AFTER THE WHISTLE
Setting it straight
September 15, 2001
Steamboat Springs — By the time the third quarter had rolled around in last week’s Hayden vs. Nucla football game, the cheers from the fans standing behind me had turned ugly.
I’m used to fans cheering against the home team as I photograph local football games. Many times the best angle is in front of the opposing stands.
The visiting fans were fired up for this game because their team, the defending state champs in 2A, were in a tight battle with the hometown Tig-
Normally, I pay very little attention to the words fans use in the stands. I’m used to hearing them cheer when things go bad for the local team. I’ve heard the complaints about the officiating and the jeers when the home team gets a break.
While I enjoy watching the local teams win, I have to admit that I have little stake in the game no matter which team wins or loses. Either way I have to get back to the office and print the pictures or write the words that best describe what happened on the field for readers.
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But, on Saturday, the words coming from the visiting stands were disturbing to say the least.
There was one mother in particular who repeatedly used the phrase “kill him”or “kill them” to encourage defensive players to hit harder. The group also celebrated a big hit on a Hayden player and seemed overjoyed when the kid stumbled back to the huddle.
Now, I’m not coming down on the fans from Nucla. This was a small group of parents and I’m sure that away from the game they are perfectly nice individuals. It wasn’t even the hard hits that bothered me I’ve seen plenty of them and they usually sound a lot worse than they really are.
My problem with the way they were cheering was about the word choice in particular the choice to use the word “kill”.
I’m sure that given a videotape or possibly an audio tape these parents might even feel the need to change their behavior. Surely, they didn’t realize the impression they were making.
But the fact is that all parents and high school sports fans need to think about the words they use and the things they cheer for before they head out to the old ball game.
Football, by nature, is a very violent game. Fans get fired up, players get fired up and coaches get fired up. It’s easy to get lost in the moment, especially when your child is playing in a big game.
But it is important to remember that the players on the field are just that our children.
Just think if that is your kid carrying the ball and the fans on the other side of the field are yelling for him to be killed.
In today’s sporting world spectators have become a huge part of most games. The Colorado High School Activities Association has long understood this and provides a short to the point announcement prior to the start of most high school activities. I think it is a worthwhile statement. However, I have to wonder how many fans really listen to the words.
I hope fans will continue to show up in masses at all of our local high school sporting events whether they are home or away. I also hope they keep cheering for the local team and the local players. But I also hope that they cheer for the team that stands on the other sidelines, no matter how difficult, and realize that the fun is in playing the game and not who is winning or losing.