Since my tweet has traveled quite a bit since Wednesday evening, I've decided to share my thoughts.
If you haven't heard, here's the story: Twice during last night's basketball game between Wyoming and Colorado State, a chant of "alcoholic" was heard coming from the area of Arena-Auditorium that holds the UW student section.
That chant was directed at Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy, who is a recovering alcoholic. A quick history lesson: Eustachy, a former head coach at Utah State, was fired from Iowa State in 2003 after being photographed during a party with undergraduates at Missouri. He was later hired at Southern Mississippi and worked there for eight years before landing with Colorado State last offseason.
I posted tweets about the chant taking place, and other outlets picked it up. Responses have varied.
Wyoming student section now chanting "Alcoholic" at Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy.— Ben Frederickson (@Ben_Fred) March 7, 2013
Nationally, many think the chant was out of line. Some have tried to take the heat off Wyoming by citing other instances in which Eustachy's alcoholism has been targeted. And some have wondered what all the fuss is about and lumped the incident into the always-tense rivalry between the Cowboys and Rams.
Here's my take:
Eustachy has not, to my knowledge, made a public comment about the chants Wednesday. But I think he would downplay the event if he did or does.
I imagine the coach has come to peace with his past. I imagine doing so was an important part of his recovery. I certainly don't think Eustachy needs me -- or other sports writers -- rushing to defend him. If hearing a chant from a group of people during a game was enough to threaten his sobriety, I imagine he wouldn't have stayed sober long. Or he would have stayed miles away from coaching.
But protecting Eustachy is not the issue. Realizing and creating a discussion about extremely distasteful fan behavior is, and Wyoming certainly isn't the only school to have had examples of such this season.
Mob-type mentality leads to bad decision making. Exposure through cameras and social media now makes those examples more likely to surface. People in stands need to realize -- fair or unfair -- their actions shape perceptions, good or bad.
And there's a point to be made about alcoholism.
It's a disease. That's science. I'm all for giving opponents a hard time. Home court advantages are real and beneficial. But it doesn't take too much critical thinking to connect the dots between fans chanting about alcoholism to fans chanting about cancer, or another damaging disease.
I think we can all agree some things should be off-limits, even in trash talk between bitter rivals.