Michael Chung (11:53 am)

The Los Angeles Lakers have a rich history of basketball and championships and names like Wilt Chamberlin, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Pat Riley, and Phil Jackson, to name a few, are synonymous with greatness. So after game 2 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, when Steve Blake missed a shot near the end of the game, Laker fans’ behavior was alarming.  Despite multiple past championships and some of the greatest players in history, fanatical basketball fans fired death threats via social media at Blake’s Twitter.  Blake’s wife ended up having to block around 500 people.  The question is asked: has society gone too far? Do we as fans need to revaluate the priorities in our life? Has our following of sports produced an irrationality that is detrimental to teams, our society, and ourselves?

Buckeye fans may also share in this alarming behavior.  In recent Ohio State Football history, two young men, Alex Anzalone and Lewis Neal, experienced similar things as Steve Blake. After their de-commitment from Ohio State, fans took out their wrath on these two young men. Unlike Blake, they are not professionals but two people who are trying to figure out where the best place for their education will be.  This decision will affect the rest of their lives.

Alex Anzalone talked to me over the phone after I requested an interview.  I asked him what were some of the things he had to endure after his de-commitment.  He responded by saying: 1) OSU fans apparently went on the website ratemydoctor.com and wrote false reviews of Alex’s dad essentially trying to tarnish his reputation as a physician (as Dr. Anzalone is a Pediatrician). 2) Anzalone received a number of threatening tweets that were so vulgar that he was not comfortable sharing them. 3) Fans emailed his dad’s office complaining about his son’s de-commitment. 4) Even a Pennsylvania newspaper, the Reading Eagle, misquoted Dr. Sal Anzalone printing: "Something's just not right at Ohio State," Sal Anzalone said. "It's not for him." The paper later ran a story retracting his statements as a misunderstanding and misquote.  All this because a 17-year-old boy, who is not legally an adult, decided he needed more time before deciding which college he will attend. 

Alex Anzalone told me that the stories that were coming out about his de-commitment on the Internet were not all true but fans really felt they knew the whole story. In his opinion, they did not.  Anzalone knew of Waugh’s enormous amounts of texting but was already having issues before the picture with Waugh came out. 

He was not ready to get into specifics as he is still in the stage of deciding which school he will attend. When I asked him if he had crossed Ohio State off of his list, his reply was "No" and that he is still considering Ohio State but is in the evaluation phase of making his college choice.

Lewis Neal de-committed a few days before Alex Anzalone.  He communicated to me that everything was fine but when he de-committed, OSU fans berated him by emailing, tweeting, etc. comments like: “We did not want you anyway,” and, “We are happy you are not coming to OSU.”

He was also called “an idiot,” scolded like a little child: “You made a mistake and are not being an adult. If my child were in your situation______.”

Neal is also only 17 years old. He did communicate to me that overzealous fans will be at every school and that he really likes Ohio State fans. He also mentioned that fan opinion will not play into his decision on where he will eventually go to school.  So all the negative comments after his de-commitment will not be a factor.

I think it is time we all, I included, take a deep look inside and realize that our "fanaticism" has gone a little too far; actually, a lot too far.  When fans are threatening the lives of families after a missed shot, and when 17-year-old boys incur the wrath of a university fan base to the point where their daily living is influenced, things have gotten out of hand.

It was overzealous fans that got OSU in trouble in the first place.  Overzealous fans paid money for players’ paraphernalia, paid too much money for jobs, and sent emails to coaches.  Ohio State has a three-year probation and has already taken great pains to ensure that no further damage will take place to the football program. Let we, the fans, not make it any harder.

Indeed, fans have their responsibility and need to realize that passionate support of football can lead to consequences that sour a state.  Ask people like Rife, DiGeronimo, and Cicero.

If we the fans are not careful, our emotional zeal can lead to damaging irrational behavior that can cause harm beyond our imagination.  With Ohio State being on probation, the program cannot afford it.


05/22/2012 09:06

Solid stuff Michael. Thankfully I read over on 247Sports that Anzalone isn't holding anything against Ohio State and they have a clean slate in his mind.

It is a reminder to all of us how ridiculous our fanatical behavior can be. The behavior isn't appropriate in any arena, especially with 16-18 year old high school kids. It's just a game.

05/22/2012 09:23

Great article, Michael- thank you!

Question... how do you choose who to approach for an interview? For those of us in the blog-o-sphere who do this out of a "fans" perspective, how do we keep from being one more "problem" with our email and twitter interactions with potential recruits- a problem for both the student AND potentially for the University?

05/22/2012 09:56

MaliBuck: I have been asked this question before and believe it does need to be researched. I have been told that as long as I am not recruiting, it is OK. If I were to try to convince e.g. Alex Anzalone to play at OSU then I would be viewed as a booster instead of a fan and could get reprimanded but if I am only asking questions for info then I remain in my "journalist" realm. But I do hope to find out what the rules are. Do you know where to find them?

As far as interviews, I just ask on Facebook and Twitter and some are gracious to say yes. But not all. Maybe someday, I can work in a "paid" position and can approach via a major news organization. That may make getting interviews easier.

05/22/2012 16:29

Try this. Not 100% official, but a good bit of info even though it's from UM... http://michiganhockey.net/compliance/

05/22/2012 16:03

Really good stuff, Michael. Took me all day to get over here, but well worth the visit once again.

05/22/2012 19:48

Thanks Grant, from the looks of things, I am OK as I am not recruiting.

05/22/2012 19:49

Thanks Grant, from the looks of things, I am OK.

05/22/2012 19:20

Good stuff, Mike. And don't forget the temper tantrums that occurred when Kyle Kalis committed to TTUN. I truly don't understand why decisions of 17-18 year olds cause such angst.

I'd mentioned this earlier, but one of the isuues I have with social media is that it enables embarrassing, potentialy damaging unfiltered, knee-jerk reactions. And this is just for decisions that teenagers make concerning where they are going to college.

Your lead paragraph gets into another potential issue; fan reaction to a player's on-field performance. Thank goodness there was no modern social media when Scott Norwood had his "Wide Right" Super Bowl moment.


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