What’s this I see today? Vasquez causing drama? I, for one, am shocked–SHOCKED–at this turn of events. By now, many have probably seen the Wash. Post story in which Vasquez trashes Maryland fans. Among the blasts, he says negative fans “can get the hell out. We don’t need them anyway.”
I was at Comcast Center for the game Saturday. And yeah, I heard some boos. I also saw Vasquez putting his finger to his lips and shouting at the crowd. I was a ways away from the student section, so I don’t know what was said down there in the crucible of a sometimes frustrating and sloppy (although ultimately successful) game. People have claimed there were some racial slurs. Well, I didn’t hear any…of course, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but I feel like if Vasquez heard anything like that, he would have said something to the Post reporter. He’s not exactly Mr. Discretion. If racial comments were made, that’s obviously unacceptable. But lacking stronger evidence, I don’t really see a need to impugn an entire fan base. I’m also not going to get into the general quality of the Comcast Center crowd, or whether a crowd is ever justified in booing its own team. That’s another post.
Now, on to Vasquez. Vasquez, you can’t see me right now, but I’m putting my finger to my lips in your honor, just as you did to the fans last Saturday. You, my friend, are the self-proclaimed leader of this team. Is this the best way to channel your energy? Yeah, yeah, I know you’re a young guy, and as a Venezuelan new to the U.S. I imagine you may be grappling with various cultural issues. But this is a MAJOR D-1 BASKETBALL PROGRAM. You knew EXACTLY what you were signing up for. If you weren’t ready for the pressure, maybe you shouldn’t have come to such a high-profile school, or at least not consistently engaged in behavior that targets you for belligerent fans.
I am also aware that Vasquez is the Terps’ best player. But would you say he’s first-team All-ACC right now? I wouldn’t. Yeah, he can fill the stat sheet. But more often than not, he chokes in big moments. He often seems more interested in the crowd than in the other team, as evidenced by his comments today. His rabbit ears are the size of snowshoes. His skin is like tissue paper. His temper is like that old dynamite they found on Lost when the science teacher blew himself up. Is this how a leader focuses his energy when his team’s season is, once again, bound by spit and bailing wire?
I very much want Vasquez to succeed. And you know what? He may have a point. But as the leader he claims to be, he could have gone about this differently. He’s fiery. He’s emotional. I get that. And that’s great. But take it out on your opponents, not a bunch of fans. And is burning a bridge w ith a certain group really the best way to change that group’s behavior? You wanted to be the star, Vasquez. But until you accept everything that role entails, you’re going to keep underwhelming people in it.