Friday, February 17

The ugly fan: sports parent

I was at a women's college basketball game the other night. It was a contest between two Division III schools, a modest rivalry. I was rooting for the home team.

The opposition is fairly local so there were plenty of parents in the stands. Plenty of very vocal, very loud parents. I've noticed that the parents for the home team players are enthusiastic and vocal, but not mean nor mean-spirited. I think I'm sufficiently objective here.  I like basketball and have friends on the coaching staff, but I don't have a kid playing.

When I taught at another university, there was a much stronger rivalry with the opposition team and the attitude seemed to stem from the kind of behavior and peculiar brand of "sportsmanship" espoused by the then coach.  That coach is still on the bench, so there's no doubt in my mind his philosophy prevails.  Like the players, the parents take some of their attitude and behavior cues from the coaching stuff.  And the parents of players for this school have always struck me as mean.

It's not as though any of these girls are going to become pro basketball players. While D III players may have height, there's a reason they play at a D III school.  These parents, though, they know basketball.  I imagine these moms and dads have been through plenty of summer camps with their girls.  And it's good that they're informed, but I don't think that means they have to be so hateful towards the officials nor towards the opposition's players.

I've noticed that D III officials tend to be less than remarkable.  It seems they are either towards the end of their careers or just starting their careers and trying to get enough experience to move up to D II.  Still, the sort of vitriol I heard spewed at this game wasn't necessary.

Parents have long had a reputation for being bad fans.  And even the kids know it.  Check out this blog post on "What Makes a Nightmare Sports Parent--And What Makes a Great One."

The parents from the other night's game reminded me of some lines from Taylor Swift's Mean:
And all you've ever gonna be is mean.

Why you gotta be so mean?
Meanness doesn't accomplish a thing.  The kids don't play any better; the officials don't officiate any better; the coaches don't coach any better.  Mean people in the stands just embarrass themselves.  Why you gotta be so mean?

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