Cheering For, Not Against


In about 1977 I was witness to the ugliness that can sometimes happen during sporting events. The team I coached was locked in a battle with another local team at the St. Albans Wrestling Tournament in D.C. Some of our parents were vocal in cheering against any wrestler of our competitor for the team title. The vocal cheers of our parents grew and continued into the  championship finals, always attended by Canon Martin, the headmaster of the host school. At some time during the finals, he walked to the head table, taking the microphone. As I remember, he surveyed the crowd packed into the small gym and said, “No wrestler should be booed, ever.”

He then returned to his chair, lesson taught, and lesson learned.

As I read about the Cameron Crazies at Duke University and their antics during the recent game against Pittsburg, I recalled Canon Martin and his words. His lesson is lost, sadly, on the student section at Cameron Indoor Arena and at many other venues for athletic events. The Duke students even yelled at the Pittsburg coach, who played at Duke. No respect there, or decency.

Too many “fans” think the price of  a ticket entitles them to ridicule players from visiting teams. I knew of a lawyer who purchased season tickets behind the opposing team’s bench at Washington Bullet’s (that name dates me) games so he could “rag on” the players from another team. Go to the Internet and type in “Cameron Crazies” and be sickened by the view of an almost all-white crowd resembling an army without a general as its members gesture, shout, and verbally abuse anyone not wearing the blue of Duke. This prevailing behavior is mistakenly called cheering, but it is just mob behavior.

The lesson of Canon Martin has stayed with me, and I suggest that any fan, before yelling at an athlete on another team, remember the words of President T. Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; …”

Cheer for your team, not against its opponent. Those two prepositions matter.


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