I have said it before.
I used to love basketball more than almost anything.
When I was in my early 20’s, the University of Utah basketball team was just coming onto the national scene, mostly thanks to Coach Rick Majerus. He recruited the best talent the school ever had, coaching with a passion and determination that demanded the best out of them, not only as players but as human beings. His NCAA runs to the Elite 8 and the Championship game are some of my favorite sports memories.
Coach Majerus died last week after years of poor health, and while his passing was sad, it was not unexpected.
During one of these video presentations, a man waking down the isle towards his seat looked up at the screen and blurted out everyone’s favorite obscenity along with its accompanying hand gesture. My first reaction was shock. Not at the obscenity, but the audacity of his actions. My next thought-he is a disgruntled Boise State fan, pissy that his team is getting beat down, but that thought was proven false as he continually cheered for the Utes during the second half.
All I could figure, and I think this is very likely the case, is he disliked Majerus. Really, really disliked him.
And I can understand that. Coach was hardly a saint. Stories abound of players he verbally abused to the point of tears. Some left the team. He drove assistant coaches away, including Ute basketball royalty (Jeff Judkins). Early in his Utah coaching career, Majerus brought in talented players in bunches but as his health deteriorated and his motivation to coach waned, so did his recruiting. When he left the University, most local kids were attending other Utah schools, rather than Utah. The program suffered (continues to suffer) from it.
Coach was the reason Utah basketball mattered in the 90’s and partially why it doesn’t matter now. This fan knew that and it bothered him (a guess I know, but a good one).
I question whether last night was the proper time or place to share such sentiment. In addition to the thousands of fans who came to pay tribute to Coach Majerus, there were children all around. There are times to let things go, let things slide. This was one of those times.
This boorish behavior is too commonplace at sporting events. I understand passion for a team and living and dying at every win and loss. I don’t understand meanness directed at college kids(or in this case, a deceased coach) by grown adults. My anger during a sporting event is a very controlled anger, a fake anger of sorts (not that it justifies any anger at something as trivial as a sporting event) and I have learned to vent my frustrations in a way that allows me to still like myself afterward. I was embarrassed for this man, his seemingly useless anger and overblown reaction to something or someone he did not like.
If nothing else, it made me determined to be better. I guess that is something.