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Monson: Nobody wins when a Jazz fan loses his mind

Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook gets into a heated verbal altercation with fans in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Monday, March 11, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Jazz fans are some of the most passionate and loyal and educated in the NBA.

They’ve seen a lot of good basketball through the years and although they don’t always agree on everything the team does, or even with one another on how to solve problems, they are the envy of other franchises, a smart, emotional base that might tolerate losses, but won’t tolerate disloyalty or lack of effort on the part of players and dumb decisions by management.

Now, something else shouldn’t be tolerated.

After the recent Russell Westbrook incident, they shouldn’t stomach idiocy from within their own group, not a single hint of improper words shouted out of the stands during games. Not one hint — from not one misguided person.

If fans sitting around such a weak-minded soul hear anything racial, anything too personal, directed at a player or anyone else, they should immediately report it and get the situation handled. They owe that much to themselves, to their team, to their community.

Even if, especially if, it is a small few who are spewing such stupidity.

That behavior is not the way of 99.9 percent of Jazz fans. But if there are two voices out of 18,300, that’s two too many.

As a whole, Jazz fans sometimes get a bit one-sided when it comes to referees’ calls, and loudly show that disapproval to the point of excess. But they love and appreciate basketball well played. Always have. Remember when they gave LeBron James a standing ovation for an exceptional performance at the expense of their own team back in the day?

They are beyond fond of their players. John Stockton was darn-near deified around here, Karl Malone, in all his undulating behavior, was embraced. Big Dawg was adored and Jeff Hornacek admired. And don’t even try to grasp the current feeling for Rudy Gobert and, especially, Donovan Mitchell.

Conversely, some of those same fans treat opposing players as though they are invaders from a foreign land trying to take away some prized possession. That’s just one of the reasons, along with the altitude, why the Jazz’s home court has been seen by visiting teams as a most difficult place to play.

And that’s exactly why some of the all-time greats have talked about loving to play here, greats like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. They loved winning here, shutting Jazz fans up or down. And that, within limits, is a beautiful competitive thing.

On the other hand, every so often, somebody, somebodies, in the crowd go ahead and say ridiculous things, things that should not and cannot be said. Westbrook was right the other night when he complained about being disrespected and that he shouldn’t be treated that way. His immediate response wasn’t appropriate, either, prompting that $25,000 fine from the NBA.

But when a fan or group of fans instigates that response, nobody wins.

In this particular case, the fan — who, after an investigation by Jazz security — has been banned from attending games and all events at the arena. Westbrook was exposed to said disrespect and fined. Jazz fans, and the greater community, look bad on a national stage. The Jazz look like a franchise for which future free agents wouldn’t want to play. And ill will seeps and simmers in all directions.

Everybody loses — because one fan says something personal, something dense and ignorant.

It’s not representative of the Jazz as an organization, it’s not representative of Jazz fans, it’s not representative of the community.

Mitchell and Gobert issued statements saying exactly that, but also calling for better behavior from everyone. The venues in which NBA games are played aren’t chapels, they aren’t lecture halls or libraries or places of reverence. They are places where fans can have a great time, yelling and screaming and cheering for their team. They are not, should not be, should never be, places where a fan can yell whatever he wants at a player. Buying a ticket isn’t a license to shout despicable insults at performers on the floor.

No duh.

As James said during a subsequent interview, that line not to be crossed for fans isn’t fine, it’s bold, absolutely clear to anyone with half a brain.

Jazz fans typically have full-functioning brains, although there’s no harm from time to time in being reminded to actually use them, to cheer on your favored players and team without being an ass to the players and team that opposes them.

The Jazz have since been praised by many around the NBA for the action they took in the aftermath of the Westbrook case. Was it proper? From reactions from players who were nearby, including Jazz players, it appears the right course was taken. And not just from a public relations standpoint.

In the bigger picture, amongst some NBA players, Jazz fans have gained a reputation for getting too aggressive in what they say. It’s one thing to heckle opposing players, it’s another to insult them. I’ve been covering games at Vivint Arena for more than a quarter of a century, and have heard fans say some moronic things. I’ve never personally heard anything racial.

If that, in fact, has happened, shame on whoever said it.

There is a video circulating that seems to reveal a group of Jazz fans during last year’s playoffs calling Westbrook “boy.” Shame on them.

Banishment from the venue for such an offense is completely in order.

Individuals can do what they want, I guess, in the privacy of their own homes, spew out in their ignorance what they want.

But when hateful, harmful things are said in public, in an NBA arena, where others are adversely affected by them, that blows past the line spoken of by LeBron. Those matters must be handled.

Jazz fans, Jazz players, Jazz opponents deserve that. The community deserves that. Almost everybody knows it, even if one or two or three have lost their minds, lost their way, lost their opportunity to attend games in the future on account of the game they sullied in the past.

GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.

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