Cheering for Spite: How Sports Fans Cheer the Wrong Way

Chris TorelloCorrespondent IMay 27, 2009

ATLANTA - AUGUST 14:  An unidentified fan yells at Barry Bonds with a 'Barry Cheats' t-shirt on during the game between the Atlanta Braves and the San Francisco Giants at Turner Field August 14, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

We have all been a part of a growing disease that has spread across the sports nations we have come to love and admire. When our favorite teams or athletes succeed, we are cheering them on and doing almost anything to make them win—including insulting their opponents.

Whether it's Tiger Woods missing a crucial putt so that poor old Phil Mickelson, your favorite golfer, can win a major, or Roger Federer double-faulting so American tennis player Andy Roddick can gain momentum, the common error is made: We cheer when someone else makes a mistake.

Though there is no fault in wanting that other person to win, there is the sense that by cheering after a mistake was made, we are only adding to the universal negatives of sports, of which there are many.

My personal favorites are watching a visiting NBA player miss an important foul shot, or when a kicker misses a field goal, and seeing how the fans in the stands react by raising their hands in the air and even saying, "Thank God!" Yeah, right, because God made him miss.

Maybe on a professional level this is more acceptable, because these are highly talented athletes who are being paid to play, and we are paying to watch them. The same may also be said for the college athletes, because they are being given so much and are probably on a full or at least partial scholarship.

The real issue for this writer is watching it happen on the high school level.

In high school, student-athletes go through the same things that high-paid professional superstars go through: the interview with a newspaper reporter after a win, the fans on both sides cheering real loud, the feel of a close game creeping in as the clock winds downs.

However, these are the only similarities high school athletics has with professional or college sports.

The fans cheering are usually doing so when their side has made a good play or the other side has made an error. When this occurs at a high school level, the damage done to a student-athlete's psyche is to the point where they figure the only way to avoid this negative cheering or booing is to win. 

Watching a young man or woman dealing with the pressures of having to win and do everything to make that happen is tragic.

Whether it is watching a girl in a league tennis championship match repeatedly call the ball out just to gain momentum and rack up points to keep the distant crowd in her favor, or a football player punching at a ball carrier in a pileup just to cause a fumble, they are lowering themselves to one simple word: cheating.

Cheating seems to be becoming an everyday thing. In the classroom, on the field, on your spouse—cheating has taken the place of honesty and personal integrity just for the simple fact that one needs to feel accepted. If one can cheat, succeed to the fullest, and be the best, then it becomes a repeated offense.

These dishonest actions are caused by the need to be accepted by that crowd, whether it be just a mother and father, or a whole student body. When the negative comments come at an athlete, especially one in high school, only negative results can come.

There is nothing wrong with being a fan, as long as the cheering is done only to encourage one's favored side without discouraging the opposition. Once this line is crossed, the damage is done to both the fans and the athletes, and the spiting has begun.