What Happened To Sportsmanship?
by Brian North

What ever happened to respect for your fellow man? I attended several exciting sporting events this weekend; each had great competition and thrilling finishes, but each was diminished by bad sportsmanship between players and fans. This is not a recent trend, sportsmanship has been in decline for quite some time, and the bar seems to keep getting lower and lower. Trash talking between players in all sports has become commonplace, and any display of good will, like the postgame handshake, seems to be devoid of genuine feeling and respect.

I'm not sure where it all started, but cheap shots seem to be at an all-time high. I watched Wake Forest's talented guard Chris Paul punch Julius Hodge in the tender vittles, and then claim after the game he did no such thing despite video replays to the contrary. I am sure Paul was provoked in some manner, but there is still no excuse for his behavior. At least Wake Forest understood the severity of the situation and suspended Paul for one game. But this isn't the sophomore guard's first brush with bush league behavior. He has had several incidents this year, but he is not the only one. It seems flagrant fouls happen in every game, and basketball quit being a non-contact sport years ago. Now it's about intimidation and showing your competitor up. Fans cheer more for a crossover dribble that makes a defender stumble, than they do for a beautifully executed pick and roll that results in a basket.

Which brings me to the fans. Somewhere along the line, some spectators quit being enthusiastic witnesses cheering positively for their team, and decided they wanted to be a more influential part of the game. Usually it involves degrading an opposing athlete, coach, or official. A lot of times it involves poor language. Don't get me wrong, I am just as amused as the next guy when someone comes up with a clever line hurled in jest. What I am tired of are the uneducated guttural shouts of "you suck" and worse (put in your profanity-laced put down here). I know all about the First Amendment and the right to free speech, but profanity at sporting events has become shockingly acceptable. You can even hear the barnyard chant at most high school basketball games when an official makes a questionable call. I was once told curse words are used by the simpleminded when they lack the vocabulary necessary to communicate effectively. Unfortunately I heard many of the seven words George Carlin said you can't say on TV in my travels to Minges Coliseum, Clark-LeClair Stadium, the Dean Dome, and the RBC Center over the weekend. I heard players berated in ways that would make Larry Flint blush. It wouldn't bother me so much if there weren't kids at these events who like to emulate what they see and hear. My fear is that they will grow up thinking that it is acceptable to degrade other human beings with bad language with no repercussions.

Not all fans deserve a bad rap. Just the loud few who have no respect for other human beings. I think their behavior is reinforced by those who laugh at and encourage the sophomoric behavior. The only way it will get better, is if those who are offended speak up and voice their displeasure in an intelligent and calm way. Last time I checked, you can have a good time at a game without being obscene. For those of you who cheer on the home team positively, keep it up. You are what make the games better for everyone! Maybe sportsmanship will make a comeback in this country.

Brian North