While sports can bring people of all backgrounds and all opinions from all the cities of all the worlds together in one room to root for one team, it can just as easily give educated people an opportunity to lose themselves in their fandom and provides a setting to openly root against human beings. In theory that ends when both fan and player exit the arena, but we all know more often than not, that is simply not the case — not even close.
Briante Weber is feeling the full force of that at this very moment.
Weber screwed up. The 21-year old from Chesapeake, VA was caught attempting to theft an iPhone and has been suspended for three games including VCU’s season-opener against Tennessee on November 14.
A VCU fan favorite, Weber has made a name for himself nationally by being one of the best defensive players in the country since first stepping on a D1 basketball court, securing VCU’s all-time steals record this past season in just his junior year and has the all-time D1 NCAA record dead in his sites. Steals leader plus a petit larceny charge makes for one obvious (and very easy) punchline, and it’s one Weber should expect to hear all season long.
Two places he can expect to hear those the loudest: The University of Richmond and Old Dominion.
Easily VCU’s two biggest rivals, Spider and Monarch fans are having a field day with this one already. The most popular thread on Richmond’s SpiderNation.com forum is on the subject, while the Monarch’s have one of their own entitled “My I Phone is Missing!!”.
Forget the fact that Weber grew up just seventeen minutes from ODU, or that he now shares a city with Spider fans, he’s on an opposing basketball team, which makes him a target both on and off the court.
While I’m not here to apologize for Weber’s bonehead mistake (Bri, that was dumb, what the f#c* man), I am here to remind folks — including the opposition on the court — that there’s more to Briante Weber than one bad decision as a 21-year old. Did you make mistakes when you were 21? Do you make them now? Hell, when I was 21 I was in an emo band, wore a jean jacket even in the hottest weather and died my hair black, and I’m sure many of you did much worse at that age and probably still doing much worse now.
I don’t know Briante like a brother, but I’ve been around the guy through this VCU basketball family of mine for three years and can tell you that this is a good guy who made a bad decision, not a bad guy who got caught.
ESPN.com and every other national outlet will publish this story on Weber’s mistake and fans around the country will make a snap judgment on Weber based off this one action (too easy not to), but what they won’t see is the guy who sings his heart out with kids at The Children’s Hospital, visits patients in the Evans-Haynes Burn Center, rides in shopping carts while shopping with Boys & Girls Club members for the holidays or entertains 7-year olds at Coach Smart’s basketball camp — not because he has to, but because the guy genuinely enjoys making people happy.
I get that fans are going to root against Weber as a flashy player wearing an opposing jersey. My hope however is that once the buzzer has sounded and the scores are final — win or lose — we will ALL root for Bri as a person. While he may not have hit perfection at the age of 21, he’s done a lot of good for a lot of people and if nothing else deserves our support and guidance in his quest to do a lot more of the good while leaving the mistakes in college, where they belong.
We got your back, Bri.