I have been waiting for this year's "Feel Sorry For The Verbally Abused College Basketball Superstar" column. And smarm-master Rick Reilly has delivered with his snarky pretend conversation about Tyler Hansbrough. Rick covers most of the details about Tyler's background that has made him into the most gushed about basketball prospect since J.J. Redick.
Of course, the column wouldn't be complete without the verbal protective caress of one Coach Roy Williams:
"I think he should shoot more [free throws]," says his coach, Roy Williams. "People foul Tyler in ways that other coaches would want intentional fouls called. And he just keeps playing. Doesn't say boo to the refs."
He doesn't say boo to the refs because he doesn't want to get a technical for disrespecting the ref, Roy! Hate the game, not the playas.
For a fresh spin, Reilly's article argues that we are justified to show hatred to Tyler. Reilly's reasons are all psuedo-clever backhanded digs at those who jeer at Tyler.
As much as I get sick and tired of hearing everybody adulate the kid, I do admire him. His effort to improve himself isn't discounted by the thousands of sports commentators who constantly inform us about it. I'd shake the kid's hand and buy him a beer, just due to the good line he put up last year in Lexington. If he keeps working as hard as everybody proclaims, then he will surely be a success at the NBA or anything else he can do. I'm sure the NCAA is loving having Tyler -- a returning senior who could have went pro -- as their poster boy for All That Is Good In Collegiate Athletics.
That being said, Reilly misses the real reason why we opposing fans taunt and torment Tyler -- to help our team. Fan participation to unsettle athletes is common and well-accepted in both professional and amateur athletics. The airball chant has knocked the wind out of opponents in Rupp for ages. Occasionally the chant backfires and fires up the player, which is the risk taunting presents. Creative verbal taunting from the crowd is commendable and a worthwhile test to Tyler's psyche.
(By creative, I don't mean "YOU SUCK" or "YOUR A FAG" or any other short terse comment that only seems creative when you've had too many pregame spirits and/or you are immature. There are lines that should not be crossed when it comes to taunting. I think too many fans think they can act like anonymous forum trolls in sports stadiums, and unfortunately security can't IP ban real-life asshats.)
A basketball game should test all of every player's aspects; physical, mental and psychological. Will Tyler handle the jeers and steel his nerves while shooting free throws? Will he snap and swipe at a cheerleader's pom-poms, then proceed to play rattled for the next 5 minutes? Will he be detracted because somebody just commented that his shooting form looks different?
And I think I can assume that all opposing fans focus so much jeering on Tyler Hansbrough because he is the best. And Reilly admits that Tyler is actively looking for your taunts:
What's a little bent is that he likes hearing, "F–you, Hansbrough!" "It adds so much more to the game," he says. His favorites are usually at Duke. "They make you laugh." (Inside, apparently.)
So, he wants us to tell him to eff himself? We have clearly corrupted this young perfect representative of all that is Right and Holy in American Athletics!
Or, we have perfectly prepped him for playing in the NBA in New York.