Silencing fans discourages competition

Royal Purple Staff Opinion

Jan. 26, 2016

There’s less than 10 seconds to go before the half. The visiting team is down by two. The inbound pass goes in, the player dribbles down the court and the gym is rife with suspense. A pullup jumper flies, just beyond the three-point line. The ball sails through the air, perpetually suspended in backspin as it gravitates towards the hoop. The shot looks great – it just might make it. Three, two, one – the buzzer sounds, and the shot– well, it falls a few feet short.

The home team’s student section explodes, chanting “Air-ball” in unison as both teams head to the locker rooms for halftime. It’s a common occurrence at high school basketball games, leaving the shooter with two choices: one, hide in the locker room until the embarrassment subsides; or two, come back and handle the opposing fans with quiet resolve and determination.

For fans, being a part of the student section is almost equivalent to being part of the team. Cheering, chanting and being downright obnoxious are staples of the student section experience and can even affect player performance, but that’s no longer the case in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletics Association released new guidelines for sportsmanship, discouraging student sections at high school basketball games from chanting phrases like “Air-ball” and “Scoreboard.”

The banned chants are suggestions by the WIAA, outlined in it’s sportsmanship manual, in an effort to alleviate taunting and promote good sportsmanship. We at the Royal Purple, however, feel the WIAA is overreaching their power in an effort to alleviate competition and promote whining, wimps and namby-pambies.

The list of banned chants is absolutely ridiculous. Some phrases on the do-not-chant list include “You can’t do that,” “Fundamentals,” “There’s a net there,” “Sieve,” “We can’t hear you” and “Season’s over.” Don’t ask us what “Sieve” means (in a basketball context)…we don’t know either, but               apparently the WIAA is sufficiently appalled and offended enough to restrict it from being yelled during competition.

And how can “You can’t do that” be considered offensive or disparaging in anyway? In response to a foul, the chant is merely a statement of fact – if a player travels, they certainly “can’t do that.” We’d be interested in hearing what the WIAA would consider a reasonable chant, being that truthful commentary is apparently inappropriate.

An email sent to students by the WIAA in December said “any action directed at opposing teams or their spectators with the intent to taunt, disrespect, distract or entice an            unsporting behavior in response is not acceptable sportsmanship. Student groups, school administrators and event managers should take immediate steps to correct this unsporting behavior.”

Essentially, anything that was fun in the student section is now discouraged, and it’s up to school administrators to enforce the new rules. We’d hate to be the principal who gets stuck paying enforcer in the student cheering section.

The WIAA is being met with criticism not only from fan sections, but also from student-athletes. April Gehl, a basketball player from Hilbert High School, tweeted her disapproval with the new rules (with language that might actually be considered offensive) and received a five-game suspension.

A five-game suspension for voicing her opinion? Seriously? Suspensions for underage drinking carry less severe penalties.

Even ESPN analyst Jay Bilas had something to say about the new policies. “How ridiculous,” Bilas tweeted. “The ‘adults’ making these decisions have too much time on their hands, and too little sense.”

We won’t make any stark judgements on the character or maturity level of the WIAA administrators here at the Royal Purple, but collectively we share a common opinion on their new sportsmanship guidelines: AIR-BALL, AIR-BALL, AIR-BALL.