It’s time to start treating sporting events like a zoo. But who are we protecting from whom?

In this photo provided by Avi Miller, security watches after Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones was taunted by racial slurs at Fenway Park in Boston on May 1.
In this photo provided by Avi Miller, security watches after Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones was taunted by racial slurs at Fenway Park in Boston on May 1. AP

What a bunch of animals!

Recent incidents in the sporting world have reminded us just how barbaric humans can be.

Whether it’s a confrontation between Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley and an Oklahoma City Thunder fan he said verbally berated him during a game or fans throwing peanuts (and apparently racial slurs along with them) at Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, these are just the most recent events that highlight the constant teetering that happens along a very tenuous line in sports.

However, what makes these situations even more troublesome is that “the line” often is an invisible one.

Let’s play “What If.”

What if one of Beverley’s meeting with the fan (later identified as Stuart Scaramucci, son of a Thunder minority owner) – either during the game or after – had escalated violently? Well, certainly there would be a huge uproar and pressure would be put on the NBA to make changes to ensure no such incident would happen again.

What if Jones had gotten tired of the verbal and near-physical assault and decided to take matters into his own hands? Once again, it would likely end in an ugly situation that would put a black eye on a sport that certainly doesn’t need another one (think Black Sox Scandal, Pete Rose, performance-enhancers).

However, neither of these incidents escalated into violence. But who’s to say another won’t in the near future?

I’m sure you remember “Malice at the Palace” or “Basketbrawl,” when the artist formerly known as Ron Artest was struck by a drink thrown by a fan while lying on the scorer’s table in Detroit. What ensued was sports’ worst nightmare: fans and players engaged in an all-out chaotic and physical altercation.

At that point, it’s hard to say who was in the right and who was in the wrong. But one thing’s for sure: It would be easier if the prospects had been thought out and avoided ahead of time.

It’s time to stop playing “What If” and instead build a barrier.

In many cases, especially in basketball, fans are simply too close to the action. While at times they are to blame, in other cases the players are at fault.

So who are we protecting from whom?

It really doesn’t matter. Everyone involved is human, even though some of them – fans and players both – at times act like they have no civility and would be better caged up so they don’t harm anyone.

It’s sad that we’re at a time where we need to treat sporting events like a zoo. But in a day and age where it’s all about “me, me, me” – scroll social media for five minutes and then see if you can argue otherwise – it’s necessary. I bet in some circles those fans or players who acted like immature children were applauded by peers, and that’s probably exactly what they were looking hoping for.

Or wait, perhaps they’ll go viral. You can’t beat that these days!

So what exactly will we be missing if we take this precaution of separating fans and players?

Well, we’d miss out on Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James playfully taking a beer from a vendor and pretending to take a swig during a game. We’d miss out on players crashing into fans, either injuring themselves or the patrons.

Darn. How could we go on without that?

Overall, I think it’s better to be safe than sorry. Like with a zoo, any damage that could occur without a barrier may not be intended.

However, like any wild animal, humans can snap at any moment, especially if aggressively provoked.

I know it’s a fine line between biting the hand that feeds you (the fans and their access) and keeping folks safe. However, one incident could change everything.

It’s time to stop poking the bear.

On tap

Coastal Carolina’s Malene Kroboll Hansen represent the Chanticleers while playing as an individual in an NCAA regional in Texas from Monday through Wednesday. … The CCU baseball team hosts UNC Wilmington at 6 p.m. Tuesday before heading to Texas for a three-game set against UT Arlington (6:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday). … Coastal’s softball team begins play in the Sun Belt tournament Wednesday. … Coastal Carolina’s track and field teams compete in the Sun Belt Outdoor Championship from Friday through Sunday. … The South Carolina baseball team hosts Presbyterian at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Liberty at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Gamecocks then play at Missouri on Friday (7:30 p.m.), Saturday (3 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.). … The Clemson baseball team plays at Furman on Tuesday (7 p.m.) before hosting Louisville on Friday (6:30 p.m.), Saturday (4 p.m.) and Sunday (noon). … The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads to Kansas Speedway for the Go Bowling 400 at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. … The PGA Tour heads to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., for The Players Championship from Thursday through Sunday. … The Myrtle Beach Pelicans play a three-game set (7 p.m. Tuesday, 11 a.m. Wednesday and 7 p.m. Thursday) before returning home for a seven-game homestand, beginning with three against Lynchburg (7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3:05 p.m. Sunday) and concluding with four against Buies Creek (7:05 p.m. Monday through Thursday). … In tennis, the ATP and WTA tours continue play in the ATP & WTA Mutua Madrid Open through Sunday. … Several area athletes will compete in hopes of earning gold in the S.C. state track and field championships Friday and Saturday at Spring Valley High in Columbia. … The Socastee boys tennis team hosts West Florence at 5 p.m. Monday at Prestwick Country Club in the Class 5A Lower State final. The winner will advance to the state championship match Saturday at Cayce Tennis Center. … Several area baseball and softball teams will continue play in the Lower State tournament this week.

David Wetzel: 843-626-0295, @MYBSports