Rise of public dis coarse: Anti-social media, boorish behavior go hand in hand

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Thunder star Russell Westbrook got into a heated verbal altercation with an obnoxious fan in Salt Lake City in a game against the Utah Jazz on March 11. Rick Bowmer/AP

We have reached a tipping point on fan behavior in America. Of course, this mirrors a tipping point on online behavior in America. Which, naturally, reflects a tipping point on general behavior in America.

In short, common sense is now uncommon, and nobody behaves very well anymore.

Where do we start?

Curiously, in the unmannerly environs of Salt Lake City.

Yes, Utah is a decorum-and-decency serial offender; its NBA Jazz fans have a rap sheet longer than Bonnie and Clyde. As a rule, they are obnoxious, confrontational and offensive — to put it politely, they are unrelentingly verbally inappropriate.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d assume Jerry Springer was Utah’s governor and Laura Ingraham and Vince McMahon were its U.S. senators.

Last month during a Thunder-Jazz game, this was part of Thunder guard Russell Westbrook’s angry interaction with a harassing fan:

“I promise you. You think I’m playing? I swear to God, I’ll [expletive] you up. You and your wife. I’ll [expletive] you up.”

The NBA fined Westbrook $25,000 for “directing profanity and threatening language to a fan” — I thought the discipline would be harsher for physically threatening a fan — but, no doubt, he was provoked. This is now habitual.

“Sometimes it almost feels like a zoo,” Jazz center Rudy Gobert told ESPN. “People pay money to watch us and feel like they can touch us or do whatever they want. Because we make millions, we’re just expected to shut up and take it. But they can’t do whatever they want.”

He is correct.

Just as the First Amendment does not give you the right to run into a crowded theater and yell, “Fire!” — well, unless it’s an Adam Sandler film — the price of a game ticket does not give you the right to scream obscenities or racial slurs to players on the field.

Yet it is getting nastier and gnarlier out there.

“S-U-C-C-E-S-S, that’s the way you spell success,” has been replaced by, “You suck!”

If Vatican City were in New Jersey, the pope likely would get heckled during Easter Mass.

We are witnessing the coarsening of public discourse.

(Reader Alert: You are about to be burdened by Couch Slouch’s obligatory “the Internet-sky-is-falling” paragraph.)

The Internet sky is falling, my friends; social media essentially is anti-social media. Civility is out; crude and rude are in. Twitter is toxic — it is a public forum, no different than if you were on a street corner shouting foul language, yet everyone keeps hollering vile thoughts online.

Twitter is someone honking his horn at you all day long.

Meanwhile, as March Madness winds down, I’m reminded of the churlish discord college fans exhibit everywhere. Indiana fans repeatedly serenaded Purdue’s Matt Haarms with a profane chant this season. The fans at Maryland — my beleaguered alma mater — are forever crass. The Duke student body is just as bad, only with a higher IQ and bigger bankroll.

I had my own epiphany on this uncivil slippery slope years ago.

I was at a basketball game at Cole Field House in College Park, Maryland, in the late 1970s or early ’80s. In the row in front of me, a fellow was puffing on Marlboros, with the cigarette smoke wafting right into my face. I tapped his shoulder and asked him if he could hold his cigarette down or blow the smoke elsewhere.

He said, “The smoke goes where the smoke goes.”

Unhappy with this unresolved circumstance, I decided to start clapping my hands, again and again, as close to his right ear as I could.

He finally looked back at me and said, “What’s your problem?”

I responded, “Where I clap is where I clap.”

He got up abruptly and looked like he was about to slug me.

It was almost halftime; common sense told me to find another seat. I did.

Ask The Slouch

Q. Do you secretly identify with Australia’s “Egg Boy”? (Robert Forde; Milwaukee)

A. No – read the column above, sir. Why should we celebrate someone smashing an egg on someone’s head? And while I am no fan of Sen. Fraser Anning, how do you expect him to react? ITAL“No, thank you, I prefer my eggs over easy.” END ITALOf course he was going to slap the kid.

Q. For most Americans, I imagine “USC” means the University of Southern California and “Carolina” means the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  What do you think comes to mind when they hear “the University of South Carolina”? (John Choi; Cary, N.C.)

A. Stuckey’s.

Q. Does your bucket list include becoming the first sportswriter on “Jeopardy!” with the categories being: Marriage, Divorce, Poker, Bowling, College Football and Beer? (Steve Hintyesz; Spokane, Wash.)

A. Replace “College Football” with “Stephen A. Smith Gaffes” and I’d run the table.

Q. If a Duke player falls in the forest, is there a referee there to call a foul on the trees? (Rich Tucker; Washington, D.C.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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