Unfortunately more and more people believe that etiquette only matters someplace that's defined as "formal," for instance a funeral, a library ("Sssssshhhhh!"), and especially at weddings. (Etiquetteer believes that weddings probably generate more questions about how to behave than anything else.) But Good Behavior is needed in every part of the day, from the bedroom to the boardroom, from the elevator to the escalator, from the cafeteria line to the telephone line, from the concert hall to the colosseum. Wherever you are, whether you think of it as "formal" or not, Good Behavior matters. So Etiquetteer was dismayed to read about Marcus Smart, the Oklahoma State University basketball player, who shoved a fan, now identified as Jeff Orr, after a bungled play. The OSU Cowboys are on a five-game losing streak, so undoubtedly the pressure was on Mr. Smart, the star player for his team, to deliver something good. Mr. Orr, a well-known fan of the Red Raiders of Texas Tech, is also well known for taunting players of the Raiders' opponents.
It appears that Mr. Orr said something to Mr. Smart - apparently not an expression of concern for his well-being - that enraged Mr. Smart enough to make physical contact. Fox News reported "CBS personality Doug Gottlieb said via Twitter that a Texas Tech friend of his had a text conversation with Orr, who texted that 'Yeah, i kinda let my mouth say something I shouldn't have. I feel bad.'" Mr. Orr did not repeat what he said to Mr. Smart, which of course leads everyone to think that it was a racial slur.
Etiquetteer can only wonder if Mr. Orr feels badly enough to issue a public apology to Mr. Smart. Whether a Filthy Name was used or not, Mr. Orr has discredited the behavior of all Texas Tech fans, which Etiquetteer feels sure he does not want to do. Plenty of Perfectly Proper people are enthusiastic football fans without demonizing the opposing team. Ask yourselves, sports fans, what means more to you: the victory of your team, or the defeat of the opposing team?
While sympathizing with Mr. Smart, Etiquetteer can in no way condone physical violence. Figures in the Public Eye, simply because they are in the Public Eye, must restrain themselves from responding to outrageous provocation. Because when you respond, your opponents win because they have made you lose control. It's a true art, containing one's natural reactions - even Etiquetteer has yet to master it - but as Rose Sayre famously said in The African Queen, "Nature, Mr. Allnut is what we are put on this earth to rise above."
Etiquetteer hopes that both these men will offer public apologies for their behavior, but that we'll also be spared the ostentation of a "beer summit" such as President Obama hosted for Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Sgt. James Crowley after that Unfortunate Incident.