End the Mob Mentality

“Brokeback Mountain” belongs in Hollywood, not on the hardwood. The homophobia in the cheering section needs to go.

Our school should be a haven for the persecuted, not an echo chamber filled with tormenters. Like any academic institution, our school should be an egalitarian sanctuary for unorthodox thinkers and nonconformists. When we students make school into a dangerous environment for our peers, we commit a serious injustice.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with rude chants. Insulting opponents is a big part of cheering. When an opposing player fouls out, and we follow their footsteps chanting “Left, right, left, right,” and, finally, “Sit down,” it’s the right kind of trash-chanting. It’s outlandish and tasteless, but it doesn’t incorporate prejudiced abuse. Some chants do.

Usually, the homophobia is subtle, as with the posters depicting Oaks Christian football players lining up together in Speedos. Sometimes, the homophobia is more overt, as with “Brokeback Mountain.” At best, our anti-gay language puts us students in a terrible light. At worst, it creates an intimidating atmosphere for gay students. Perhaps this type of behavior is part of the reason our school has no openly gay athletes.

It doesn’t matter if homosexuals aren’t the intended victims, if they are just collateral damage as we slight our opponents. The small offenses can be the most dangerous, for they foster a sense of casualness concerning homophobia. We need to be more careful when we bring the heat.
When asked whether he thought homosexuals might be hurt by some of our cheers, one Fanatic member said, “I never thought about it like that. But, yeah, it is an unfair chant. It’s like a cancer, and it’s not like it’s going to be stopped one day. It’s ingrained in us.”

The Fanatic spoke these words as an excuse for our chants. Far from being any sort of excuse, they show how hard we need to work against this attitude. We would never bring racism into the cheering section, but we take homophobia for granted. One wonders at the contradiction. The explanation lies in an understated callousness that permeates the crowds in the bleachers.

We students are politically correct, but we are not sensitive. It must be quite a sight to watch us chant “Brokeback Mountain,” to watch us throw sympathy to the wind, to watch us become an unthinking mob where chants at the expense of homosexuals are part of the culture.

The power of the crowd is not to be taken lightly. We can affect games. I, like many others, believe that good fans are worth four or five points a game. There’s a reason we often call ourselves a “sixth man” — there is strength in our numbers. We wield real influence, but we sometimes put this influence to unfortunate use. Individuals must fight the brutish horde mentality: Don’t express homophobia or display homophobic signs.

Yet, we must also do more. We must speak out, for silence among a sea of daggers is not enough. Non-compliance is insufficient. We as a community must protest from the stands against homophobia. Taper Gymnasium will shake, and the message from the bleachers will be heard as never before.

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