Hurtful heckling

Chronicle Staff

The sports games I have attended have been, pretty much, awkward.  More comfortable watching opening night in Rugby, the rituals surrounding the blessed moving-of-the-ball-from-one-side-of-the-field-to-another, my working definition of football, have downright scared me.  I fear the packed middle section of Slavin’s stands — Fanatics territory — crossing into which one will find herself surrounded by faces masked in tribal paint that screech their banshee-like wails, sounding their native drums.

So I received a few laughs from some who know me when they saw me at the recent volleyball games preceding the CIF State Finals, which I went to in support of a friend.  Three games in fact.  And I ended up truly enjoying the games.  I realized there is a lot more going on than moving a ball. We have a talented and fierce volleyball team, for whatever my opinion is worth.  However, my enjoyment of the games was lessened by what was going on in the stands.

The Daily Breeze pretty much said it all, in an article that recently angered many students for its bias.
An excerpt reads: “Harvard-Westlake, an affluent school in Studio City whose students had nothing better to do Saturday night (Nov. 24) than to mercilessly heckle Bishop Montgomery players, improved to 28-4.”

Opinionated? You bet. Accurate? Unfortunately, yes.

And the Bishop-Montgomery game wasn’t even the worst of it.

At an earlier home game I attended against Marymount, Marymount girls coming up to serve were not met with the usual round of “Pressure! Pressure!” but taunted with the chanted names of Harvard-Westlake boys they had supposedly “hooked up with” (i.e. made out with, engaged in sexual activity with).  Girls were also personally targeted for their height and age-appearance.

The ‘school-spirit or mean-spirited?’ debate has always been an issue.  I know I’m an outsider in the sports arena, but maybe that’s just what this whole issue needs: a little perspective.

I’ve always overheard the argument from Fanatics that shaking up the other team with taunts is all part of the game; it happens in professional sports all the time.  I’m not going to come back at that with the whole ‘but this is a school and we need to be nurturing’ argument. Harvard-Westlake teaches us how to function in the real world in every aspect of our education here, and I don’t think sports should be different.

The difference though between making fun of Kobe’s criminal charges at the Laker game and insulting a Marymount girl for her appearance is that at the Staples Center, you are a private individual. If the fellow Laker fan next to you is taken out of the arena for lewd behavior, it speaks nothing of you.  You’re just fans of the same team.

But at Wolverine games, we’re Harvard-Westlake students who also happen to be fans of the same team. 

Your actions do not just speak for you, but for the whole community, Fanatics. Not everyone in the stands was heckling, but those who read the Daily Breeze don’t know that.  And even those students who were not in the stands, who were for all we know rescuing baby animals in the wilderness instead, are still Harvard-Westlake’s students, who apparently “mercilessly heckle” other teenagers. 

This isn’t college football, where games are televised and can make fans out of anyone, like USC or UCLA ushering in thousands of student and non-student fans to their games, all diluted in the crowd. 
Plus, there just aren’t that many of us, so the actions of 15-20 students at these games reverberate a lot stronger for us than they do at a Big Ten school with over 10,000 students.

At the home game against Laguna Nov. 27, the first to take place after the Daily Breeze article, the student crowd was periodically tamed by Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra, Upper School Dean Beth Slattery and Athletic Director Darlene Bible. 

Having been at both this game and the Marymount game, I thought the Marymount heckling was far worse, but no faculty chastised the crowd at that game.  It isn’t just the fans’ fault, as they are students who perhaps sometimes need to be told when they are out of line.  The administration is guilty as well, as no one denounced the heckling until the Daily Breeze called us out on it and tainted our image.  

All in all, I think cheering is a great thing: what kind of game would it be without a little “Pressure! Pressure!”?  But when it becomes personal attacks that aren’t just standard chants, then we degrade not only the other team, but also ourselves as a student body.

I may not know much about sports, but I do know this: we don’t win games by heckling the other team.  We win games when players move the ball to other side of the court.