Guy Ellis

The student section at a high school basketball game is a place of high energy. The voices are loud and the enthusiasm is at a fever pitch.

The students that comprise the section are, of course, kids. And kids have a tendency to attempt to get away with murder, especially when said kids have strength in numbers. So, school administrators and officials have to keep a tab on the student section to keep all of that excitement in check.

For instance, a student section has gone too far when they begin chanting the names of opposing players and coaches. That kind of action moves the cheering from a team-centric realm into the more personal and it crosses a line.

Likewise, the student section should not be allowed to use racial stereotype names of a degenerative nature toward opposing players. Calling a player of a certain ethnicity, say, Sambo, goes beyond the pale of all acceptable social norms.

No school official anywhere should tolerate a student section that yells out homophobic slurs toward an opposing team.

It might seem that the above paragraphs are all stating the obvious. After all, most school systems have language in their codes that prohibit bullying and encourage sportsmanship.

Yet, already in this new basketball season, I had the displeasure of witnessing all of the above actions- plus some not mentioned- occur at a game I was attending outside of my usual Grove/Jay/Fairland/Afton beat recently.

Kids are kids, as discussed, but school officials are educated adults entrusted with a responsibility to provide the sanity in situations that call for it. But the school officials at the basketball game referenced above did nothing- at least that I saw- to curb the powder keg that was in their gymnasium that night.

Approaching a pitch fork-type mob of teenagers doesn’t strike me as the most pleasant of duties. Perhaps there was no school official present who has the necessary respect of the students to calm them. But you would imagine that the three police officers present in the gymnasium would have the requisite respect of the kids and that the officers would have moved in to direct the students had the school officials requested it.

In the end everyone at the gym that night was lucky. The school officials allowed the students to display their immaturity and except for some heated remarks between students from both schools at the close of the game- a situation diffused by the parents of the insulted visiting team- everything ended peaceably.

But the potential for something much worse was there.

After the game the hosting school officials received an earful from parents of the visiting team. Most outlined what has been stated here but they did it in a much more colorful prose that, alas, I am not capable of reproducing here.

One of the biggest shames for the hosting team that night was that the actions of their classmates, and the inactions of their school leaders, overshadowed the athletic talent of their varsity team.

And, again, no one seemed to be holding a grudge against the student section. We’re talking about a group of people who are wearing toboggans and sunglasses inside a gymnasium, OK, so no one expects too much good judgment from them.

But visiting teams do expect good judgment from the hosting school officials. And to the detriment of all involved, that good judgment was nowhere to be found at one of the basketball games I attended last week.