Silencing the crowd

Hayden Claesson, Sports editor

Everyone who has ever attended a sporting event knows just how fun it is to be in a large crowd cheering on a team or an athlete. Everyone loves the feeling of being hyped up in a crowd and just having fun while trying to support your team, or even try to get inside the other team’s head. The best part about cheering is that every single person involved gets caught up in the shouting, chanting and even taunting that ensues.

Cheering sections and the heckling they create are just a part of games and athletics for as long as anybody can remember; which is why when the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) made a 40 page (you read that right) list of things that student cheering sections can’t say, it came with some obvious backlash. Some of the rules included are that chants such as the famous “I can’t hear you” chant and “Booing of any kind” are frowned upon. The point of these rules is to provide a more friendly environment for the athletes and to promote good sportsmanship among the cheering sections.

While I don’t agree with this course of action, I understand where they are coming from. People don’t want to get criticized for their mistakes and don’t like feeling down on themselves, and when people feel down on themselves they can tend to underperform. However, handling criticism is something that people have to deal with in everyday life, and people exposed to it while they’re young helps athletes learn to deal with these things better in the future.

I think that taunting and heckling is something that create an exciting fan culture. It is simply a part of the fan experience that everyone just gets caught up in, and it takes no prisoners too. My favorite example of this was in the first round of the 2018 NBA Western Conference Playoffs when the Utah Jazz hosted the Oklahoma City Thunder in game four of the series. OKC’s star point guard Russell Westbrook got his fourth foul of the game, two more and he would be ejected. The Utah crowd was going crazy, but the star of this madness was none other than former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was holding up four fingers, just in case Westbrook forgot just how many fouls he had.

I believe that sports are supposed to be fun, and having fun expressing yourself and your opinions for the game is what makes being a spectator so great. Despite all this, there is a line to be crossed. There is a large difference between a high school crowd collectively chanting their disagreement with a ref’s call with a synonym to a male cow’s feces and straight up offensive taunting of other players.

An example of a line being crossed is in the documentary “America To Me” which investigated racial issues in the American education system at OPRF High School. In the third episode of the series, it recorded how players were treated at a football game against Hinsdale Central. During this game, a player who had a microphone on them recorded a player from Hinsdale calling him a racial slur.

This type of thing is straight up not okay.

While there are plenty of examples of fans getting silenced, the bottom line is this: fans interacting with the games are just another part of sports and helps makes sports great, and taunting opponents is just as much of the game as chirping and trash talk between players. The idea of schools and athletic associations trying to stop it only ruins part of the experience of sports.

If sports leagues and schools try to silence fans, it’ll take all the “hype” out of games. Imagine sitting in the United Center watching the Blackhawks play, with everyone sitting in silence and clapping politely whenever a player scores.

Sounds like a game everyone will be lining out the door to see.