High school sports are a pretty big deal in some parts of the country (looking at you, Texas), and fans of everything from football to basketball to hockey like to get in on the fun in the bleachers: cheering, clapping and, sure, a little lighthearted ribbing. But Wisconsin has put high school smack-talkers on notice with a policy that some are calling way too stringent.
Good sportsmanship is a fine line to walk: On the one hand, no one likes an ungracious winner (or loser, for that matter), but on the other hand, high-energy sports like basketball and football naturally get blood running hot. There’s nothing pleasant about listening to a bunch of riled-up adolescents and over-invested adults spew nastiness from the sidelines, but a little harmless taunting is all part of the fun, isn’t it? Some “hey batter, batter” action never hurt anyone, did it?
Not so, says the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association.
WIAA recently sent out an email that has students bristling, reminding them that there are rules to be followed regarding what can and can’t be said at school sporting events:
“Any action directed at opposing teams or their spectators with the intent to taunt, disrespect, distract or entice an unsporting behavior in a response is not acceptable sportsmanship. Student groups, school administrators and event managers should take immediate steps to correct this unsporting behavior.”
Some things that made the very long list of “unsportsmanlike behavior” include:
- “Any chants/comments that are disrespectful to an opponent or official, including school mascot, school nickname, school population, opponent’s town or community or that is derogatory to an individual because of race, gender, creed, body type or ability.” OK, this one makes sense. Great call, WIAA.
- “Booing of any kind.” Sure, we can see how that could get “unsportsmanlike.”
- Chants like “Air ball,” “You can’t do that,” “Fund-a-mentals,” “We can’t hear you” and “Warm up the bus.” Wait…
- “’Nah, nah, hah, nah…hey-eyy goodbye’ song; ‘Season’s Over’ chant.” Now hang on just a minute!
- “’U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A’ or any acronym of derogatory language or innuendo.” U-S-A doesn’t always stand for “You suck ass,” you know…
- “Fan participation activities while the game is actually being played (i.e. roller coaster, the wave, etc.)” All right, now they’ve crossed a line.
This is a little out of order, isn’t it? The list bans much, much more than this, and while some of it seeks to maintain respect among competitors by banning racist and derogatory language, which is perfectly reasonable, banning things like “the wave” will definitely earn you a shiny fun-police badge.
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There’s lots of evidence that shows that a healthy, appropriate level of athletic participation has benefits for kids. And while not all of us are sports fans, there’s no denying that attending events and cutting loose for a while makes for a certain community togetherness effect. Why throw the baby out with the bathwater? “Hey, hey, hey good-bye” never sent anyone home in tears. The whole point of competitive sports is the friendly competition, is it not?
Because some of the stuff on the list is innocuous. There’s a difference between saying “Hey, it’s all in good fun!” to dismiss entitled bad behavior and saying “Hey, it’s all in good fun!” when referring to something like the freaking wave.
Needless to say, people aren’t happy with the buzzkill brigade, and some, including Wisconsin students, have taken to airing their grievances on Twitter, sometimes pretty hilariously:
wiaa: that is disrespectful, inappropriate, unsportsmanlike, and taunting to opponents, fans, and officials
— Chani (@chaniii__) January 12, 2016
WIAA acceptable chant to officials: "Dear Sirs: We beg to differ, but thank you for your service to our game."
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) January 12, 2016
If the wiaa thinks I'm not gonna stare someone down after I sink a 50-foot putt, they're wrong👀 I'll pound my chest too tbh
— Austin Bisbee (@AustinBisbee) January 12, 2016
Breaking: WIAA releases new state championship trophy design pic.twitter.com/j4B6nQL6pG
— Dylan VanBoxel (@DBox1232) January 12, 2016
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Just remember, kids: Caution is always a good idea. Once you start tweeting at the WIAA and requesting that they “EAT [EXPLETIVE],” as one now-suspended student athlete did, you run the risk of not just getting into trouble but of proving their point. So don’t be that person.
There is a time to be aggressive, B-E aggressive, but now might be the time to be less aggressive, slightly less aggressive.