The recent concern with fans and fan decorum at athletic competitions invites examination. Fundamentally it comes down to this: Does the price of admission pay for behavior that might lead to arrest in other venues? Is the ticket to a game a license to be rude, crude and even violent? When did it become acceptable for fans to curse, belittle, intimidate and embarrass college students representing their school in athletic competition?

My wife brings my two young sons to Georgetown basketball games and has been embarrassed by the language and actions of fans in the stands. She shouldn’t have to explain why someone is cursing at the other team or what those four-letter words mean. No one should.

I understand and appreciate the inspiration that the team gets when the fans are cheering. I experienced it as a player and am serious about the need for it as a coach. Cheering helps confidence and inspires effort as it makes a player feel that everyone wants him to do well. Recently, a busload of Georgetown students traveled to Syracuse, came out to the team bus and chanted “Hoya! Saxa!” to make the team feel at home. It was great. That support made the team feel appreciated and welcome. I am grateful to every one of those fans and would like to publicly thank them for their support.

From Midnight Madness through the NCAA championship, fan support is vital for a team to do its best. My most cherished memories as both a player and coach involve games where the fans were wild to cheer us on. I would never want to diminish that support.

The problem occurs when fans think they are part of the competition. “I’ll help my team by distracting the players on the other team,” the logic starts. Then, “My yelling his name isn’t working, but if I call him an expletive it will rattle him.” Next it escalates into screaming something more vile, more obscene or something gets thrown. At this point, the game is secondary to the opportunity to vent life’s frustrations at some college kid who is helpless to respond. Instead of supporting a team, the object is to make an opponent’s experience so miserable that it affects his play. Why?

Shouldn’t fans cheer for a team instead of against the other team? Enthusiasm doesn’t have to be diminished, in fact, it should be increased, but it should be enthusiasm for a team rather than against an opponent. I want my players to play as hard as they can, but I don’t pretend the other team is a group of monsters to inspire my team. Wouldn’t it be great if the fans cheered as loud as they could without resorting to barbaric treatment of the opponent?

Craig Esherick is a 1978 graduate of the Georgetown School of Business, a 1982 graduate of GU Law School and head coach of the men’s basketball team.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.