Dear Harvard-Westlake Faculty Academic Committee, Sports Council, and Fan Behavior and Sportsmanship Review Committee, it is with great concern that I write to you from my current home at Georgetown University.
I saw first-hand the problems that arose within the Harvard-Westlake Fanatics. I am fairly confident that high school students have not changed their behavior that much.
I find the actions taken against the Fanatics to be an extreme overreaction to what was surely a mishap on the part of a few. The many should not be punished for the actions of the few. Are the Fanatics at times out of line with certain chants, cheers, and jeers? Absolutely. Does that mean that no fun can be had at a sports game? No. And it will no longer be fun for many people to go to games, and that’s a shame.
The first rule to reform fan behavior is to allow only positive cheers at games. In the words of David Hinden: “That means no more ‘airball,’ ‘pressure,’ ‘bounce bounce bounce,’ or any of the other not-so-clever things that we have unhappily become accustomed to hearing.”
Neither “pressure” nor “bounce bounce bounce” are negative cheers. They are meant to be distracting. Furthermore, “airball” is a simple statement of fact. The main motive of a fan is to cheer his or her team to victory.
Cheering positively for your team has a minimal effect on the team’s performance, but DISTRACTING the opposing team has a sincere effect. The rule here in Hoya County is no comments about race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical appearance, etc. And it works well. Hinden says, “That would never happen during the Army-Navy game,” Army-Navy is one of the most intense rivalries in the country, and I can guarantee you that fights break out in the stands, students throw beer on each other and other ridiculous confrontations take place.
What I find most disturbing about Hinden’s letter is the following sarcastic question: “How many of those fans have spent the hours of practice, have made the sacrifices or have the skill of those they would mock?”
To insinuate that any fan does not make sacrifices to support their team is ludicrous. Do I have the skill of an athlete? No, but that’s why I try twice as hard as a fan.
People should be held accountable for their actions. However, taking the kind of extreme actions that the Sports Council and Hinden are proposing is just as bad as the jeers that they propose to eliminate.
We must strive to keep allowing students the chance to have a positive experience at these sporting events. Anything less would be unacceptable.
—John Kenchelian ’08