamecock fan and he was mad as heck that we had just crushed his team.
I’m not a mind reader so I can’t say with absolute certainty I knew exactly what he was thinking. Maybe he was just tired, or perhaps he was having a terrible day, or maybe he just had a very warped sense of humor, but I doubt it. Mr. Scowly-face seemed dead serious about NOT giving me a lift. I promise you I didn’t do anything to provoke him. My immediate post-game smugness had long since dissipated. I was no longer fist pumping or chest thumping. There were no “Go Big Blue” or “How ‘bout them Cats” chants coming from my mouth. I was just one exhausted dude looking for the quickest way home. My only indiscretion was foregoing my customary suit and tie and wearing my casual team colors into hostile enemy territory.
As I headed on foot toward the parking lot, Mr. Scowly-face apparently changes his mind, tells me to hop on, and blasts out of the shuttle stop like Apollo 13 on liftoff. I remember immediately feeling an impending sense of doom as to how fast we were traveling—almost as if Mr. Scowly-face was on some sort of Kamikaze mission to dispose of an enemy journalist. Right before impact, I hear a “WATCH OUT” from one of my fellow riders at which time we crash head-on into another unsuspecting golf cart.
I’m immediately jolted out of my Twitter-induced reverie by the suddenness of the impact. My left knee took a bit of a hit, but otherwise all fingers and toes are accounted for. Fortunately, no one else appears seriously hurt either as Mr. Scowly-face inspects his golf cart for any potential damage. Forgive me for being a bit melodramatic, as one of my best friend’s mom was killed when her golf cart flipped over– but I’m praising God that we managed to somehow stay upright. Miraculously, his cart remains functional and Mr. Scowly-face proceeds on to our intended destination. “Well now you’ll have something exciting to write about,” are his parting words to me. Be careful what you ask for.
King Solomon once said, “Better a patient person than a warrior, a person who controls his temper than one who takes a city.” Solomon could have been talking to Mr. Scowly-face or to all sports fans in general. When the Cats lose, I’m often ready to blow a gasket. Ironically, that’s also why sports are so great. We can be passionate. We can be intense and emotional. We can get mad and vent because at the end of the day, it’s all just fun and games for us fans. It’s only when we take a crushing defeat on the field or court and confuse it with the important events in our real lives, that we end up doing stupid and hurtful things that violate the rules of common sense and decency.
I’m not mad at Mr. Scowly-face. In fact, I feel kind of sorry for him. But bad choices come with consequences. The reality is that if one of those carts did flip over, this commentary would have taken on a completely different tone. I’ve been told that the University of South Carolina is investigating this incident. Ray Tanner, the director of athletics has been informed and the department promises that it will be appropriately addressed. In the meantime, for my next shuttle ride in enemy territory, I’m going back to my neutral-colored suit and tie.
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