Ramfanatic note: After I wrote this article, I heard from a Carolina fan
that something similar to the Maryland incident at the Duke game occurred at the
State-UNC game this year. I was at the game and I did not see it, but if it did
occur and it involved UNC students, then the above applies to them as readily as
it does to the Maryland fans. I did see a photograph of several State female
students with letters on their shirts so that when together, they spelled out
something I can't remember in support of N.C State. That's all right in my book,
but what I don't understand is how they got choice seats at courtside. I have
seen UNC games in the Smith Center exactly 2 times from court side and, believe
me, I have tried to do better short of relieving Mrs. Ramfanatic and myself of
what little assets we have.
Another development to report. The Athletics Department at the University of Maryland has asked the Maryland Attorney General for help in devising a policy for fans and objectionable attire at university athletic events and he has indicated he thinks such a policy could be adopted that would not violate the constitutional right to free speech. Kudos to the Maryland people for trying to deal with the problem. I don't know how you could enforce any policy, though, against a chant by the fans such as was directed at JJ Reddick at the Duke-Md. game this year. Can you imagine trying to determine who was chanting and the chaos that would be created if Security tried to evict guilty parties.
Freedom and Responsibility
Enough of the basketball season has transpired for me to have collected a supply of items that either gripe me or stimulate me to try and think of better ways to do things. I suspect this has become an annual occurrence for me, and I am moved to write when my "cup runneth over."
Topping my list is the behavior of the University of Maryland crowd at the Duke game. Terrapins have long been noted for their rowdy behavior at games, in general, but I will limit my comments to one aspect of their shenanigans.
While watching the Duke game, and it may have happened at other games, I noticed a person in the crowd at sidecourt with a red sweat shirt that didn't look exactly like the others. Oh, there was nothing wrong with the color, it was the lettering on the sweatshirt that was different. The camera briefly panned the section in question and Mrs. Ramfanatic said she didn't even see it. But old eagle eye Ramfanatic saw it and I wondered how long it would be before someone would have enough guts to discuss this in the media. I finally found a repost of an article that appeared in a D.C. newspaper, but that is the only one I have seen.
I am not going to spell out entirely what the letters said but you can fill in the blanks. The sweatshirt had the letters "F... Duke" emblazoned in large white letters across the front of the shirt. It was not a homemade type shirt, and It looked every bit as professionally produced as if if it had said "Maryland Terrapins."
My first thought was that some nut case student had made his own personalized shirt, but I should have known better. I have learned that Maryland officials confiscated 200 of the shirts outside the ComCast Center before the game and that action now raises constitutional questions involving freedom of speech. The Supreme Court ruled in the early 70s that what most people regard as obscene language is protected by the constitution. The court case ruled on involved the draft but has relevance to other topics as well. So at least one of my questions has been answered and that is why doesn't the Maryland administration do something about this situation. The answer is simple. There appears to be nothing the administration can do without running the risk of a law suit. Anything they do invites a legal challenge and the ACLU would probably welcome the opportunity to legally assist someone who has been denied the right to express themselves in the media of their choice. The biggest problem I see is that the U of Md. is getting a public relations black eye in the minds of many, particularly when the wearer and his shirt are shown on TV. Since it is a public event, I doubt the FCC has any jurisdiction. The network can hardly be blamed because I am reasonably sure they tried to keep the cameras off the person with the offensive message.
More and more we seem to be prisoners of the constitution. Freedom of expression is a treasured right but somewhere in the process, decency and common sense should enter the equation. I am sure there was language the founders would have found objectionable when the constitution was written even though the words used at that time may have differed. It's hard to see what restriction on freedom of expression exists if the "F" word can be used publicly and the American flag can be burned with impunity. The only way things of this sort can be effectively stopped is through street justice and even that carries legal implications. If the other students had turned on the one with the offensive words on his shirt, he would have been forced to change his behavior or risked negative consequences. The most asinine ruling I have ever heard from a governmental agency is the one the FCC made regarding use of the "F" word on tv. They said it is acceptable to use it as an adjective but not as a verb. If I remember my parts of speech correctly that means, as far as the FCC is concerned, "F... Duke" would not be acceptable but "That F...ing Duke" would have been. Oh, for a simpler and gentler time.
When I started this article, I thought it would contain several of the things I have observed watching basketball this year. I find, however, that I have gone on longer than I had planned on the question of crowd behavior and the Constitution. Please notice that I haven't even mentioned the halftime behavior of Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson. This may be a special case because it is not totally clear whether this was a planned activity or not. I don't watch halftimes of Super Bowls since they don't pay much attention to the likes and preferences of people like me. We aren't in their demographical model and that's all right with me. They are pitching to the young crowd and seem to always want to "push the envelope." I have finally found out the origin of that phrase and I will share it with you. With every new aircraft that is purchased, a listing of the plane's capabilities and limitations are provided inside an envelope which is delivered with the plane. "Pushing the envelope" originated when demands were made of the plane which exceeded the specified capabilities of the plane according to the information in the envelope. Hence, when someone or something begins to exceed limitations or recommendations, it is said to be "pushing the envelope."