What a wonderful lesson young folks learn these days: If you don't like something, ban it. Words, ideas, sentiments, emotions--they're all just pesky little problems that can be made to go away simply by deciding that they're not allowed anymore.
We have now seen the sad attempt in New York to eradicate the "n-word" by passing a resolution against it in the city council (non-binding, but still.) If you want to see what creating legal taboos does for a society, take a look at Germany, where rebellious kids relish displaying banned Nazi symbols, made far more enticing because they are illegal. And now, in Washington state, there's a move to ban booing at all high school sports events.
"I don't know why people think it's acceptable to boo in the first place," the executive director of Washington's Interscholastic Activities Association, Mike Colbrese, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "It's a pretty novel concept to me."
Impolite, certainly. Ugly, perhaps. But "novel?" What planet does this gent hail from? Booing is every bit as much a part of being a sports fan as memorizing stats and obsessing over people you will never meet. Sure, booing is more appropriate in the pro game, where the players are paid to provide entertainment, and the fans are encouraged to root both for and against the folks on the field.
But colleges are heavy into the theater of fan participation too, as a Wall Street Journal story reported over the weekend. The story detailed how colleges move the rowdiest of fans into prime seats to create a decided disadvantage for visiting teams. There's even an architecture firm that specializes in the art of maximizing crowd noise (some of you suspect that this is the firm that's been hired to design some local restaurants, too.)
At the other end of the spectrum, however, it's clear that fan excesses are a real problem in youth sports, where too many parents and coaches become way too abusive, spoiling the game for the kids and teaching awful lessons about proper behavior.
So high schools are perhaps some sort of middle ground. The wild overemphasis on athletics at some schools encourages the same kind of aggressive fan behavior that's perfectly routine at the college and pro levels. Yet these are generally just kids playing the game, not pre-professionals learning how to gird themselves against the fan abuse they will accept in later years in exchange for megabucks.
What's the right way to handle extreme fan behavior, then? Surely some fan excesses are totally unacceptable at high school games--throwing stuff on the court, foul language, fighting. But what's wrong with booing, or clever chants aimed at the other team, or the petty little distraction routines that fans use to try to steal a player's attention away from his moment on the charity stripe. Booing and jeering are hardly expressions of some contemporary decline in manners; they have been with us since the Roman circuses and they are an honorable part of the spectator's role in any public exhibition of sporting rivalry.
Let 'em boo.
By Marc Fisher |
March 7, 2007; 7:37 AM ET
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