Pattern of Abuse
Taunting, like cooking, is more art than science. A dash of wit mixed with harmless intent is acceptable to the palate, but a dollop of torment tossed with cruelty is distasteful. Here's a sampling of how overly active and mean-spirited college basketball fans have humiliated players and their families over the years.
• During the 1978-79 season Washington (N.C.) High sensation Dominique Wilkins was believed to be headed for North Carolina State, and Wolfpack fans envisioned Dr. Dunk taking them to an NCAA title as David Thompson had five seasons earlier. On national signing day in March '79, however, Wilkins slipped unnoticed into Georgia and accepted a scholarship from the Bulldogs, infuriating his home state. (Comparisons with Thompson weren't that appealing to Dominique after all.) Wilkins's mother, Gertrude Baker, said she returned home to find her car had been vandalized and her home's windows had been shattered. Three months later, after claiming that a store had attempted to repossess the family's living room furniture and the housing authority had tried to evict her, Baker moved to Georgia.
• Fifteen months after Maryland forward Herman Veal was accused of sexual misconduct toward another Maryland student, Duke's Cameron Crazies wouldn't let him forget it -- even though formal charges were never filed against him. In a January 1984 game between the Terps and Blue Devils, Duke fans greeted Veal by throwing panties and condoms into the air when he was introduced, then yelled obscenities throughout the game. Duke president Terry Sanford and coach Mike Krzyzewski appealed to students to behave with more class. The next game, against UNC, Duke students hoisted signs reading, welcome, honored guests.
• In February 1988, Arizona senior guard Steve Kerr was cruelly reminded of the murder of his father -- Malcolm H. Kerr, the president of the American University of Beirut -- by terrorists in Lebanon four years earlier. In a game against archrival Arizona State, in Tempe, Kerr was taunted by Sun Devils fans, who yelled "PLO, PLO." (The Palestine Liberation Organization was never linked to the assassination.) Kerr responded by scoring 20 of his 22 points in the first half as Arizona rolled to a 101-73 win. Arizona State later apologized, and an anonymous Sun Devils fan attempted to do the same, explaining in a letter sent to Kerr, "There's no way you can understand . . . some of the things we have had to put up with when we've gone to Arizona over the years."
• Before playing at Wisconsin in February 1998, Michigan State guard Mateen Cleaves was arrested for underage possession of alcohol (a misdemeanor for which he completed a first-offenders program). After the Grateful Red student section serenaded Cleaves with 99 Bottles of Beer, Spartans coach Tom Izzo had to restrain Cleaves. "I had to drag him off the floor because he wanted to fight the whole place," Izzo says. "Then again, maybe he had some of it coming."
• When Oregon visited Arizona in February 2006, several months had passed since Ducks coach Ernie Kent had denied rumors that he had had an extramarital affair. Yet whenever Kent's son Jordan, a guard on the Oregon team, went to the free throw line, the Zona Zoo fan section chanted, "Who's your mistress?"