Wayne Pav notes that the expected boisterous fans at HS games are going
beyond that level, using intrusive noisemakers or abusing players. He reports
> One particular school has picked up a local college fan trick
> on that every free kick by the opposing team the group will
> shout out youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu… as the run up occurs, then
> punctuate it with SUCK as the ball is struck.
I generally say that as long as the noise and industrial language and even
personally-directed OIAL is part of a generalized background coming from the
stands, it's not our concern. Even so, it's a shame and it's wrong, but
that's why NFHS requires an administrator's presence and NCAA requires some
authority. College crowds at sporting events have begun to get way out of
hand. Meanwhile, countries around the world are dealing with the results of
having let this sort of stuff go too far and too long. Governments are
trying to stamp out hooliganism, federations are punishing teams and
requiring games to be played without audiences in the stadium, and FIFA and
other bodies are pushing campaigns to stop the violence, promote fair play
and respect, and preserve the beautiful game.
However, when the noise is a weapon, or when the abuse is organized so that
it's felt on the field, then it's our duty to help those who have the
responsibility to deal with it, and this may include helping them to
understand that it's something they need to deal with. The referee needs to
hold up a restart and consult with the home coach or administrator to insure
that the interference ends. Period. I agree that we can't order an
individual or the entire audience to leave the stands. What we CAN do is
stop play until the problem is solved. The game can be suspended. If
there's continued unsporting behavior and outside interference, the game can
be terminated. THOSE two actions are indeed within our authority.
Some sportswriters (and Patrick Duffy) seem to think it's part of an elite
athlete's task to concentrate on playing and ignore the abuse. What's the
difference between reducing the athlete's concentration and committing
repeated fouls against him? The latter gets a caution, because FIFA and our
federation tell us to protect the players, to foster creativity and virtuoso
play. A player who's got to block out the outside distraction will find it
that much more difficult to display the exciting play that (some) fans paid
to see, and to raise the quality of the sport. (This is why some/many people
approved of what Zinedine Zidane did at the World Cup, and probably why FIFA
didn't fuss much about his selection as the Player of the Tournament.)
Wayne asks, "Who sets the limits for acceptable and unacceptable behavior?"
We can argue all day about whether the insult is acceptable if it's
softened, or is more outrageous if a direct object is added. To paraphrase
Oscar Wilde, we already know what the characterization is, we're just
haggling over the details.
When the home fans scream that the opponents suck, what will that mean if
the opponents win -- That the home side sucks worse? And if the opponents
lose, does it mean that the home side is almost as bad? This stuff demeans
Patrick Duffy reports that the local end-zone group abuses opposing
goal-keepers at goal kicks, loud enough to be heard outside the stadium.
This is hooliganism. Are refs reporting it? Are refs pressing the home
team management to get it stopped?
Some folks will argue that one sport is like any other. That's not so, and
we don't have to let soccer fields become like hockey rinks or basketball