Be A Fan, But Show Empathy 

It is funny that as parents, we think that kids are the only ones who easily forget a lesson that they just learned. If you are honest with yourself, you know that we can be a hypocrite to our kids and others. We tell our kids to be good sports when they are playing against another team. In addition, we tell them to show empathy to others and treat them like we want to be treated. This past weekend my buddy, Chad and I went to the NC State and UNC Men’s college basketball game. He is a NC State fan and I am a UNC fan. Overall we had a great time, but something happened in the second half that made us a little upset at the UNC fans. 

The Need To Show Empathy 

This was my first time at the Dean Dome, where UNC plays their home basketball games. I was excited to cheer along with the other UNC fans. Each college team has their own traditions and pageantry that is fun to be part of while watching the game in person. NC State and UNC is not like the Duke UNC rivalry, but they are both good teams this year and fans are looking for bragging rights as they are from the same state. To be fair, UNC was getting some home cooking from the refs. The Tar Heels had 39 free throws to the Wolfpack only got 12 free throws. You can see the disparity in the free throw attempts between the two teams. I bring this up because it has meaning to my story. 

In the second half of the game, NC State star Terquavion Smith, suffered elbow and neck injuries after getting fouled by UNC player Leaky Black. Black was not looking to seriously injure Smith. The Dean Dome got very silent as Smith was writhing in pain on the court. A few members of the medical staff came out to check on Smith. Then more medical staff came out. After that the stretcher was brought out. As Smith was taken off the court on the stretcher, UNC and NC State fans were clapping as it is customary at sporting events to show the player some love as he or she is getting taken off the field after an injury.

No more than 15 seconds passed when the PA announcer stated that Black was assessed a flagrant foul 2 and ejected from the game. The boos from UNC fans thundered around us. I looked at my friend Chad in disbelief. This was immediately after they were clapping for Smith. The fans needed show empathy. They failed because they cared more about the game than a person. 

Be A Fan, But Also Be A Caring Human Being 

What made me so frustrated with my fellow UNC fans was that a few weeks ago we all were saying prayers for Buffalo Bills player, Damar Hamlin. He suffered a cardiac arrest earlier this month and the whole country was saying prayers for him and his family. We saw that a human life was bigger than any game. For a week, Hamlin was on all of our minds. We were saying prayers for him. In the UNC NC State game, there was a college kid in Smith who looked like he was seriously hurt. Yet, UNC fans were booing the fact that it was a flagrant foul 2 and NC State would take some free throws and get the ball back. UNC had a decent lead. NC State just lost their best player. UNC was getting all the calls as well. 

This was not a great look for UNC fans. On the flip side, UNC head coach, Hubert Davis offered his prayers that Smith was okay. He took the high road and wanted to give his thoughts on Smith at the post game press conference. That was not only a classy move, but Davis showed empathy. Leaky apologized to Smith when he was getting taken off the court. In addition Leaky asked for Smith’s contact information to reach out to Smith to make sure he was okay. Those are two examples that we should celebrate and emulate. On Sunday, Smith tweeted out that he is doing okay and appreciated the prayers and concern. Please let this be a learning moment for us parents and show our kids how to show empathy even during a sporting event. 

7 thoughts on “Be A Fan, But Show Empathy ”

  1. Great stuff, brother. Visiting a game at Dean Dome or Cameron Indoor would be a bucket lister for me. I am a ridiculous sports fan – too much so. My Hawkeyes success (or failure) could dictate my entire day or week. In my 40’s, though, I’m trying not to extend acts on a sporting field to lessons for life. Sure, I tell my kids about Jordan’s “flu game” grit or the need for everyone to shake hands after playing. I guess I’m saying that cordial fans don’t make good people and bad acting fans may not be awful, unempathetic people either. Sports provide several teaching moments, not life’s answers. All that said, great piece. Side note: how does a Boston sports fan complain about unruly crowds? lol

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts Toby. I really appreciate your views on sports, fandom and parenting. My fandom is very funny because I moved around a lot. So my teams are the 49ers, Bulls and Red Sox. As I get older, coaching my both my daughters sports teams and what recently happened to Demar Hamlin it puts things into perspective. To me watching people boo immediately after Smith was taken off the court was very sad.


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