Sportsmanship in fans

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On Jan. 27, Colorado College and the University of Dallas went head to head in both women’s and men’s basketball games. Although the women’s team barely lost in the last few seconds, the men’s team pushed and won by a 15 point difference. After both men’s teams congratulated each other, UD’s student section kept leaning against the bleachers, degrading the opponents until finally a loud clash and shouts — the bleacher’s railing broke and fell onto the court while students scrambled off.

The incident of the bleacher’s rails is rooted in unwelcoming behavior from fans towards the opposing team’s individual players and coaching staff. As fans and members of the UD community, this behavior shouldn’t be tolerated. It demands change and accountability from the community.

In the beginning of every game, the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference enforces a mandatory shared statement on the audience’s sportsmanship, specifically, on what is not allowed and their consequences. Jarred Samples, the director of athletics and the former head coach of basketball for 13 years, shared one of the most important parts of the statement.

“‘Profanity, racial or sexist comments or other intimidating actions directed at officials, student-athletes, coaches or team representatives,’” Samples stated. “‘Including singling out anyone by name, number or position are grounds for removal from the site of competition and other disciplinary action.’”

The purpose of promoting good sportsmanship is to support all participants and the officials in a positive way. With today’s modern culture, the definition of competition is becoming disordered. Matt Grahn, the current head coach of men’s basketball, emphasizes the preservation of competitions’ grecian roots: “to strive with.”

“The ultimate goal is to compete,” Grahn said. “We actually want the opponent to give their best to get the best out of ourselves when we truly compete. What we’ve done in our society is turn the word ‘compete’ into striving to keep others down in order for us to look like we’re above them. […] If you give your best against me and I give my best against you we should thank each other for the opportunity to compete and live with the results.”

“People believe they can say whatever they want while watching a game. You see fans being ejected from professional games because of what they say to either officials or opposing players,” Samples added. “This is why it is important for UD to be the example of good sportsmanship and respect.”

Samples and Grahn are calling on UD fans to honor the university’s mission to value the opportunity for growth that is possible when we engage with genuine competition. After all, how can the community develop intellectual and moral virtues when we are degrading opponents? How can the community become leaders to the world when they are following what the crowd is deeming acceptable rather than what is right? How does this behavior portray a mature understanding of the Catholic faith to our neighbors across the court?

Accountability is what can help us to correct and defend what good sportsmanship is from the intensity of emotions. It is our duty to each other as a community to teach, guide and lead together.

“If someone says something inappropriate, tell them to be better. Tell them that we are better than that,” Samples shared. “People know the difference between right and wrong. Our students are going to be leaders out in the world when they graduate from UD and they start by being leaders on our campus now.”

“Our fans are awesome! Let’s just get that on record. When our student section is in attendance, The Maher absolutely rocks making it a fun environment and a tremendous home court advantage. Opponents hate to play here because their gyms aren’t as loud and don’t have the same ambience that The Maher has,” Grahn said. “A hostile environment and classy fans that honor the game are not mutually exclusive. I want to be proud of the way our fans act… and have my friends, and their respective teams, still hate to play here!”

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