The outrageous scrum at the end of the basketball game Tuesday night in Lawrence is easily the worst episode in the rivalry between K-State and KU during my lifetime. Nothing else comes close.
Nearly all of the preceding skirmishes can be blamed on K-State fans, in truth. We — and I count myself as a loyal K-Stater — threw bananas at Donnie Von Moore, we threw chickens on the court, we chanted F*** KU!, and one of us bumped into a KU player in a court-storming incident.
It’s not that K-Staters are goons, it’s just that we tend to take the rivalry more seriously than do Jayhawk fans. Heck, they didn’t even consider us their main rival until Missouri ditched the conference a decade ago. So we’ve got a little inferiority complex going; used in the right self-deprecating way, it can be awfully funny, but usually it’s not becoming.
But Tuesday night’s fracas was about the players themselves, which is what makes it the worst ever. I don’t actually remember a similar event, ever, and I’ve been watching these things closely for 45 years.
And, having said all that about K-State fans, I place the blame for this incident squarely on the shoulders of a KU player: Silvio De Sousa. He’s been suspended indefinitely from the KU team, appropriately enough.
Sure, DaJuan Gordon stole the ball when the game was already decided. Maybe not the classiest move, but you can’t really blame him. Likewise, you can’t blame De Sousa for blocking Gordon’s layup attempt. That’s basketball.
But De Sousa lorded it over Gordon, and that crossed the line. His team was already winning big, and he blocked the shot. He should have let that play speak for itself.
Instead, by essentially threatening a rival player, he invited some sort of response. Antonio Gordon flew in there and shoved De Sousa, and he obviously shouldn’t have done that. It crossed another line. De Sousa would have gotten a technical; Antonio Gordon could be sent to jail for battery.
I’m not saying K-State players are blameless here. James Love III, who left the bench to join the fray, also was in the wrong.
But then of course De Sousa started swinging — which crossed another line — and picked up a stool from a spectator in the seating area for disabled fans, preparing to use it as a weapon. That crossed yet another line. The Mercury’s photographer, Nick Oatley, got a hand on the chair as De Sousa appeared ready to bring it down as a weapon, and somebody else helped get it away from him as well.
The Big 12 handed down its punishments on Wednesday, suspending De Sousa for 12 games and his teammate David McCormack two games. Love was suspended for eight games and Antonio Gordon for three.
There’s a lot of history in this rivalry. Brannen Greene and his dunk during garbage time a few years ago. Barry Brown’s answer at the end of a game. The F*** KU chant. The chicken-winging. All of this may have played in, maybe.
Maybe. We would only really know that if we could get inside De Sousa’s brain.
Because the big issue is that Silvio De Sousa escalated the conflict three times, including the first time, and that’s on him, whatever his motivation. It’s on him individually — not on Bill Self, and not on Allen Fieldhouse, or the city of Lawrence, or whatever. The kid reacted the wrong way, and he’s facing the consequences. He should. He took a great rivalry into the gutter.