There is nothing better in high school sports than a huge crowd at a big game or meet.
That is particularly true this time of year in boys and girls basketball as the games become more significant. Fans are packed in tight and are right on top of the action to create an energized atmosphere where you feel as if you can’t hear yourself think.
Unfortunately, as the intensity and magnitude increases, so does the likelihood of hearing things spewed from crowds that make you wonder if some people think before they speak, er, shout. Sportsmanship statements that are announced to fans before games seem to have fallen on deaf ears about 4.3 seconds after the opening tip.
And ugly incidents are nothing new. But they gained national attention again this week when Oklahoma State University star Marcus Smart shoved a middle-aged Texas Tech fan who directed some less than flattering comments toward Smart.
It brought up some questions about whether those who buy a ticket to sit outside the lines are entitled to say whatever they want to the players, coaches and officials inside them. And should the behavior of teenage fans be handled differently than it is for adults.
This is no slight toward golf or tennis, but those sports aren’t going to be treated by fans the same as in basketball. People won’t be found screaming at someone about to hit a key 5-foot putt or tiebreaking serve. But you will find them screeching, whistling and making all sorts of noise to try and disrupt a player as he steps to the free-throw line at the end of a close game.
Would that be considered good sportsmanship? No, but most basketball players seem to understand the best way to quiet the maniacal masses is to calmly make their free throw and act like they didn’t hear a thing.
Seeing students get involved in supporting their school’s team is wonderful. A big group that has a little creativity and a lot of enthusiasm and energy is what makes big games big.
But we also know kids will say the darnedest, or worse, things, especially when they’re part of a big group and think no one will actually know who said something that crossed the line. That’s where it’s important for schools to have an adult presence nearby to let the kids know when they’ve gone too far.
Unfortunately, there are adults who need some adult supervision as well. Sometimes we forget that not only were we kids once, but we’re also not kids anymore, and the standards for behavior are higher.
In a game earlier this year, I saw an adult fan try to counter a student section by whistling and screaming just as an opposing player got ready to release a free throw. The same fan also came down alongside the scorer’s table and then behind one of the team benches to yell at the officials.
Seriously? We all understand the emotions involved, particularly when your son or daughter may be chasing dreams of a conference, regional or state championship.
But there is a big difference between a group of teenagers acting their age and adults who don’t.
To Conant boys basketball coach Tom McCormack, one of the class acts in high school sports. on getting his 500th career victory a couple of weeks ago.
McCormack’s 1994 Elite Eight team, led by Corey Brown and Rick Kaye, is arguably the most electrifying team to come out of the Mid-Suburban League. And his teams nearly pulled off sectional upsets that would have sent the state title trophies residing at Schaumburg (2001) and Glenbrook North (2005) elsewhere.
Mead gets it going in Dixon:
Congratulations to former Hoffman Estates player and assistant coach Jason Mead, who has turned around the Dixon boys program in his third season as head coach. Mead’s young team is 17-5 going into tonight’s game with LaSalle-Peru after winning just 3 games last season.
Dixon is also looking to win a regional for the first time since 1986. And the program has had only two 20-win seasons - 25-2 in 1966-67 and 22-4 in 1958-59 - since 1920, according to IHSA records.