Dick Jerardi: When fans get nasty

Temple guard Juan Fernandez was recently subjected to hurtful taunts by fans.
Temple guard Juan Fernandez was recently subjected to hurtful taunts by fans. (CLEM MURRAY / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: January 25, 2012

What prompts college basketball fans to shriek comments at players that are personal, hurtful and completely unnecessary? I haven't a clue.

When I heard the "USA, USA" chant coming from the La Salle section last Wednesday at Temple while Argentinian Juan Fernandez was shooting free throws, I thought (and not for the first time), that the chant was really stupid. I do not want to single out the La Salle section (it is nice they finally have a section) because I have been hearing such nonsense at hoops games for too many years now from too many people.

When I heard it last week, I dismissed it. I shouldn't have.

When I got an email from Caitlin J. Taylor, of Temple's Criminal Justice Department, I knew I had to write about it.

"I was outraged and extremely disappointed that the La Salle section cheered 'USA' when Temple player Juan Fernandez, who is originally from Argentina, was shooting free throws," she wrote. "Even worse than such xenophobic comments, the section turned to a blatantly racist chant next when they began cheering 'taco bell' when Juan possessed the ball. Sitting in the section next to the La Salle section, I could see that it was unfortunately more than just a few students involved in these cheers."

I did not hear "taco bell," but I have no reason to doubt it was said. Sadly, I have heard worse.

Fernandez is just a college student who came to America to play basketball. He has been a very good player for a very good coach at a very good program. What exactly did he do to deserve having to hear that?

Again, this stupidity is certainly not limited to that game. It is definitely not a reflection on John Giannini's program. He just wants to coach basketball and has a team of respectful players.

It is a reflection of our society. It is commonplace. And wrong.

Last Saturday at Michigan State, Purdue coach Matt Painter heard a fan say to his star player, Robbie Hummel: "I hope you tear your ACL again."

Really?

Hummel tore an ACL near the end the 2009-10 season when his team could have made the Final Four. He tore it again before last season. And then he has to hear that. Why?

ONLY THE HAWKS:

Saint Joseph's is one of those teams that fly commercial, but it charters once a season.

This season, it was to last Wednesday's game at Xavier in Cincinnati. Charters are convenient. They typically take hours off the trip. At least, that is the idea.

SJU was supposed to take off at 6:30 p.m. last Tuesday. Instead, they didn't take off until 8, which meant dinner was pushed back to 9:45. Not terrible but not ideal.

The Hawks lost the game and headed for the airport. Their plane was there, but it had not been started. Finally, after 90 minutes, they boarded and it was 20 degrees inside. One of the engines would not start. They figured they would be home by midnight. Instead, it was midnight and nothing was happening.

Finally, around 2 a.m., the plane warmed up. Then, it started to move around 4:30 and took off at 4:45, landing in Philly at 5:45 a.m., just in time for Thursday to begin.

ONLY IN PHILLY:

There were two Hall of Fame coaches at St. Joseph's Prep on Sunday to see the Prep vs. La Salle. And they were not recruiting anybody.

Princeton's Pete Carril sat on the Prep bench, near his friend Speedy Morris, the Prep coach. Temple's John Chaney was there to support his old friend Morris as well.

Is there another city in America where you could see something like that?

BEST FAN SECTION:

In this city, it has to be Drexel. Others have more participants. None is as enthusiastic as the DAC Pack. It is loud and creative, with fun being the operative word. And the Dac Pack has a really good team to watch.

SUPER-CONSISTENT OWLS:

Temple's current streak of 93 games without losing consecutively is the third-longest active run behind Kansas (223) and Duke (108) as well as the second best in school history (129 from Dec. 8, 1984 through March 24, 1988).

GAME OF THE YEAR:

I do not understand how an enterprising promoter has not lined up Towson-Binghamton for the game everybody wants to see. What is the matter with ESPN? We are talking 0-21 vs. 0-19, the last two winless Division I teams, a game that one of them has to win.

Perhaps, if neither wins through the end of the season, both teams could be flown to New Orleans for Final Four weekend and play at the Superdome on the Sunday between the semifinals and championship game. The loser gets a trophy.

ODYSSEY STOPS IN LAWRENCEVILLE:

Nurideen Lindsey will be playing for Tommy Dempsey at Rider, starting in the spring semester next season. Lindsey (Overbrook High) averaged 11.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists in nine games this season for St. John's before leaving. Before that, he was at a junior college where he averaged 22.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.5 steals. In 2007-08, he averaged 35.8 points per game at the 'Brook. He once committed to La Salle but never went there.

SHOOT IT, DEFEND IT:

Six teams shoot 50 percent or better - Creighton, Missouri, Coastal Carolina, Iona, Campbell and Indiana. Their combined records are 95-24.

Five teams hold opponents to 37 percent or less shooting - Wisconsin, Florida State, Connecticut, Kentucky and Kansas. They are a combined 78-20.

CAN SHOOT IT, CAN'T DEFEND IT:

Florida is No. 2 in offensive efficiency (123.6 points per 100 possessions), but just 110th in defensive efficiency (97.1 points per 100).

PUT HIM ON ALL-AMERICA TEAM:

Is anybody having a better season than West Virginia's Kevin Jones? He is 10th nationally in scoring (20.7 points), fourth in rebounding (11.5) and third in double-doubles (13).

THIS AND THAT:

-- My favorite stat of the season so far: St. Joe's C.J. Aiken has 85 blocks and 30 personal fouls. Think about that for a moment. Aiken, by the way, is second nationally in blocked shots behind Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis.

-- My second favorite stat: Missouri's Ricardo Ratliffe has taken 158 shots and missed 36 of them. He is shooting 77.2 percent.

-- Saint Joseph's Langston Galloway shoots 50.9 percent from the arc, second nationally.

-- Penn's Zack Rosen (89.7 percent) and Villanova's Maalik Wayns (89.4 percent) are 13th and 20th, respectively, in free-throw accuracy.

-- Drexel is tied for first nationally in three-point defense (25.4 percent). Teams have attempted 295 threes against Drexel and missed 220 of them.

-- North Carolina is two-pointcentric. The Tar Heels get almost 62 percent of their points on twos (12th nationally) and barely 18 percent of their points from threes (334th).

-- The annual former Big 5 assistants turned head coaches update is coming soon. Has not been a banner season thus far. As of Monday night, I only saw three winning records out of 16 coaches. Paul Hewitt (George Mason) was doing the best. But most of these coaches are in one-bid leagues where they play a lot of guaranteed/no chance games in November and December. For them, it is all about league play. By the way, former Big 5 players who were not assistants here are doing very well, nobody better than Drexel coach Bruiser Flint. I will list their records as well.

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