We should all strive to instill in future generations the importance of good sportsmanship. Nobody likes a sore loser and the only thing worse is an ungracious winner. Respect for an opponent is an important part of school athletics but, sadly, like so many other important principles that can be taught via sports, this is being pushed-aside to coddle the delicate flowers of our society.
The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has released a new set of guidelines indicating what kind of speech is now off-limits for the crowd and fellow student players. The new rules now prohibit the crowds and players from uttering any words or phrases that “are clearly intended to taunt or disrespect.”
April Gehl of Hilbert High School in Wisconsin was recently given a five-game suspension for a tweet which included profanity illustrating her disapproval of the new pansy-oriented guidelines. “I couldn’t believe it,” Gehl said regarding her suspension. “I was like, ‘Really? For tweeting my opinion?’ I thought it was ridiculous.”
The WIAA clarified in an email:
“As we reviewed the fall tournaments and the sportsmanship evaluations and observations, we want to address concerns with a noticeable increase in the amount of chants by student sections directed at opponents and/or opponents’ supporters that are clearly intended to taunt or disrespect.
“Not wanting to restrict creativity or enjoyment, an enthusiastic and boisterous display of support for a school’s team is welcomed and encouraged at interscholastic events when directed in a positive manner. However, any action directed at opposing teams or their spectators with the intent to taunt, disrespect, distract or entice an unsporting behavior in response in not acceptable sportsmanship. Student groups, school administrators and event managers should take immediate steps to correct this unsporting behavior.”
Student spectators are now banned from chants that include: “Air-ball! Air-ball!” “Scoreboard” and “Season’s over”.
In high school, as players, taunts were half the point of playing sports. On the defensive line in a football game, we would taunt, jeer and try and distract the opposing players. If we were lucky, maybe an off-color comment about an opponent’s sister or mother would prompt a false start or even an unnecessary roughness charge. It wasn’t personal; it was just how the game was played. Believe me, many a time I had things said about my mother or my sister (of which I have none)- I was just smart enough to never take the bait.
I’m not saying it was nice; I’m just saying that it was a part of the game and somehow, we all survived and turned out just fine.
As a college spectator, chants were an integral part of the in-person viewing experience. My college alma mater is home to the Oregon Ducks, a team which plays in a bowl-like football stadium with crazy acoustics and passionate fans who have made Autzen Stadium one of the consistently most-formidable places for visiting teams to play in.
Forcing someone to watch a game without chanting things like “Ov-er-ra-ted” and “na na na na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye!” is like forcing someone to attend a ballgame without a cold beer or forcing someone to watch Women’s Basketball- It’s just bland and seems less like an affirmation of America’s love of competition and more like the kind of thing that would have gone on in Abu Ghraib back in the day.
The most-upsetting aspect of the WIAA’s new guidelines is that these “progressive” edicts will likely spread. Other states, like California, will soon want to coddle the delicate flowers of their student body populations in their quest to make sure no easily-offended starchild ever encounters a moment of discomfort or low self-esteem. Soon, pathetic participation trophies will be the least of our worries when attempting to form competitive young adults capable of handling the harsh world.