There's nothing wrong with good, clean, loud cheering, but something else has been in the air during this basketball season:
?Before a game on Feb. 27 between host Arizona State and Arizona, ASU students directed such taunts as " PLO! PLO!" and "Your father's history" at Wildcats guard Steve Kerr, whose father, Malcolm, was assassinated in Beirut in 1984 while serving as president of American University there.
?On Jan. 23, Missouri's notorious student cheering section so brutally heckled Iowa State's Jeff Grayer about his mother—she has acute arthritis—that Grayer and his teammates went over to the stands to shut the jeerers up.
?On Feb. 7, Duke's student mascot, Jeffrey Wilkinson, wore a headband marked BUCKWHEAT to make fun of Notre Dame's David Rivers. Wilkinson is white, Rivers black, as was Buckwheat, the character from the Our Gang comedies.
The First Amendment guarantees the right of free speech, and measures to muzzle even the most tasteless and cruel utterances should not be taken lightly. As public institutions, Arizona State and Missouri would have difficulty restricting fans whose taunts go beyond the bounds of decency. So what's the solution to what appears to be a spreading phenomenon? One answer lies with the fans sitting around the boors. Instead of giggling and encouraging unseemly behavior, these fans—even if they are fellow students—should tell the offensive parties what jerks they are. Also, the team backed by the obnoxious fans could walk off the court until their behavior stopped. Though the action might result in a technical, it would be an exercise of free expression, too.
A BOUNCE IN HIS STEP
Mark Harwell finished the Los Angeles Marathon on Sunday in 4 hours, 29 minutes and 16 seconds, a fairly ordinary time until one considers that Harwell dribbled a basketball the entire 26.2 miles. No one in his right mind would try to figure out how many bounces that took. But then no one in his right mind would dribble up the steps of the Statue of Liberty on July 4, or dribble all the way up 19,340-foot Mount Kilimanjaro, both of which Harwell is planning to do.
Harwell, 25, a part-time actor and songwriter, bounces for charity, particularly the West Texas Rehabilitation Center, a nonprofit general healthcare facility in Abilene, Texas, where he grew up. He also learned the finer points of basketball there, from the Abilene Christian team, which adopted him as its unofficial mascot when he was a boy. Later, from 1982 to '83, the 6'4" Harwell became the first student to play basketball for Prairie View A & M.
By the time Harwell finished the L.A. Marathon, his basketball, which had been brand-new at the start, was bald and black. "I don't think I could have done it without the basketball," he said. "It would have been too boring otherwise." Harwell, who is lefthanded, dribbled 40% of the time with his left hand, 20% with his right and 40% crossing over from left to right and vice versa.