UK Men's Basketball

John Clay: Ugly rhetoric also spilling into sports

Flags were flown at half-mast in Arizona after Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 13 others were shot Saturday.
Flags were flown at half-mast in Arizona after Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 13 others were shot Saturday. ASSOCIATED PRESS

The shooting Saturday of an Arizona congresswoman that also claimed the life of six people, including a 9-year-old girl, has sparked a public debate about the current tone of political discourse in this country.

Clarence Dupnik, the Arizona sheriff in charge of the investigation into the shooting, called on the country to "do a little soul-searching."

I say it's time for sports to do a little soul-searching as well.

It's time for a debate on the current discourse in our own little neck of the woods.

After all, a day after the NCAA on Friday ruled Enes Kanter was permanently ineligible to play college basketball, here is what someone tweeted to New York Times reporter Pete Thamel:

"I hope your children are born paralyzed and they have to slither around like snakes in the grass like their (expletive) daddy"

And this:

"Congrats on Kanter, scumbag! Hope you don't step in front of a taxi."

There were other such disgusting missives directed at Thamel, to the point where Fox Sports' Jeff Goodman called for a halt only to have Goodman be attacked for coming to Thamel's defense.

Thamel's crime: He wrote a September story quoting the general manager of a Turkish professional basketball team saying Kanter received money to play professionally. A statement the NCAA found to be true.

See, the best thing about the Internet is that it gives everyone involved a voice. And the worst thing about the Internet is it gives everyone involved a voice. They don't even have to use their names.

It's not just the Internet, either. It was interesting Friday night, flipping around the radio dial among the numerous sports talk shows, listening to emotional but anonymous callers with rudimentary knowledge of the facts, giving confident opinions, offering conspiracy theories, all but demanding the Big Blue Nation drive to Indianapolis and storm NCAA headquarters.

It's no different on Internet message boards, or blogs, or, sad to say, newspaper Web sites, where inflammatory commentary rules the day. The ruder the better.

We've somehow developed a coarseness in this society where lines of fairness and decorum are constantly re-drawn.

It's not "Beat Louisville" week anymore.

It's "Hate Louisville" week.

You could say it's all in fun, but it sure seems less so. There's too much invested now, in time, in importance, in money spent, whether the money be on a fan's tickets or a school's coaches.

Even with the madness happening in Arizona on Saturday, a fight broke out between fans behind press row at Stegeman Coliseum late in the Kentucky-Georgia basketball game to the point where security was called.

It's just a game, folks.

A game.

Despite Friday's ruling, Kanter can still go to college. He can get a degree if he wants, and one day soon earn millions in the NBA.

But it was interesting that when Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck announced last week he would return to school for his senior season rather than be the top pick in this spring's NFL Draft, one writer tweeted that anyone who agreed with Luck's decision was a "moron."

Not just wrong, but a "moron."

"It's a Rorschach test for people's value system," said West Virginia Athletics Director Oliver Luck about the reaction to his son's decision.

These days, you have to wonder about our value system.

Kentucky's bowl loss, its basketball loss, its disappointment over the Kanter ruling, made for a bad weekend. But not remotely in the same realm as the tragic weekend in Arizona.

What happened there, including the senseless murder of an innocent girl, that's life and death.

And this is what the girl's mother told the Times:

"I think there's been a lot of hatred going on, and it needs to stop."