I've been covering sports now for nearly 20 years. I've done everything from junior high to college Division I. I've worked the high school playoffs, college tourneys, both playoff and conference games. I've done and the NCAAs, I've written hundreds of articles for our local newspapers.
Last year I broadcast my 1,000th game. I''ve seen blowouts, barn burners, and even saw a game go five overtimes. I remember one game where there were no foul shots the entire game on either side. One thing I've always said was "I could write a book on the things I hear in the bleachers around me."
Sometimes it makes me smile, and yes sometimes it makes me laugh. There have been many times when I've been embarrassed and even ashamed to be in the same crowd. I'm not just pointing a finger outwards, I have to include myself. When I'm at a game in the stands as a fan I can be just as brutal. Just ask my children.
Even so, it's always made me wonder why do we put so much into a game? What is it that makes us react as we do?
It seems recently I've noticed the fans in the stands more and some of the language that's been coming out of the crowd isn't polite. I mean, its words I'd would have been afraid to even write as a youngster, let alone say in the middle of a packed game.
With the economy as bad as it is, and with the skyrocketing prices, what it cost to see any pro games now days. It has more and more families who are turning to the local games for their entertainment dollars.
Why not? You can take a family of four to a high school game for less than 20 bucks. Then you add a coke and a hot dog for a buck and a buck and a half and you've got something we can all afford.
We get to see our kids play, or maybe our grandkids. There's the players, the cheerleaders, the band members and all the others who attend the games. Fan support is something every team needs no matter what level your watching.
It's what hires and fires coaches. Its what makes us holler like we do at the officials when things don't go our way. Its what we all do, no matter the level.
We go to a game we react. How do we react and how does it effect our teams? I don't mind anyone getting into the spirit of the game. Seeing the old rivalries, you can get excited just walking through the doors.
How do you react? Are you helping your team or are you hurting them? Do you yell at the coach when someone your watching doesn't play? Do you yell at the referees when they make a call against you?
Like I said, I'm just as big a fan as the next guy. But some of the things I hear today can make even me blush. I hear cuss words and look around and see kids that are in junior high and younger who look at each other and giggle. They've heard the words before but the know their not supposed to use them.
Anymore were seeing signs and announcements before and during the game about sportsmanship and what it means to the game. But that all seems to go out the door once the game begins.
Are we forgetting that one, its just a game, and two their just kids playing? I'm talking about kids in the age range of 13 to 18 years old.
Also, why is it no matter where you go there's one loudmouth that not only can be heard on one side of the packed gym, but clear across the floor on the other side? Like I said earlier I'm not pointing a finger at someone else, I to am guilty, but why is it we do it?
We do we put so much into a game? What's so important that we react as we do? Forget playing for some kind of title, I'm talking about a regular season, non-conference, game. Why is it we've become so into the game that we forget how we behave?
Who are the leaders here and who sets the tone? Is it the coach, the athletic director, the cheerleaders, the band, who? Are we helping set a good example for our kids?
I played football, basketball and ran track in high school. For the life of me I don't remember it being as bad as it seems today. Do we not realize when we yell we are showing ourselves to our guests? What kind of example do they take home with them?
I was a state licenced official for 25 years. I worked every sport in our state except gymnastics and football. I've worked the state tournaments in just about all.
I've been on the receiving end of some pretty stiff yells after calls, some warranted and some not. Looking back I can honestly say I never went into a game to cheat one school or another. I used to tell other officials I don't care where you're working at this year, are you coming back the next?
I remember shaking my head several times after I blew a call. It wasn't something I did intentionally. I worked hard when I was an official. My mentor was Dave Perry.
Dave was the athletic director at Michigan City Rodgers high school, in northern Indiana. Dave's part time job was as a college official, he was also an official in the NFL. He was good and he worked the Super Bowl.
Dave told me "to be a good official you need to be in shape. You need to hustle, and when you leave most didn't even know you were there.
These days I find myself upset the most when I see officials out of shape and loafing up and down the floor. Dave once said "the players work hard all week so they can come out and play a good game, why shouldnt we?
We all make mistakes. Think of this, what if the referees from tonight's game, or the coaches, players or visiting teams came to your work place the following day and yelled and screamed every time you made a mistake?
Think about it. How would you react if they yelled, cussed and said the same things to you as you did them? What would your bosses say? How long would you have your job?
As we ponder these things, at our next game, be conscious of what you say and do. Make it a point to think just a little bit before you speak. Think hard about how you react. If you were playing is it the way you'd want to be hollered at?
A man who was much wiser than me one time said, "a temper is the one thing you lose that no one wants to help you find." Be a fan, and not the loudmouth. In closing all I can say is I wish I had written this 30 years ago, my son Larry is looking over my shoulder, and he wishes that too.