By SAM MELLINGER
The Kansas City Star
And not because Smart is tracking to lead future stories about the risks of high draft picks returning to school.
And not because the referees somehow, bizarrely, only assessed a technical foul instead of ejecting Smart for shoving a pest of a Texas Tech fan named Jeff Orr.
And not because the Big 12 suspended Smart three games, and Oklahoma State did the right thing allowing/making Smart apologize publicly on Sunday but stopped short of allowing/making him answer questions.
Smart is the one who the story revolves around, the one potentially losing draft position and money from this (and a much more minor incident when he kicked a chair on his teams sideline during a win at home over West Virginia a few weeks ago) and, most importantly in the eyes of the NBA, a season in which he hasnt performed as well as expected and his team has now lost four of five.
All of those things are true, and all of those things have already been plenty covered.
Me, I wont remember the other day in Lubbock for Smart shoving a fan. Ill remember it for a grown man baiting a 19-year-old kid in the heat of competition. Ill remember it for an adult one lauded on Texas Techs official website as "the Red Raiders No. 1 fan," one who only a few games ago gestured at an opposing player and may or may not have shouted racist slurs in the past issuing a public statement that he only called a college basketball player a "piece of crap."
Even if you believe that, cmon.
In the beautiful chaos of competition, we all can lose our cool. Sometimes we say things we dont mean, sometimes we do things we later regret.
Smart is the one with an NBA career in front of him, so when he hears taunts and slurs on the court and theres no question those will only increase now he has much more to lose than the insurance salesman on the other end.
Part of being a public figure is that your weakest moments are amplified, just as your strongest ones are. This is the world that Smart is entering, and he will be well compensated for his troubles.
But there should be a way for Orr to be punished, too, for being a grown man promoted on the schools official website and conducting himself like a high school sophomore. Volunteering to stay away from the rest of Techs games is a laughable consequence, one that will allow Orr to stay away from the shame hes earned as much as "punish" him.
And its not just Orr.
Fans should be loud and they should be proud. They should be catered to by schools and franchises, and they should be cherished by the athletes and coaches they root for. They should be recognized as the lifeblood that makes this whole sports machine go.
But when they act like idiots, they should be recognized for that, too.