Marcus Smart needs to learn a lesson, but he's not the only one

Let me start this Sunday night by saying good for Marcus Smart.

For standing in front of the country.

For taking responsibility.

For apologizing.

None of it will undo what he did 19 hours earlier to earn a three-game suspension, and that video of the Oklahoma State star shoving a Texas Tech fan named Jeff Orr will never disappear from the internet or our memories. But Smart handled Sunday afternoon about as well as he could given what happened Saturday night, and the hope here is that he moves on, learns from the incident and never again places his hands on a fan.

Because that was wrong.

Smart seems to understand that now.

I'm still not sure why everybody else doesn't.

Lost in the debate about what Orr did or did not say to provoke Smart is the reality that reacting physically to a verbal taunt will land you in some kind of trouble in pretty much every walk of life. We see it weekly with celebrities and paparazzi. Each time you watch an incident on TMZ, rest assured the celebrity -- Sean Penn, Kanye West, Alec Baldwin, whomever, -- was provoked and, given context, I'm confident you'd understand why he smashed a camera or threw a punch. You might even be on his side. But guess what? The celebrity is still usually forced to deal with consequences because we live in a civilized country, and "that dude said something inappropriate to me" is rarely a legal rationalization for initiating a physical confrontation with another human being.

Peavy (USATSI)
Marcus Smart handles the aftermath of his suspension about as well as could be expected. (USATSI)

That's why I wrote late Saturday that Smart should be suspended. Some people on Twitter insisted I "wait for the facts." But I'd already seen enough. The video clearly showed Smart commit a foul, fall down, get up and shove a fan in the front row. That alone was worthy of a suspension. So the Big 12 got this right on Sunday.

"My actions last night were inappropriate and do not reflect myself or Texas Tech -- a university I love dearly. I regret calling Mr. Smart a 'piece of crap' but I want to make it known that I did not use a racial slur of any kind."

That's part of the statement released Sunday by Orr.

Let's get into that for a moment.

I suppose we'll never know for sure exactly what Orr said to provoke Smart. But it's only fair to note that Orr denied using racial slurs, and nobody is on record contradicting that version of events. So, for the sake of this conversation, let's assume all Orr did was what he said he did, which is call Smart a "piece of crap" while the All-American was lying in front of him.

Isn't that still ridiculous?

Honest to God, I can't think of another public place where an old white man calling a young black man a "piece of crap" is mostly considered acceptable behavior, and yet something like that happens at basketball games on the regular. Sticks and stones, I guess. But the words hurled by fans sitting within a few feet of players are often ugly, and I've wondered for a while why those words are allowed. That doesn't mean players should respond by shoving fans; I hope I've been clear enough about that. But fans should know it's not an OK thing to do, and schools should discipline ticket-holders when necessary.

So perhaps that'll be the good that comes from this mess. Maybe schools will start paying attention to verbal abuse, fans will start being less aggressive, and the next idiot who has convinced himself it's fun to taunt college athletes on a personal level will start instead treating players with a degree of human decency.

It's doubtful, I know.

But Marcus Smart isn't the only one who needs to learn from this deal.

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Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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