Last Week, I attended a SUNY Geneseo Women’s Basketball Game – it was about my fourth sporting event of the semester. The game got a little rough, and we lost by a not-so-slim margin. But when I walked home that night, it wasn’t the game play I was disgusted with. It was the fans.
People tend to think of ‘sportsmanship’ as being a courteous player, high-fiving the other team when the game is over, not making gratuitous fouls, etc. What a lot of spectators ignore is the fact that they are an extension of that sportsmanship, and they can really ruin the game for everyone involved with their comments. Even though most of the hate is directed at the referees, I can only imagine how distracting and upsetting it is for the players as well. And this is college; you would think that most parents would have outgrown their extreme (and frankly childish) behavior after twelve years of sitting in the bleachers, but it’s even worse than it was in high school.
So for anyone who attends sporting events, at Pawling High School or elsewhere, here’s some food for thought:
#1) It’s not just a game. Of course it’s not. If it was just a game, these players wouldn’t practice for 12+ hours per week in addition to going to school, and obviously parents become attached to sports because it’s a manifestation of their kids’ dedication, hard work, and truly impressive abilities. No one’s asking you to observe in silence with your hands folded in your laps, because so much is invested, and so much is at stake. But there are appropriate ways to express what you’re feeling, even if it’s a negative emotion. A poor call may warrant an “Awwwwwww, c’mon…” – it should never elicit hysterical screams of, “Oh, nice call buddy, did the other team bring you with them? Just caaaaaash in that paycheck, that’s all that matters!” If it’s more than just a game, doesn’t it deserve a certain degree of respect?
#2) No one appreciates it. Not the people sitting next to you, who are watching two spectacles because of the scene you’re making. Not the referees, who have pretty much the toughest job in the world. Not the teams, both of which you are distracting and irritating. And certainly not your poor kid. He or she is mortified.
#3) Referees are people too… seriously. I honestly have no idea how the referees in the college games I’ve attended fall asleep at night, let alone refrain from turning around and giving the spectators a piece of their minds. There is so much hate. And at the end of the day, will the insults change anything, even if it seems like the refs are favoring the other team? Absolutely not.
The bottom line is that when you take your seat on the bleachers for any school sport, you are becoming an active part of that game. Hold yourself to standards of good sportsmanship, and remember that insults dilute the integrity of the competition.
Most importantly, save yourself from becoming what I need to see in the Geneseo bleachers: adults who are even more outrageous now that their kids are in college, verbally abusing the referees and making the spectators ashamed to be rooting for the same team as them.