Without getting too far into political discussion on an otherwise lighthearted college basketball blog, one of the key themes that has emerged since the tragic and inexplicable shooting of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on Jan. 8 has calls for increased security for members of local, state, federal governments. You wouldn't think this theme would be somehow relevant within college athletics, but it apparently is.
According to the USA Today, NCAA president Dr. Mark Emmert's security team has recently beefed up its efforts. Why? Because more college sports fans than ever -- from in-person mobs to Facebook throngs -- have flooded Emmert with ugly rhetoric on everything from Ohio State football players to Cam Newton to Enes Kanter. And in many cases, that rhetoric has crossed the line from nasty to downright threatening. From Steve Wieberg:
The [security] detail wasn't new, says Bob Williams, the NCAA's vice president of communications. But the necessity was underscored by loud, often angry and occasionally alarming reactions to a series of recent rulings [...]
Via phone and e-mail, blogs and social networks, Kentucky followers have been particularly outspoken, flooding Emmert's Facebook page with so much vitriol that the NCAA was compelled to block posts by outsiders. Without specifying the source or subject, Williams says he got an e-mail a couple of weeks ago warning, "You'd better check your car."
"People have a tendency to express their opinions," Williams says. "Sometimes, it's constructive. Other times, it's not. You have to deal with the rant factor. And in this day and age ... you take everything seriously. If someone just says they don't like your decision or they think you're an idiot or whatever, that's one thing. If they threaten you, that's something else."
I really, really, really shouldn't need to write this, but I will anyway: Can everyone just settle down? No, you don't have to like the BCS. No, you don't have to agree with the NCAA's convoluted Cam Newton logic. No, you don't have to agree with the fact that Enes Kanter can't play college basketball. And sure, if you want to express your displeasure with any or all over the above, please do so.
But if you're actively threatening someone you don't even know, you've got problems. If you're actively threatening someone because of sports -- sports! -- then you should ask a family member to check you in to the nearest mental health care facility as soon as possible. I'm not even joking. If you're one of these people, you need to get help. It's bad enough when political rhetoric gets this heated. But we're talking about sports here. Sports. Games. Oblong balls and blown whistles, cheerleaders and fight songs. This stuff is supposed to be fun. It's not supposed to matter. It's not supposed to lead to threats.
The NCAA is probably used to this, and more often than not, I'd wager, threats stem from fans blowing off steam rather than any actual malicious intent. But the fact that it happens at all is bad enough.
There's probably more to be discussed here. A look at why college sports fan bases tend to produce such passionate, partisan and, yes, angry fans is desperately needed. But that's a conversation for another time. For now, let's just go with this: settle down, everyone. Let's all just take a deep breath. Count to 10. Punch a pillow. Discard that angry draft with "ncaa.org" in the address field. Have a cocktail. Check out a sunset. Play a video game. Just, you know ... relax.
See? I bet you feel better already.