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Sounds of Thunder: Utah Jazz fans need lessons about personal space

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...And so does a local Salt Lake City TV affiliate.

Russell Westbrook catches a lot of criticism from the media. Some of it is fair, some of it is not, and some of it skirts the edges, if not crosses the line completely, of what some might view as out-and-out slander.

Case in point, a recent story about Westbrook’s run-in with a Utah Jazz fan as he was exiting the floor after game 6. The story is based on an interview KSL TV’s Caitlin Burchill did with the fan involved in the incident, Chad Linebaugh.

The story came to my attention by way of a comment...well... mmm... okay, a comment from a Jazz fan in the WTLC comment section. The story the link in the comment led to is just a skeleton of what it is today, but for what it’s worth, here is the image of the original comment:

This is the link to what’s left of KSL’s original story on Westbrook.

Utah Man Defends Jazz Fans After Scuffle with OKC Thunder Player

I spent the past few days studying the original video posted with Burchill’s story and found a number of inconsistencies in Linebaugh’s story and expose them in this video:

Apparently, I’m not the only one that caught the stories’ shortcomings. As I mentioned, within days the story was cut down to its bare bones and Linebaugh’s video removed entirely, probably because many of the statements in the comment section condemned Linebaugh’s actions and didn’t buy his innocent act any more than I did.

In addition, a story written by KSL.com contributor Patrick Kinahan discusses the same incident but in an entirely different light.

The cost of a ticket does not give permission to taunt visiting players with derogatory personal comments, no matter how heated a particular game may become. A little perspective can go a long way toward preventing any unnecessary confrontations.

Obviously, this holds true for Jazz fans, who have helped create an intimidating atmosphere for visiting teams. With a noise level that can reach deafening levels, Vivint Smart Home Arena is recognized as being one of the best home-court advantages in the NBA.

Unfortunately, the actions of a few tarnish the well-earned reputation the majority have as vocal, supportive fans. It has created a bad image that the Jazz and their loyal supporters don’t deserve or want.

Stephen Jackson added his thoughts on the Westbrook incident and talked about his experience with Utah fans as an ex-Warrior playing against the Jazz:

I suppose KSL deserves some kudos for altering their stand on this incident, but it doesn’t excuse running Burchill's piece which was nothing more than checkout line yellow journalism.

The Video Evidence Keeps Rolling In

In 1963, Edward T. Hall, a cultural anthropologist, coined the term proxemics and defined it as “the interrelated observations and theories of humans use of space as a specialized elaboration of culture.” Proxemics is valuable in evaluating the way people interact with others in daily life.

To clarify, proxemics, proximity + emics, is the branch of knowledge that deals with the amount of space that people feel it necessary to set between themselves and others.

From his observations, Hall came up with a chart that defined some social norms for proximity:

wikipedia.com

For our purpose, let’s focus on Hall’s hot zones, intimate and personal space.

Per Wikipedia:

Personal space is the region surrounding a person which they regard as psychologically theirs. Most people value their personal space and feel discomfort, anger, or anxiety when their personal space is encroached.

As the Houston Rockets were exiting the floor at halftime of game 2 against the Jazz, and again as they returned to the floor, James Harden slaps a Jazz fan’s hand away:

Note the Jazz fan, Jason Glad, loudly heckling Harden and more importantly, reaching over the rail to get his phone within inches of Harden’s face.

Now listen to Glad’s interaction with security after he went at Harden AGAIN as the Rockets were returning to the floor.

Had a great time at the Jazz game!!! Harden....didn’t have as much fun as me.

Posted by Jason Glad on Wednesday, May 2, 2018

I wonder if Jason Glad and Chad Linebaugh might be related, because they are clearly cut from the same cloth. Linebaugh went to KSL to set the record “straight” and told them a story that had more holes in it than a slab of Swiss cheese and Glad is doing the same thing via his Facebook page.

Have you figured it out yet? Where is the other video, Mr. Glad? The one shot when the Rockets were leaving the floor? I get it. You don’t want anyone to hear what you were screaming at Harden on his way to the locker room. I get it.

The comment Glad posted with the video:

Had a great time at the Jazz game!!! Harden....didn’t have as much fun as me.

Glad tells security he never leaned over the rail. Watch the first video again. Is Glad telling the truth, or is his statement a lie? Now watch video number 2 and note the rail in the lower right disappearing as Harden approaches. Also, note that Harden is coming down the aisle as far away from Glad as possible and yet Glad’s phone is within easy reach.

What did Glad think the Rocket staff did during halftime? Forget about him? NO - they went to security so they could place themselves to witness the whole event.

Are we having fun yet, Mr. Glad?

This fan that Deadspin labeled the “Heckling Weenie” after the Harden incident, intentionally invaded the player’s intimate space and then cried about it when he got a predictable response. Linebaugh is guilty of the same thing.

According to proxemic researchers, unless the amygdala, a part of our brain tied to the limbic system, is damaged, we all instinctively know what is and is not the proper distance to maintain from someone. So that leaves only two alternatives — either Glad and Linebaugh have brain damage, or their actions were deliberate.

Taking Stephen Jackson’s experience playing the Jazz from his day into account, and these incidences occurring just days apart, I’m going with option B.

Final Thoughts

There isn’t much left to discuss. Chad Linebaugh’s story was weak and should have never gone past the first editor’s desk much less get published. It’s just that simple.

So, for publishing something the National Enquirer would have thought twice about, I award Caitlin Burchill and KSL TV...