There is something that comes over us when we’re watching sports that can explode in an array of emotions. Maybe it’s some sort of jealous subconscious that we’re not the ones on TV making millions of dollars to play a game. Maybe it’s because we think we could do better, or a team is from our alma mater or home state giving us a strong connection.
Whatever it is, all sports fans are guilty of it in one way or another.
You’ve seen the guy using schoolyard tactics to flip someone’s name or the crowd chant something to try to get under the skin of a player. Heck, I have publicly called LeBron James a crybaby or princess on several occasions. It’s just a part of the game.
These attacks aren’t welcomed on all levels though.
I spent the better part of the last several weeks covering high school basketball through playoffs and into the State Tournament. In that time I experienced some of the worst verbal attacks that I have heard on any level.
There were parents yelling at their kids to slap members of the other team to teach them a lesson, stomping after missed shots and the usual chorus of telling the referees they made a bad call – although some even took that a step too far.
None of those are what brought all of this up though.
In one instance where a player had missed a few shots and one of her teammates was taken out of the game for a spell things went overboard.
An irate fan, there to cheer on that same team, started yelling that the wrong player was taken out. She repeated her screeching for several minutes, worsening as time drew on, echoing across the arena.
After a while she started calling the player by number, and eventually by name.
The girl was having a rough start before the bullying began. There was no way she could build up her confidence after it.
Instead her face and mind were filled with doubt in herself. When she was eventually taken off the court you could see the disdain and sadness in her face. To which, of course, the woman cheered. People on press row were appalled.
This was far from the first time I had noticed her loud yelling and cursing at one of these events. But it was, by far, the worst.
Something should have been done long before she was ever allowed to get that far out of control. We don’t allow bullying in the classroom, why should we allow it in the stands?
And make no mistake. This was bullying. It might not have been in a typical setting or seemed like it to those that witnessed it because of the circumstances, but it was.
A child was maliciously attacked and belittled by a grown woman and allowed to continue doing so. I don’t know if anyone told her that she needed to stop but I hope so.
These kids go out there and give their all knowing this will probably be it for them. There are no scholarships in most of their futures, they’re probably not going to be seen playing on TV and almost certainly won’t make a living out of playing. The best most can hope for is a letter jacket that will be lost in a closet three years after graduating and eventually given to Goodwill.
It doesn’t do anyone any good to be so vile as to take even that little bit of hope away.
These kids should be going out there and having fun, and if they happen to be good enough to win a championship and go play in college good on them. We can’t allow people in the stands to strip away that joy.
Hopefully next time the woman’s anger can be displaced in a more appropriate way, such as yelling at an inanimate object while listening to the game on the radio. Or, better yet, that she learns the errors of her ways and in the very least doesn’t attack children.
There isn’t enough room in the stands for fans to act like that.