The insults Wyoming fans shouted at Colorado State's Larry Eustachy Wednesday night were wildly offensive. (David Zalubowski/AP)
When I sat down with Larry Eustachy in his office in December for this feature, he asked me what I wanted to talk about. I told him I wanted to discuss anything but his path to sobriety, a decade-long struggle that started when he lost his job at Iowa State because of his drinking. His response: "Good, because it's been 10 [bleeping] years."
Eustachy is tired of discussing his recovery, which is understandable, but Eustachy also knows that he's an alcoholic. That he will always be an alcoholic. That there was a significant personal cost to his alcoholism. That every time he cracks open a can of Diet Coke, part of his replacement addiction that in different ways may be just as unhealthy, he is working to stay sober.
I also know two alcoholics. They have both fallen off the wagon during sobriety at least once. Their drinking has strained their marriages and disrupted their lives. When they come to see us, we make sure every bit of alcohol is out of our house. Last month's cover of "5280," a local Denver magazine, was about local beer, so we removed that, too, during a recent visit.
That background is what makes the news coming from Laramie, Wyo., Wednesday night, so disappointing. According to Casper Star-Tribune writer Ben Frederickson, whom I have met on my Mountain West travels, the Wyoming student section was not very subtle in its approach to taunting Eustachy.
I can assure you this isn't the first time this season that Eustachy has been harassed in this fashion. I have been at several other games in person this season where variations of "Larry's thirsty" and other barbs have been launched at him from opposing student sections. This was the most blatant (and least creative), though.
I'm sure I will come off as a bit of a hypocrite here, since I yelled my fair share of stupid stuff at opposing players and coaches during my undergraduate days at Penn. We spent two solid hours one night in 1993 calling a Princeton guard fat (which, in fairness, he was on the heavy side). We jangled key chains at a Temple free throw shooter who had been implicated in a summer carjacking, chanting "Take my car" as he stepped to the line. I get it. Fans are supportive of their team and, with group dynamics in play, often sink to lower common denominators under the guise of creating a hostile atmosphere for a foe.
Well, here's where I become the old man yelling at you to get off my proverbial lawn. There's nothing funny about addiction. It ruins lives. It never goes away. It's a daily struggle to stay away from the demons that call you. It's always one bad decision, one moment of weakness from having its clutches on you again, and setting your sobriety clock back to zero. I've personally seen what it can do to the addict and to the people around them. Bluntly, it sucks.
So yell what you want at players (and coaches) who do stupid things. Be as loud as you can to support your own team. But to blatantly target a guy who has spent over a decade piecing his life back together, has put in his dues many times over to get a second chance, who has repaired relationships with his own family along the way, just because he happens to be coaching your opponent that night? Not cool. Basketball's not that