Add thrower of can of soda at game to fan stupidity list

January 19, 2002|By Gregory Kane


Fan, some wags have reminded us, is short for fanatic. As in "a zeal or passion which goes beyond that which is reasonable," according to the dictionary definition.

Add to the latest act of fanaticism the stupidity of one idiot attending Tuesday's Lake Clifton-Douglass basketball game, who threw a can of soda on the floor just as Douglass' Ducks were smoking Lake Clifton's Lakers and about to hand them their butts.

Douglass was leading by 12 points in the third quarter when the incident occurred. The game was stopped and postponed until a later date. Not exactly fair to Douglass' team, was it?

Douglass is, as of this writing, undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the Baltimore area. The Ducks have two tough games against top-notch Philadelphia schools this weekend. Suppose one of Douglass' key players gets hurt and is not available for the resumption of the Lake Clifton game. In that case, the postponement would have worked to the advantage of Lake Clifton, the school that didn't provide enough security to prevent the can-throwing incident.

There are no doubt many old-school West Baltimoreans - who remember classic battles past pitting Douglass or Carver against East Baltimore's pride Dunbar - who ask, "Why wasn't Lake Clifton forced to forfeit the game?"

Bill Burroughs is Maryland's rules interpreter for high school basketball. The game officials had a number of options, Burroughs said.

"The manual does say the officials could have accessed a technical foul," Burroughs said.

There would have been problems with that, of course. Since no one knew who threw the soda can, the refs might have ended up penalizing the wrong team.

"In most cases, officials are recommended to suspend the game until cooler heads prevail," Burroughs said.

In some cases, the refs suspend the game, clear the gym and then continue with no spectators.

Douglass was on a 17-2 run when the game was stopped. Basketball has a certain rhythm and poetry. "Runs" occur when a team gets in a certain rhythm and outscores its opponents. Runs are hard to duplicate, especially days later.

I'm sure Douglass' fans and alumni would have appreciated the option of "clear the gym, finish the game."

Unfortunately, they didn't get to choose.

Game officials and school administrators did the choosing, but they still face a dilemma: how to deter such acts in the future. Fortunately, there's a precedent, one stemming from an incident anything but fortunate.

Let's go back almost 31 years. It's February 1971. Dunbar is playing a home game against Mount St. Joseph in a Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference Division II game to see which team will advance to the best-of-three championship series against Carver.

St. Joe is leading by 2 points with seven seconds left in overtime of a thriller when one of its players, Gary Jones, tries to inbound the ball. He's scratched and kicked by fan(atic)s, and officials delay the game five minutes.

After St. Joe inbounds the ball, the Gaels run out the clock. Several Dunbar fan(atic)s surge onto the court and attack St. Joe's players. Dunbar players and police officers try to protect them.

St. Joe faculty, staff and students in the stands aren't as lucky. The principal is hit over the head with a stool, and a teacher is hit in the eye. When the melee ends, three police officers and nine St. Joe players, students or teachers have been injured.

Forty-four days later, the MSA, in its first punitive action, puts Dunbar on probation. For the 1971-1972 basketball season, Dunbar will have no home games. All of its contests will be on the road.

In 31 years, no such incident has been repeated at Dunbar. When the Poets lost at home to Catholic League power Spalding this season, Dunbar fans took it in stride. The lesson from 1971 had been learned.

But not, apparently, by the can-throwing cretin who attended the Lake Clifton-Douglass game. Whether the dolt was a Lake Clifton or Douglass fan, he or she had better consider how the actions of fan(atic)s sometimes hurt the teams they're rooting for.

Because of a few hoodlums, Dunbar students in 1971-1972 who had nothing to do with the riot had to travel to Douglass or Carver or Edmondson not once, but twice during the season.

A different but not unrelated outcome has resulted from the stupidity at the Lake Clifton-Douglass game. Jessica Ivy, a spokeswoman for the city schools athletic office, said the game will resume Friday at Lake Clifton.

Fans will be conspicuous by their absence.

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