Howard: Unruly fans shouldn't be game's focus
OSAA guidelines state that fans cannot have cheers directed at the opposition, but the rule is rarely enforced
Athletic events sure are fun, and often thrilling things. A usually docile mother of three suddenly becomes a shrieking behemoth, face painted with her childs number and sporting an old, puffy-paint adorned t-shirt.
You cant help but love those people. The ability of sports to get the fanatic out of just about anyone is truly special, and it opens up a venue for people to get their energy out in a positive, entertaining way. That is, as long as everyone stays under control.
The Oregon School Activities Association is well aware that fans – usually students – can get a little out of hand, and theyve done their best to lay out some guidelines for how contest-goers should act.
According to the current handbook, fans are only to cheer in direct support of their own team under the umbrella of general sportsmanlike conduct. There are plenty of rules governing everything from where students are to stand at games to the use of foam fingers.
These guidelines are actually more stringent than most casual fans know. For example, the handbook clarifies that yelling things such as air ball or you got swatted are disallowed. The book does give room for students to cheer during free throws in basketball and serves in volleyball, but with so many rules to follow, how often are they broken?
All the time. In fact, every night. Eventually the discussion has to surround the spirit of the law, which is to maintain order and safety. If you nitpick, its simple to find violations, but not everything is worth stopping the game to fix.
This season, there havent been many stoppages in play. One of the few was during the Indians volleyball playoff game against Tillamook, when the students were instructed to stand on the first row of the bleachers and keep the playing surface clear. Much of the credit for the student sections (both Scappoose and St. Helens) relative lack of rowdy behavior lies on the shoulders of athletics directors Robert Medley and Cyndy Miller.
Medley in particular spends most of the game just to the left of the students, keeping a sharp eye on the section, and making sure they remain safe and sportsmanlike. For the most part, other than a few unruly kids here and there, it hasnt been an issue.
On Tuesday night, though, Scappoose volleyball got a taste of a student section at Estacada whose supervision might have been a little lackadaisical.
Im not calling for the suspension of the program, or even saying a violation took place but man, were they obnoxious. The majority of the sections cheering happened while Scappoose was in possession. The students jeered with every Indian touch, and quietly piped E-H-S when their own team went on offense.
Again, I may vent out of annoyance rather than seeing an actual violation, but either way, the cheering didnt make for a positive atmosphere. The visiting Scappoose students, who stood directly above the Estacada student section, were mice by contrast. They politely held their signs, cheered when the Indians won a point and did their best to cover up the Rangers with chants of their own. Even to the casual observer, they were respectful and well behaved.
Should Estacada get penalized? Probably not, but one thing is clear – you should be proud of the way the Scappoose students handled themselves. On a night where the opposing fans toed the line of sportsmanlike conduct, the Tribe never lost their composure.
For the future, its important to remember where the value of sport comes from. The attitude of the event is as important as the result of the contest. Creating a positive atmosphere for the student athletes, the fans and the officials is paramount, and if people leave with a bad taste in their mouths, something needs to change.