Saturday, November 27, 2004
The high school winter sports season is upon us.
But before you head out to cheer for the Sailors, Tigers or Rams, please remember that high school sports are not the pros.
Good, alcohol-free behavior is the only thing appropriate in a high-school sports matchup.
If you want to throw a cup of beer at an opposing player, you'll need to drive down to Denver the next time the Nuggets are playing the Pistons or Pacers.
That's the only place where fans are allowed to start a riot, players are allowed to respond by punching the fans, and they all end up in the "People's Court," where the moron who started the whole thing can sue for millions. Only in America.
This week, in response to the ugly confrontation between Detroit's fans and the Indiana Pacers, the assistant commissioner of the Colorado High School Coaches Association, Bert Borgmann, sent an e-mail to high school athletic directors and media outlets across the state regarding sporting behavior.
Basically, he asked coaches to tell their players to look somewhere besides the NBA for inspiration and not to act like all those sports superstars who typically are treated like heros.
It's like telling my 3-year-old that the Hundred Acre Woods is a great place to visit, but don't model your life after that fuzzy yellow bear or hyperactive bouncing tiger.
The truth is that our children are watching games such as the infamous one in Detroit, and yes, they will remember the actions of the players on the court that day. It would be easy simply to blame the players for the whole thing -- those great big numbers on their backs along with the videotape makes them easy to single out.
But what about the other guys, the people who were wearing Pistons jerseys and baseball caps and remind you of your dad, your neighbor or your teacher? Those people also are setting examples, and it's important that their actions are not repeated in a high school gym.
The fans are not getting paid millions of dollars to play a children's game, but they made an impression just as memorable as Ron Artest did. The fans are defining how we should act at sporting events -- what is appropriate and what is not.
It's kind of funny, but when I first read Borgmann's e-mail last week, I sort of chuckled and thought he was overreacting. But after a few minutes, it started to sink in. If American sports fans continue their present course, it can't be too much longer before their actions start to filter down to their children's and grandchildren's high school games, which they undoubtedly attend.
I hope I never see it, but I would not be surprised if it happens.